Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed. Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.

Ramble Round Kilmarnock
Chapter VI


Beansburn--Dean Castle--Its situation and appearance--The Castle beseiged--Destroyed by fire--A Tradition of the Persecution--The Boyd Family--From the Dean to Craufurdland--Craufurdland Castle and Grounds--Craufurdland Bridge--Up the Stream to Fenwick.

Selecting a pleasant morning for my third ramble, I equipped myself for the road, and set out staff in hand. Passing up Portland Street, a brisk walk brought me to Beansburn Toll. Here I paused to view the beautiful scene that the valley to the east of the road presents. The view is not extensive, but the background being well wooded it has a romantic appearance, although somewhat disfigured by the unsightly buildings that cluster together as the Foundry Holm. Passing Dean Hill, the pleasantly-situated family residence of the late Bailie Craig, and numerous villas and cottages of a less assuming order, I arrived at Beansburn Smithy--or rather the works of Messrs. MíKerrow, the noted agricultural implement makers. Before them lay many curious machines for the tillage of the ground that would have astonished our grandfathers, who knew none other than the ploug, the harrow, and the roller. Turning into Dean Road, which branches off at Beansburn, [So named from an insignificant burnie that falls into the Kilmarnock Water near Tamís Loup. Tradition states that it was originally called Dienieís Burn, a girl of that name having drowned herself in one of the pools.] rises to a gentle eminence, then descends the side of the valley that I looked down on at the toll, a short walk brought me in sight of the ruins of Dean Castle, which are approached by a neat road-way. The ruins look hoary and grey in the distance, nor do they improve in appearance upon nearer inspection, although every care is taken to preserve them from the ruthless assaults of time. Near to the west wall is the handsome residence of Mr. F. J. Turner, the much-respected factor to his Grace the Duke of Portland. It is surrounded by a neat garden, and being under the shadow of the frowning ruin it situation is romantically picturesque. On the right hand side of the roadway there is a large mound--seemingly artificial--called "Judas Hill." I have heard it asserted that men slain in battle are buried beneath it, but am of the opinion that it is nothing more than one of those justice hills so common in this part of the country, and doubtless was used in days of feudalism, when the life of the offending vassal depended upon the whim or caprice of his lord.

By the side of the ruin, and winding zig-zag through the valley, Kilmarnock Water flows on its way to the Irvine. The breast of the hill to the east is draped with wood, and the Dark Path--a roadway among the trees as well known to the lads and lasses of the town--looks picturesque and inviting. Near the ruin the grounds are neatly laid out, and the bank on the west side is ornamented with shrubs and young trees, a cheerful aspect over the relic of "hoar antiquity." While viewing the shattered remnant of feudalism I was accosted by a gentleman, who proved to be Mr. Turner, the factor. Inviting me to inspect the interior, I complied, and accompanied him through a small gateway into the courtyard; but had scarce time to look about me when he presented me with a bunch of keys, and after telling me that the old place was at my service left me to my own meditations.

The courtyard is spacious and partly enclosed by a remnant of the rampart wall. The buildings of the castle, which form a kind of angle, consist of two massive square towers of unequal height, with a lesser building intervening. The lesser tower and building seem to have been an addition to the higher, which, judging by the thickness of the walls (9 feet), masonry, loopholes, and construction, dates back to a very remote period. Above a doorway in the lesser building there is a crumbling stone tablet, on which is sculptured the arms of the Boyd family, and an inscription that the finger of time has obliterated. The higher tower is a sombre-like building, with an outside stair leading to a low doorway. Ascending the steps, I applied a key to the lock. The bolt shot back and I entered a spacious hall, with an arched roof of rubble work, which must have been a splendid apartment when decked and furnished. Through a large oblong window at the far end the sunlight streamed across the floor and lit up the wreck of former greatness, and cast a hallow over the shattered abode, wherein the voice of mirth had ceased and where oppressive silence reigned profound. My very tread echoed throughout the ruin, and sounded like a voice from the dead, resenting the inspection of a sad memento of an unfortunate family. In a corner of the apartment I came upon a spiral staircase, but the steps were gone, and in their stead a ladder was placed to facilitate ascent. Mounting, I rambled through the apartments in the upper storeys, but as they contained nothing of interest a description is un-necessary; one with a large window looking northward is said to have been the chapel. The roof of the tower fell in many years ago, but lately it has been replaced by one of wood. Through an opening the top of the walls are reached. Upon them there is a walk some four feet broad, and also the remains of a battlement and watch-tower. The view is very extensive, and comprises not only the town of Kilmarnock, but a panoramic scene extending over many miles of country. At the foot of the staircase there is a small door-way, and a narrow stair that led to the dungeons below. These are no turned to a more useful account, one being used as a milk-house and the others as cellars. At the foot of this stair the entrance is said to be a subterranean passage that communicated with Craufurdland Castle, for, like all old buildings round which au air of mystery hangs, the Dean is not without its secret means of egress. There is a tradition concerning it to the following effect:--Once on a time--very far back, I fear--the castle was besieged by the English, who being unable to take it by force or stratagem surrounded it with the intention of compelling the garrison to capitulate. Patiently waiting for three months daily expecting a surrender, to their surprise one morning the besieged hung a quantity of new-killed beef over the battlements, and jeeringly asked the English if they were in want of provisions, for they had and to spare. Being unable to solve the mystery, the general raised the siege, and left the field fully persuaded that the garrisonís resources were inexhaustible. The entrance to the subterranean passage is now closed; but proof of its existence is said to have been found upon the late modification of Craufurdland Castle--a passage being discovered that tradition and supposition pointed to as the communication connecting that house with Dean Castle.

Leaving the high tower, I directed my attention to the lesser and to the building connected with it, which consists on the ground floor of what has been a spacious kitchen and two or three rooms, with arched ceilings. The second floor seems to have been a large room. It contains a row of modern-like windows facing the south. It is roofless and much decayed, and appears to have been the principal dwelling of the family. The tower contains a staircase, the steps are much worn, and several towards the top have fallen through, and curious enough, though it and it ruinous associate are the most recently constructed, they seem to suffer most from the ravages of time.

The last occupant of Dean Castle was William, fourth Earl of Kilmarnock. When returning from the Continent, in 1735, he observed in a newspaper that a castle of Scotland named the Dean had been destroyed by fire. Hastening home, he found the statement too true. The catastrophe formed a strange prelude to that unfortunate noblemanís tragic end. After the destruction of the castle the Earl resided in Kilmarnock House, and allowed the home of his ancestors to become a ruin, and as such it has braved the blast for a hundred and forty years, and now stands a sad memento to the fallen house of Boyd. Tradition states that the conflagration was occasioned through the negligence of a servant-girl, who had left some flax she had been sorting too near the fire.

An enumeration of the plenishing of Dean Castle at the death of Thomas, fifth Lord Boyd, in June, 1611, may interest the reader/ "It was found," says Paterson, "among the Boyd papers," and is as follows:--"Twa cowpis of sileur, every ane of thaim vechtan ten unce of siluer; and lang carpet, half worset half selk; ane short carpet for the chalmer buird; ane lang green buird claither, and length of the haill buird; twa short green buird clathis for the chalmer buird; four cushcownis of tripe veluit; four custodians of carpet ruche vark; thrie schewit cuschownis of the forme of cowering vark; four cuschowinis of rushie vark; twa lang buird claiths of flanderis damis; saxteine sernietis of damis; and lang dornick buird claithe; ane lang damis towell; ane cower buird claithe of small lynying; and duson of dornick serui-etis; ane braid dornick towell; twelf lang lyning buird clathis; four duson and ane half of lyning seruetis; fyve buird claithis of grit lyning; five duson of round lyning seruetis; aucht towells of roun hardine; four drinking clathis; twa thairof sewit with selk, and the ither twa paine; twa lyning drinking clathis; and copbuird clath; and down bed; aucht feddir beddis, with aucht bowsteris effering thairto; auchteine codis, pairtlie filed with downs and pairt with feddirs; auchteine pair of dowbill blankettis; fyve cowerings of ruchie vark; ane rallow caddow; sevin hous-haild cowerings; saxteine pair of lyning scheittis; twa pair of heid scheittis of small lyning, schewit with black selk; ane pair of plaine heid schettis; sax pair of heid scheittis; ten codwaris of small lyning, schewit with black selk; sax codwaris of small lyning, unschewit; ane stand of spampit camasses vorset courteinis, with ane schewit pand offering yrto; ane stand of greine champit curtains, and ane pand offering yrto; ane ither stand of fray champit vorset curtains, with the pand offering yrto; ane stand of greine pladine curtains, with offering yrto; ane stand of quhyet schewit curtains; ane pari quhyet vowen curtains, with the pand offering yrto; seventie pewdir plaitis; and duson pewdir trunchoris; ten cowries of pewdir; seventeen saisceris; twa new Inglis quart stowpis; two new quart flacownis; thrie ale tyne quart stowpis; twa ale tyne quart flacownis; ane tyne pynt stowp; twa new chalmer pottis; four new tyne chandilieris; five grat brassin chandilieris; ane grit morter of brass, and ane iron pester; twa tyne bassings, with ane lawr of tyne; five grit brass panis; thrie meikle brassin pottis, and ane lytill brassin pot; twa iron pottis; ane gris-pan of brass, and ane pair of grat standard raxis; five lang speittis; ane grit iron tank; ane meikill frying pan, and ane grit masking fatt; thrie fyll fattis; tw meikill barrals; four lytill barrals; ane burnist, and twa grit iron chimneys; twa pair of taingis; ane chalmer chimnay; twa lang hall buirds; thrie furmis; ane short hall buird; twa chalmer buirds; twa chyris of aick; ane copbuird of aick; sax buffet stuills; and meikill by bill (bible); twa meikill meill gurnells of aick; thrie cofferis; twa grit kistis of aick, for keeping of naipparie; four less kistis, and and candill kist; twa stand bedis of aick."

Dean Castle is associated with the name of "bloody Dalziel." During a period of the Persecution it was his head-quarters in Ayshire, and many atrocities were committed by him and his soldiery in its neighbourhood. Upon one occasion several troopers observing a man running across a field, gave chase, but the individual being fleet of foot avoided them, passed through the entry of a cottage and concealed himself in a pool of water in the garden. Entering the cottage the pursuers found an old woman its only occupant. Laying hold of her, they threatened her with instant death if she did not deliver up the man. Pleading ignorance of his where-about, she was dragged to the Castle and thrown into one of the dungeons, where, tradition states, she was allowed to die of starvation.

At what period any portion of Dean Castle was built is a matter of conjecture. Pont, who topographies Cuninghame about 1698, speaks of it as being "veill planted, and almost environed with gardens, orchards, and a parke," and of being "the cheiffe duelling almost for 300 zeirs of ye Lords Boyde;" while Captain Crose, who visited and made a drawing of it in 1789, supposes it to have been built about the beginning of the fifteenth century.

Paterson hazards an opinion that it was built about 1316, the lands, according to a charter granted by Robert the Bruce, having passed from John Baliol to Sir Robert Boyd at that date; and MíKay, the local historian, frankly states that "the period at which either of the towers was erected is unknown," which I daresay is tantamount to the truth.

Dean Castle was the residence of the Boyds, lords of the barony of Kilmarnock, as far back as authentic history can trace. They were ever loyal to the cause of Scotland. One fought at the battle of Largs in 1263, and by his prowess so distinguished himself at Goldberry Hill, an eminence near to the scene of the action, that a grant of land in Cuninghame was conferred upon him. His descendants, from that incident, emblazoned the word "Goldberry" upon their family shield. Another aided Wallace and Bruce to emancipate Scotland from the thraldom of the English, and many more rendered their country good service. William, the fourth and last Earl, forfeited the lands, and perished on the scaffold for the part he played in the rebellion of 1745. These were again restored to his son, Lord Boyd, in 1752, but were afterwards sold to the Earl of Glencairn. The Glencairn family died out in 1796. The lands were then, or previous to that event, purchased by a Miss Scott, who became Duchess of Portland. They now belong to her descendant, the Duke.

Leaving the courtyard of the Castle, I passed through a kind of farm-yard and marched down a little avenue to the sonorous notes of a chained mastiff that barked until I was out of sight. Arriving in the roadway I found myself at a little bridge, and near to the spot where the Borland and Craufurdland unite and form the Kilmarnock water. The scene is possessed of much sylvan beauty. The Craufurdland dashed itself into foam as it dances down its rocky bed to wed itself to its more placid mate that murmurs round its perverted course as if anticipating the embrace.

Holding along the bank of the Borland, I passed near to the edge of Dean Quarry--an excavation sometime abandoned, and now filled with water. Arriving at a kind of glen where the streamlet is crossed by a bridge, I deviated into a bypath, ascended Assloss brae, and on past the farm and mansion-house of that name. On the face of the brae I leaned over a fence and looked down upon Dean Castle, and through the valley that lied before it, upon the town in the distance and the hills of Craigie in the background. In this scene the past and the present are beautifully blended. The old ruin represents feudalism and the cloggish systems of the past; the busy town beyond, with its schools and churches, its workshops and factories, represents the present progressive system of society, and shows what can be attained when a people are unfettered by absurd laws and restrictions. The spot is well worth a visit, the view of the town being good--perhaps the best to be had in the district.

In Assloss farmyard these are the remains of the fortlet, supposed to have been erected by a Jacob Aucinloss, who received a charter of land of that ilk from Queen Mary in 1543. His descendants occupied the estate for a lengthened period. The family were of no great influence, but they are now extinct. The present proprietor (Miss Parker) is a descendant of the family of John Glen, merchant in Kilmarnock, who obtained the land by purchase in 1725. The mansion-house is delightfully situated on the top of a thickly wooded bank overlooking the Borland water.

Pacing along the secluded highway, I drank in with open eyes and ears the glorious sight and sounds of nature. The hum of the treasure-ladened bee smote my ear as I paused now and again to listen to the rich melody of a lark that appeared like a speck in the sky, for

"Wild was the lay and loud,
Far in the downy cloud
Love gave it energy, love gave it birth.

I enjoyed its song; in fact, it had such an exhilarating influence upon me that I tripped lightly on my way and soon arrived in Craufurdland road, and in an amazingly short time at the gate of the beautifully wooded grounds which surround Craufurdland Castle, the seat of the Craufurds, but at present the residence of Alex. Cochrane, Esq., merchant, Glasgow. I walked along the carriage drive under the leafy shade of trees through whose umbrageous foliage as through a leafy screen I espied glimpses of the deep blue summer sky. The walk was a pleasant one, but it was doubly so when I rounded a turn and beheld the castle before me. It stands on the top of a gently rising bank, and is surrounded by scenery disintuited for its sylvan beauty. The building is large and commodious. The right wing has the appearance of considerable antiquity--in fact, it is said to have been built "prior to the days of William the Conqueror," and originally was a strongly-fortified square tower. There have been several additions made to this tower, which have to all appearance been erected at different periods; but, nevertheless they agreeably harmonise. The centre portion was erected by the late William Houison Craufurd, Esq., and is a beautiful specimen of Gothic architecture.

Many of my readers will have sunny memories of Glen Saturday (the third Saturday of April) and Craufurdland Castle. On that day it was and still is customary for the  children of the town to go in droves to the castle to gather "glens"--as they term the yellow daffodils that grow in great abundance on a lawn behind the mansion. The later Mrs. Craufurd of Craufurdland delighted to welcome the little people, and to load them with bouquets of the coveted flowers. None were sent away empty handed, the crop being often so abundant that hundreds more could be supplied.

While viewing this ancient residence a gentleman approached me from the castle, and in the most kind and affable manner enquired if he could do anything to oblige me. Stating the purport of my visit he kindly pointed out the ancient and modern portions of the building, and other object of interest connected with it; then, bowing, took leave, and left me to meditate and view the place at my leisure.

The Craufurds of Craufurdland trace their descent from a person named Sir Reginald de Craufurd, who was Sheriff of Ayr during the early part of the thirteenth century. He married the heiress of Loudoun. The first "Laird" was a grandson of Sir Reginaldís, and flourished in the reign of Alexander  II., King of Scotland.

Among the Craufurds there were several who were not afraid to unsheath the sword in defence of national rights and liberties. In 1297 a James Craufurd of Craufurdland followed the valiant Sir William Wallace, and assisted to wrench our native land from the grasp of the invader. Other members of the family distinguished themselves in battle, and one (John Craufurd) fell on the disastrous field of Flodden in 1613. For a long period a feud existed between the Mures of Rowallan and the Craufurds of Craufurdland, which was carried on with considerable bitterness by the respective barons. The Craufurdland estate at one period nearly became lost to the family by the eccentric conduct of John Walkinshaw Craufurd. Paterson, referring to this member of the family, says that he "early entered the army. In August, 1761, he was appointed Falconer to the King of Scotland. He was an intimate  friend of the unfortunate Earl of Kilmarnock, who suffered with others for the attempt to restore the house of Stuart. He attended him to the scaffold, and, it is said, held a corner of the cloth to receive his head; he afterwards performed the last sad office of friendship by getting him interred. For the public exhibition he then made he was put to the bottom of the army list. He rose to be major--commandant of the 11th Regiment of Foot, and latterly to the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the army. He was present at the battles of Dettingen and Fontenoy, where he distinguished himself. He died at Edinburgh, unmarried, aged 72, Feb. 1793, settling his estate, by a deed made on his deathbed, upon Thomas Coutts, banker in London. His aunt and nearest heir (Elizabeth Craufurd), however, instituted an action of reduction of this settlement, and after a long litigation, carried on by her and her successor, the deed was reduced by a decree of the House of Lords in 1806, by which the succession to this ancient estate returned into its natural channel." Passing in front of the castle, I entered a carriage drive that winds through a thickly wooded portion of the estate. The trees on each side intertwined their branches and formed as it were a triumphal arch of green boughs. Strolling beneath the leafy shade, I passed on my left a beautiful sheet of water on whose bosom several snow-white swans glided gracefully along. In winter the "roaring game" is carried on with great spirit upon its frozen surface, and the stillness which usually pervades the scene is the broken by loud voices and merry peals of laughter, which "viewless echo" takes up and reiterates again and again.

Arriving at the termination of the shady path, I passed through a gateway and entered a rustic road. Turning to the right, a short walk brought me to Craufurdland bridge, a plain one-arched structure, in the vicinity of which the scenery is remarkable for its picturesque loveliness--so much so, indeed, that the muse of the poet has been awakened by it, and the painter and photographer have celebrated it by their art. The stream which the bridge spans is called Craufurdland water. It takes its rise in the moors beyond Fenwick, and to use the words of Burns--

"Whyles owre the linn the burnie plays,
As through the glen it wimples;
Whyles round a rocky scaur it strays,
Whyles in a wiel it dimples;"

until it bickers down the rocky declivity at Dean Castle. Entering a private road that leads to the residence of Captain Picken, I passed through a "slap" and held along the bank of the streamlet, which was swollen by recent rains, and as it poured its mossy flood along it dashed it waters against fragments of rock that impeded its progress, as if peevish at the obstruction. The scenery was very pleasing, but walking was rendered toilsome by the moist, clayey nature of the soil, and at every step I sank ankle-deep in mire. Struggling onward for more than a mile, consoling myself with the thought that bad roads like bad fortune were probationary and possessed of not great duration, I arrived at an old cart-road on the face of a hill, and having entered it found more solid footing. A short walk brought me to the farm of Dalreath, and having passed it a sharp downhill pedestrian feat landed me at a rickety wooden bridge spanning the Craufurdland. Crossing it I beheld at a short distance the farm of Midland, a spot that reminded me I was treading on ground once trod by the sons of the Covenant, who thought it better to suffer and die than that tyranny should reign.

After lingering awhile on the bank of Craufurdland I struck into a disused cart-track, and directed my steps to Low Fenwick, an ancient but unassuming hamlet that tops the rising ground to the west.


Return to Book Index