Kenmure Castle

Kenmure Castle

Kenmuir Castle was inhabited up to the middle of the 1950s but now lies in ruins as the roof was removed and the building was allowed to fall into disrepair. It was the seat of the Gordons of Lochinvar and it said that Mary Queen of Scots may have stayed there in 1563 when she toured in the area.

The castle was substantially remodelled in the 19th century but was originally a three story building with ranges on the south and west and a high wall round the north and east sides enclosing a courtyard. The outside walls are now covered in harling but pre-nineteenth century stonework may be recognized on some of the inside walls dating from the 17th and possibly 16th century and there are the remains of four vaulted cellars. It stands on what looks like a mote but is probably natural and the area roundabout has been landscaped in the past. It may be that Roland, Lord of Galloway built the original castle on or near the site in the late 12th century.

The land was owned originally by the Lords of Galloway and in 1334 a declaration by Edward III showed that it then belonged to the Balliol family, and it is possible, but unlikely that John Balliol was born there in 12 49. Some sources say that in 1354 it was gifted to one Sir William de Aldeburgh, Balliol’s valet, along with the barony of Kells. It was subsequently owned by the Douglases and then the Maxwells and by the 15th century it had passed into the hands of the Gordons of Lochinvar. However the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland says that is belonged to the Gordons by 1297.

Sir John Gordon of Lochinvar secured the charter for New Galloway and became Viscount Kenmure and Lord Lochinvar. The castle was burned down during the reign of Mary, and presumably rebuilt, though it was again in ruins in 1790. During the Civil War the 4th Viscount was a staunch loyalist and commanded a company of horse. It is said that he carried a large cask of brandy for his men at the head of the company which was known as “Kenmure’s Drum”. Cromwell order his estates forfeited for his attachment to the Stuarts, and Lord Kenmure is said to have hidden in the Lowan Glen, now in the forest on the west side of Loch Ken. This place was also supposed to have been used by the family when hiding from Claverhouse when he was persecuting the Covenanters whom Kenmure supported. His estate was returned at the Restoration. There is a strange anomaly here as the Solemn League and Covenant was supposed to be an agreement between the Covenanters and the English Parliamentarians.

The 6th Viscount who was a follower of the Old Pretender in 1715, was captured and executed on Tower Hill, and he also forfeited his estates and titles, but they were restored in 1824 to a direct descendant, John Gordon. The titles became dormant on the death of his successor in 1847.

“Young Lochinvar”, the ballad by Sir Walter Scott, was supposedly written about William Gordon of Kenmure, who died in 1548.