Friday, 10 April 2015

Kelburn Castle and Country Estate, Largs, North Ayrshire.

Processed Kelburn Castle   GJC_016691_edited-2

It's been a difficult time and busy few weeks for me this last month so I've had to miss a week or two on blogger by taking an enforced short break, maybe more on that another time but similarly I return here with a post on what I see as a difficult location and less than inspiring photographically. Although this is the next post in the series, it's probably the first one in many a year that I lack the passion in wanting to display. More of that later in the post.

(The blog highlight of the last month was an unusual first for me with the reality of meeting two fellow bloggers in Durham Cathedral at the suggestion of Cranberry Morning on vacation. Mike @ A bit about Britain was also invited and enjoyed his day out. It was additionally good to meet Mr C and Mrs B !! )

After arriving back on the mainland from my afternoon visit to Millport and The island of Great Cumbrae, I wanted to catch a little bit closer the strange sight of Kelburn Castle on the southern outskirts of Largs. The colourful sight was just visible on the hillside and also in the distance from a variety of points during the afternoon.

Kelburn Castle  GJC_016694_edited-1

Kelburn Castle is thought to be arguably the oldest castle in Scotland built around 1200 AD with additional structural work of fusing an old and new castle together in The Middle Ages. Adjacent rooms were added later in 1700 followed by a Victorian Wing in 1880.

I had originally considered posting the first two images of The Earl of Glasgow's home with the Largs set recently, but it didn't seem to sit well and it's a little out of town anyway.

I remember visiting Kelburn back in 1992 when it was just a drab brown spectacle although I saw so many Castles and Country Parks that week that they all seemed to merge in my brain. It's position overlooking a gorge is quite dramatic and I had forgotten that although visitors are allowed to roam the estate, they are not entitled to go through the gate that I was resting on to photograph the above image. Pre booked castle tours are relatively new and are available during summer afternoons.

Kelburn Graffiti GJC_016693

Essentially the  Castle needed temporary rendering and the idea was inspired by one of his children to  display some graffiti for extra interest and no doubt potential revenue. The style chosen was urban Brazilian art from artists who were given the chance to stay here whilst working on the project for a month during 2007. As you can imagine, the result created huge media attention contrasting urban style with conservative architecture.

Kelburn Rendering  GJC_016704_edited-1

The conservation organisation, Historic Scotland, initially agreed to the graffiti on the basis that it would be removed at the the next natural external rendered painting. However the Earl seems to be in dispute with them in more recent years, as he wanted the artwork kept permanent. ... Kelburn Castle's Graffiti to be removed

Kelburn Window  GJC_016698

Work to remove the graffiti is expected to start sometime soon although the argument of how soon will no doubt run and run.

House in the Woods  GJC_016739

A large wooden fort and a secret forest were added later to provide all round family entertainment and much needed additional revenue for the cash strapped venue. The Secret Forest was a mix of wooden buildings that were inspired by both nursery rhymes and foreign architecture. Personally as I was entering the site late in the day, midweek and out of season, I found the forest eerily quiet with sinister graphics that seemed to reflect either Middle Earth or Pagan elements. On talking to a Scottish relative last month, their grandchildren of a certain age were frightened by the experience and were more comfortable playing in the large full size wooden fort.

Art House  GJC_016680

Kelburn Reception GJC_016764_edited-1

The other buildings on the site were originally built in 1700 as a farm and accommodation for estate workers.

Courtyard   GJC_016749

In 1977 when the grounds were first opened to the public, these were converted to more contemporary productive use, such as a cafe, information office, shop and exhibition display.

Stables Cafe   GJC_016755

The stables doubling as a cafe.. A new meaning to diners eating at the trough !

Kelburn Story   GJC_016756_edited-1

The nearby exhibition room depicts a series of cartoon paintings that depicts the history of the estate.

De Boyvilles   GJC_016757_edited-1

Here are a few examples. Some parts of the exhibition room were badly lit so apologies for the subsequent badly focused examples or incomplete set.

Grander Boyles  GJC_016758_edited-1

Essentially it is the story of so many Castles and Historic houses down through centuries.

3rd Earl   GJC_016759_edited-1

6th Earl   GJC_016760_edited-1

7th Earl   GJC_016761_edited-1

9th & 10th Earl   GJC_016762_edited-1

Lastly with the eerie and disturbing late afternoon coming to an end, I thought it wise to make my escape quickly as I would be unsure of my fate if I hung around too long.

Shed  GJC_016723


  1. Well, it would certainly be a shock to happen upon that place. I'm used to the drab stone, which I love. Maybe a blue or red door, but wow! Very surprising to see that Davy Crockett now resides over there in his log cabin. BTW, I've noticed in many areas lately, like computer games that are so attractive to kids, a very neopagan theme. Always disturbing how easily people are led away from the truth. Anyway, glad you published the post. :-)

    1. Thanks Cranberry Morning, definitely a strange place. The colours on the castle grow on the viewer as long as you don't look at the peculiar detail. I didn't portray much of the wall around the corner to the right as it was difficult cropping it.

  2. I am surprised English heritage allowed this but I have to say that it is striking and I would have been happy to pay to see something so different. It certainly stands out from the crowd! I hope your visit to Peterborough goes well today, I am not around there this weekend otherwise I would have been able to meet with you. The main entrance to the cathedral is being renovated at the moment so you will need to go to the left of the building to enter if you were going inside. Have a great day!

    1. Thanks Chel, I think Historic Scotland only allowed it as they had been told that it was temporary. Somehow I can't imagine it going back to the drab brown. The Peterborough visit went well although I ran out of things to do in the afternoon, there was a band playing in the Cathedral square and it seemed to be a magnet for super bikes.

  3. Ar first i thought you did it in photoshop😄

    1. Thanks Ola, definitely not photoshop. I remember first seeing this on the internet and could not believe that this was allowed to occur.

  4. It is always great to meet up with fellow Bloggers which I also have had the privilege of doing :-) Durham Cathedral is a special place, I have been thinking about it often recently. A lovely place for an initial meet up :-)

    The graffiti is striking but in my opinion as a lover of architecture, it is quite out of place on heritage buildings.

    Your photos are stunning :-)

    1. Thanks CherryPie, yes it was an interesting blog meet as I was the only one without a photography permit. I had to negotiate a permit with a voluntary donation for the distant visitors as the man on the reception desk agreed that it's difficult to arrange a permit application for those coming from the USA.

      Although I agree with your comment about graffiti on historic buildings, I find it strange to say but one becomes accustomed to it and seems in keeping with other exhibits and estate features.

      The weather always helps with photos and as I had to pick the best day of the week for the bike ride, it was probably just as well that I tagged this visit onto the end of the day for a few reasons.

  5. This is a place I will gladly miss but I am happy you made the effort.

    1. Thanks Adrian, Pleased I did the photography deed although it wasn't much effort as I was passing the entrance from the Largs - Ardrossan road. I often re-visit places both in real life and on this blog, however this is one place that won't be making either of those lists.

  6. Great to see you survived to tell the story! :)

    I'm quite surprised that the authorities approved the graffiti to be painted on the walls of the castle. I quite like the graffiti itself but I'm not sure about its combination with the castle. Contrast may be good, even impressive, but in this case it seems a bit too much. I actually don't know whether to like or dislike it and the whole place as you've presented it looks somewhat creepy…

    1. Thanks Petra, I'm more used to seeing graffiti like this on concrete walls or under road walkways. No doubt it has brought some unlikely tourists and subsequent revenue from those who wouldn't necessarily visit such a site. Wandering around the site out of season and late in a midweek afternoon with virtually no other visitors on site only added to the creepiness of the place.

  7. Hello James, I am visiting from Cranberry Cottage after reading Judy's post about meeting you along with Mike and his wife. This castle is rather interesting but I'm not sure I like the graffiti on the walls just to get the tourists to visit. I guess one has to try different things in this economy. I got a kick out of the cartoons though. Thanks for the tour. Pam from Canada

    1. Thanks for your visit Pamela, I'll check out your blog.


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