Meeting Report: The Castles of the Glenkens

Date: 
2 March 2012
Occasion: 
Members' Night
Speaker(s): 
Alan Pallister

Members were treated to an interesting pictorial tour of that part of Galloway known as the Glenkens, conducted by a knowledgeable retired engineer.

The mottes were the earliest sites and date from the 12th and early 13th Centuries when Galloway was asserting its independence and power struggles were taking place. Detailed plans of Balmaclellan, Dalry and Parton (which has two) and Lochrinnie Mottes all featured in the account. They varied in diameter from about 40 to 50 feet and were usually of inverted pudding-bowl shape, apart from Boreland Motte at Parton, which was named by the Royal Commission as a 'citadel' because it took advantage of a natural elevation.

There are two fortified farmhouses worthy of note, one at Dundeuch near Polmaddie and one at Shirmers. The latter was in the hands of a branch of the Gordon family from the 15th Century.

Glenkens Castle, halfway up Loch Ken and associated with the Balliols, and Lochinvar Castle, associated with the Gordon family, were island defences. Earlston Castle is a tower house of the 17th century and bears a commemorative stone. It was associated with the Sinclair family, who were staunch supporters of the Covenanting cause. Barscobe Castle in the feudal barony of Balmaclellan was built in 1648 by William McClellan. Like Earlston it is L-shaped.

Kenmure Castle is the largest and strongest of all. It belonged to the ancient Lords of Galloway and might have been built on the site of a previous stronghold. It, too, was associated with the Gordons, whose arms are incorporated on a wall. Mary, Queen of Scots, stayed there in 1563. Continuing Catholic support led to the 6th Viscount Kenmure's execution for involvement in the Jacobite cause. Originally 4-sided but later becoming 3-sided, as it has remained, the building has undergone many changes right up to the 20th Century and even served as a hotel after World War II. It is no longer inhabited.