Culzean Castle and Country Park

Written by Chris Thornton | 14th of October 2023
Culzean Castle and Country Park

Culzean Castle, located in South Ayrshire on the west coast of Scotland, is a magnificent cliff-top castle that offers visitors a glimpse into the grandeur of the past. Built for the Kennedy family, one of the oldest clans in Scotland, the castle boasts a rich history that can be traced back to Robert the Bruce. Today, Culzean Castle (pronounced Cul-een) is owned by the National Trust for Scotland and is open to the public, offering a unique opportunity to explore the castle's history, architecture, and natural beauty.

Join us as my wife and three daughters explore this amazing castle and country park.

Our visit to Culzean Castle

We stayed at the Craig Tara holiday park; Culzean was only a 20-minute drive. Our route from Craig Tara took us along the A719, which also took us down the Electric Brae, a section of road famous for its optical illusion. It looks as if you are travelling downhill, but you are actually heading upwards; if you were to stop the car, it would give the illusion of rolling uphill!

We didn't stop at the Electric Brae on this occasion, but if you are a fan of amazing optical illusions, consider a visit!

Before we arrived at Culzean, we continued for a quick visit to Girvan to buy a picnic. It seemed like a great seaside village with a fantastic playpark and promenade. A small ASDA was here, and we bought some goodies for our lunch.

Parking at Culzean Castle

We arrived pretty early in the day at Culzean Castle, about 10 am on a Tuesday. As we had signed up for an NTS membership after we visited the Robert Burns Museum in Alloway, we were allowed free entry to the castle and country park; the staff just waved us through when we displayed our temporary membership card. The membership saved us £50! We were also given a leaflet containing a map showing all the available attractions - the site is enormous.

It was fairly quiet, and we quickly found a parking space after some initial confusion about where we should park! We would later discover that there are car parks all over the country park, for example at the farm shop or the Adventure Cove... so there are car park signs everywhere, pick whichever suits you best for what you want to see.

We ended up parking a short distance from the Home Farm area, just past the parking area for coaches.

The weather was absolutely terrible and thrashed rain the entire day, as you will see from my photos! But it wasn't cold or windy, so it didn't completely ruin our visit. Most of the photos shown in this article were taken on my mobile phone as I didn't want to risk my expensive camera in the rain.

The Home Farm

We arrived at this area first, which looked like a little castle or fort. Within this converted farm building are gift shops, toilets and a cafe here, which once housed the cows and pigs. Although this seemed like a lovely wee area, we wanted to see the castle and continued walking until we arrived at a large ruined arch.

Home Farm
The Home Farm building contains gift shops, toilets and a cafe.
Farm buildings
Even the farm buildings had character.
Home Farm toilets.
The toilets at Home Farm.
The cafe building at Culzean Castle.
The picturesque wee cafe at Home Farm.
Path to Culzean.
Making our way past Home Farm, following the path to the castle.
Culzean Castle information board.
Great information boards are placed all around the country park.
Forest path to Culzean.
There is a short path through a forest to reach the castle.

The Ruined Arch

As we got closer to the entrance arch, I said to my wife Janette, "This arch looks like one you would see at a theme park" - it looked artificially aged... and right enough, the information board said architect Robert Adam built the arch to look ruined to give an interesting entrance and lead up to the castle visible through the arch.

The Arch certainly achieves its goal of giving a wow factor and provides a fantastic photo opportunity to frame the castle and a fairytale-like quality to reach the castle.

Entrance to Culzean.
Arriving at the fake entrance archway.
Inside the Culzean arch.
Internal view inside the arch.

Passing through the arch, you reach what can only be described as a bridge with battlements; again, this adds to the grandeur of the lead-up to the castle; Robert Adam certainly had some great ideas. This bridge also gives excellent views of the flamboyant formal gardens containing palm trees!

Culzean access bridge.
Crossing the large bridge section to access the castle.
Culzean Castle view.
The impressive frontage of the castle. Note the small palm trees in the foreground.
Culzean formal gardens. Culzean Castle country park.
The gardens are immaculate.
Entrance bridge and arch.
Looking back towards the entrance arch.

Making our way through another fine arch, this time more finely built and covered in fine carvings; we arrived at Culzean Castle.

A fine entrance arch.
The final arch reaches the castle courtyard.

Exploring Culzean Castle

The courtyard was well-kept, and the tarmac drive beckoned us to the main entrance. There are toilets available here just right of the entrance before you go in.

Main entrance to Culzean Castle.
The main entrance to the castle, toilets can be accessed at the right.
Culzean Castle toilets.
The castle toilets.

Another receptionist checked our entrance info; they also thanked us for being NTS members and waved us through to the first part of the castle. He gave us an information sheet and mentioned that each room contained a "Lego mannie" that the kids could find and tick off on the sheet.

The Lego hunt was an excellent idea and kept the kids engaged in each room. They enjoyed the hunt and learned the names of each character (a historical person from the castle) and a little history about them. What a great idea!

This first area was the Armoury Hall, with many items on the wall to see; initially, I wasn't sure what I was looking at with these large circular patterns mounted on the wall... but after closer inspection, they were flintlock pistols! There must be hundreds of them arranged here. This room also contained many swords, bayonets and a model ship.

Flintlock pistol clock.
Flintlock pistols and swords were arranged around a clock in the Armoury Hall.
Flintlock family crest.
More flintlock pistols were arranged around a family crest.

The tour around the castle is mainly self-guided, but staff members approach you and give historical information. The staff here were fantastic, particularly the American or Canadian lad; he went out of his way to say hello and teach the kids about Susanna Montgomerie, Countess of Eglinton, who had a large portrait in the circular saloon. I've never had that level of staff engagement at any other castle I've visited in Scotland.

This same staff member seemed to put on a little tour of his own which was fantastic.

Exploring the castle, there were many highlights:

  • The grand oval stairway.

  • The large circular/round drawing room contains a chandelier and a fine collection of paintings, with outstanding views out to the Firth of Clyde.

  • An impressive dining room.

  • Many examples of fine furniture and a beautiful golden harp.

  • Bedrooms with four poster beds.

  • A kitchen with an extensive collection of copper pans.

The self-guided tour, as always, ends at the gift shop with some nice Culzean-themed items. The small whisky bottles were lovely.

The dining room.
The dining room.
Oval staircase by Robert Adam.
Robert Adam's Oval Staircase.
Oval staircase ceiling.
The impressive ceiling of the Oval Staircase.
Drawing room ceiling and chandelier.
Ceiling and chandelier in the drawing room.
Susanna Montgomerie
Susanna Montgomerie, a past inhabitant of the castle.
Culzean Castle bedroom.
One of the fine bedrooms in the castle.
Culzean tea set.
A fancy tea set!
Clocktower view.
View from the castle back towards the clock tower.
Castle portraits.
The rooms are covered in portraits.
Culzean Harp.
A beautiful harp.
Expensive grooming kit.
The grandest grooming kit I've ever seen.
Culzean Castle kitchen
The kitchen.
Copper pans in Culzean Castle kitchen.
Copper pans.
Culzean castle giftshop
Castle giftshop: This chap kept looking at me; I guess he wanted to be on the website :)
Culzean Whisky
Culzean Castle whisky is likely just a cheap blend of whisky but still a very attractive memento.

Castle grounds

We explored the immediate grounds by leaving the castle the same way we entered. The courtyard had a few cannons and more great sea views from the mock battlements. I noticed the courtyard also had a shuttle vehicle to take people to different areas of the park... the kids were eager to go on this, but we had other plans to explore the routes westwards and find the Powder House, Swan Pond and the Adventure playground area.

Thornton's posing.
The ladies posing outside the castle.
Culzean courtyard and clock tower house.
The castle courtyard and clock tower.
Castle exterior.
Exploring the immediate castle grounds.
Castle frontage.
Castle front view.
Culzean side view.
Side view of the castle.

The formal garden gives way to rougher forest paths; the densely forested areas are typical of the west coast and feel completely different to where I live on the northeast coast of Moray. The rain, still thrashing, sounded terrific on the leafy canopy above.

Muddy forest track.
Following the muddy forest path to the western areas of the country park.

We quickly looked at the powder house, a quirky little building hidden just off the main path and once used to store the gunpowder magazine away from the castle. There isn't much to see here, but it's still an interesting little building to investigate.

Culzean powder house
Powder House.

There weren't any swans on the Swan Pond, but there were thousands of lilies and a very cool sculpture of a sea monster... maybe the Loch Ness Monster? The rain was still coming down hard, so we popped into a shelter next to the little shop for a wee rest.

Swan pond.
Lilies covered the Swan Pond.
Culzean monster sculpture.
Swan Pond sculpture.
Culzean bench. A great day out for all the family.
Taking a wee break from the rain.

Adventure Cove and The Wild Woodland play areas

A short distance from the Swan Pond is the Adventure Cove playground... this might be the biggest and best playpark I've seen anywhere in Scotland! There are two main areas, a large wooden fort with many slides and swings and a tree-top trail with walking platforms, tree houses, climbing nets, slides and zip lines.

Despite the heavy rain, this park was just brilliant, and the kids had a fair time playing there.

Adventure Cove entrance.
Entrance to Adventure Cove.
Wild woodland entrance.
Entrance to the Wild Woodland!
This was such a brilliant place for the kids; I had a wee shot too!
Play net
Lauren made her way up to Olivia.
Wild wood paths.
The ladies lead the way.
Wild wood climbing frames.
The Wildwood was next level.
Wild wood net path.
The route was a little slippy in the rain but passable with care.
Wild Wood zip line.
The main zip line is in the middle.
Adventure playground
Entrance to the adventure playground.
Play fort
Play fort.
Wooden play fort.
This is the largest wooden play fort I've found in Scotland so far.
Adventure Cove play fort.
Play fort with swings.
Play fort slides.
The fort slides area.
Adventure Cove car park.
As mentioned earlier, there are dedicated car parks all around the country park; this one is for Adventure Cove.

Walled Garden

After the play area, we had a flying visit to the Walled Gardens. Many of the castles we've been to previously have had quite small gardens... not here, it was huge! A wide variety of plants exist in the gardens; we even saw large pumpkins growing on the ground.

Culzean Walled Garden
The huge walled gardens.
Walled garden flowers.
Despite all the rain, the bees were out in force all over the gardens.
Fruit filled glasshouses
Fruit growing within one of the large greenhouses.
Culzean Palm Tree.
A very large palm tree exists in the gardens.
Walled garden exit.
Leaving the walled garden.

Returning to the car park, we came across the Camellia House, a grand greenhouse.

Camellia House, Burns country.
The Camellia House.

We had to leave early to get back to Craig Tara for our swimming pool booking; I would have liked to have explored Culzean more! We missed a lot, including the deer park and ice house.

The History of Culzean Castle

Culzean Castle is a magnificent country house on Scotland's Ayrshire coast. It was constructed in the late 18th century by the famous architect Robert Adam on the orders of the 10th Earl of Cassillis, David Kennedy.

The castle was built in stages between 1777 and 1792 and designed to be the seat of the earldom. It was constructed as an L-plan castle, with a more basic structure rebuilt into a fine country house. The castle is one of the most impressive examples of Robert Adam's work and is considered one of the finest examples of Scottish architecture from the 18th century.

The Kennedy family, one of the oldest clans in Scotland, owned Culzean Castle for over 400 years. They were a powerful family with a long and illustrious history, and their ancestry can be traced back to Robert the Bruce. David Kennedy, the 10th Earl of Cassillis, was a wealthy and influential figure in 18th-century Scotland, and he spared no expense in creating a grand and impressive home for his family.

Culzean Castle has played a significant role in Scottish history and culture. It was used as a filming location for the 1973 horror film "The Wicker Man," and it has also been visited by many famous figures throughout history, including President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was given a private apartment in the castle as a gift from the Scottish people in recognition of his role in World War II.

Today, Culzean Castle is owned and maintained by the National Trust for Scotland, who have worked hard to preserve its rich history and heritage. Visitors to the castle can explore its many rooms and galleries, filled with treasures that tell the stories of the people who lived here. It is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in Scottish history and architecture.

Visitor Information

Address: Maybole, Ayrshire, Scotland, KA19 8LE

Website: Culzean Castle

Culzean Castle on Google Maps
What3words: ///term.ferrying.aimlessly

OS: NS233 103

Culzean Castle is open from 1st April to 29th October, daily from 10:30 am to 4:30 pm (last entry at 4:00 pm). From 30th October to 22nd March 2024, the castle is closed.

FAQs on Culzean Castle

Here are a few frequently asked questions about Culzean Castle:

Is Culzean Castle worth seeing?

It definitely is; not only do you get to explore the fantastic castle interior, the country park, with everything it offers, is worth the price of admission alone. You could easily spend an entire day here and still not see everything.

Can you get into Culzean Castle for free?

You can get into the castle for free if you are a National Trust for Scotland member.

What has been filmed at Culzean Castle?

The horror film "The Wicker Man" by director Robin Hardy, starring Christopher Lee, was filmed at Culzean Castle.

Who owns Culzean Castle?

The Kennedy family gifted Culzean Castle to the National Trust for Scotland in 1945.

Is it possible to stay at Culzean Castle?

Yes - The Eisenhower Apartment at Culzean Castle is located on the castle's upper floors and offers stunning views of the Firth and Arran. Each uniquely decorated bedroom is named after its former resident, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, and is equipped with modern amenities to ensure maximum comfort. Upon arrival, guests are welcomed with a cream tea and can relax in the Drawing Room or their private bedroom.

In addition to The Eisenhower, the NTS offers two self-catering options: the Brewhouse Flat and the Royal Artillery Cottage. The Brewhouse Flat is a spacious and comfortably furnished flat situated on the seaward corner of the castle's west wing, offering uninterrupted sea views across to Arran. The Royal Artillery Cottage is set at the heart of Culzean Castle's sandstone stable block and offers holiday accommodation in and around the castle.

Is there anything else near Culzean Castle worth visiting?

It depends on what you like, but here are a few suggestions:

  • Greenan and Dunure Castle ruins.

  • Visit Girvan; there is a great playpark and beach promenade and a fantastic view of Ailsa Craig out to sea.

  • Robert Burns Museum in Alloway.

  • Belleisle Conservatory in Belleisle Park.

  • Investigate the optical illusion at the Electric Brae.

  • Turnberry Lighthouse.

  • Golfing at Trump Turnberry.

Videos from Culzean Castle

Here are a few short video clips of our visit to Culzean Castle.

Home Farm.
Castle interior.
The circular drawing room.
Wildwood Adventure Park.
Wildwood Adventure Park.
The ladies laughing at me for tripping.
Lauren carefully navigating the rope slope.
Olivia on the balance board.
Walled Gardens.
Camellia House

Key information on Culzean Castle

  • Culzean Castle is situated in South Ayrshire on Scotland's west coast.

  • It was constructed between 1777 and 1792 by architect Robert Adam.

  • The Kennedy family owned the castle for over 400 years.

  • President Dwight D. Eisenhower had a private apartment in the castle.

  • Multiple car parks are available within the country park.

  • There are tours and self-guided tours available.

  • There is much to see, including gardens, swan pond, many hidden buildings, beaches, forests and the most amazing adventure playground I've ever seen.

Sandy coastline dotted with caves.
A slightly blurry photo of Culzean taken from our moving car on the way back to Craig Tara.


My family and I had already visited Dunure Castle and Greenan Castle - both ruinous, so it was great to see this castle still in its full glory, fully furnished and full of unique historical items.

We only had about 5 hours to spend at Culzean, and to be honest, it wasn't enough time - there was so much more to see, but we had booked the swimming pool at Craig Tara and had to leave early. You can easily spend an entire day at Culzean Country Park. Arrive early and explore everything this incredible place has to offer.

All information was correct at the time of writing, please check things like entry costs and opening times before you arrive.

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