Greenan Castle

Written by Chris Thornton | 9th of January 2024
Greenan Castle

Eager to explore more castles in the Ayrshire area after visiting the impressive Dunure Castle, Greenan Castle was next on the agenda!

Greenan Castle is west of Ayr in South Ayrshire, right by the sea. It has a long history and has existed since the 12th century. Although it's now mostly in ruins, the castle continues to tell its story about Scotland's history.

This castle differed greatly from Dunure Castle; there was no car park, dedicated path, play park or toilets - this castle was definitely a little more "off the beaten track", likely due to its precipitous location overlooking Greenan Beach.

Our visit to Greenan Castle

Being new to this area of Scotland, we had no idea where to go to arrive at Greenan Castle. Some signposts were guiding us to a car park near Greenan Beach. The castle can be seen from the beach, but there were no specific directions to get to the castle itself.

Luckily we discovered our own path to it, which I think was roughly right and worked well for us.

Parking at Greenan Castle

The most obvious place to park is at Greenan Road Car Park, a bit further east of the castle itself, but we wanted to walk directly next to the castle, so we parked at the end of Greenan Road near the start of the cycle path.

If you decide to park here, remember this is a suburban area with nice homes; try not to block drives or annoy the residents somehow!

Parking location for Greenan Castle.
Our parking location, the cycle route can be seen in the background.

Walking to Greenan Castle via the cycle path

We followed the cycle path to the west, passing below the red height restriction barrier. Although we visited fairly early in the morning on a weekday, the path was well-used by cyclists, so keep your eyes open and let them pass.

Cycle path to Greenan Castle.
Entrance to the cycle path to get nearer to Greenan Castle.
 
Walking to Greenan Castle.
The ladies led the way while looking for the castle.
 
View of Greenan Castle across a field.
We spotted the castle on the other side of this field.
 
Another view of Greenan  Castle across a golden field.
The view of the castle changed as we searched for the path.
 
View of Ayr from Greenan cycle path.
There were great views of Ayr from the cycle path.

The vegetation at either side of the path eventually opens up and gives fantastic views across the bay to Ayr, and the castle becomes visible across the fields.

There are no signposts at all for the castle; my wife Janette found a track alongside the field, which then connected to a more well-trodden path, but was still covered in stinging nettles and other weeds. I would recommend wearing trousers when visiting just in case there are ticks amongst the dense vegetation.

The path to Greenan Castle.
Janette found this rough path alongside the field.
 
Greenan Castle through the dense foliage.
The castle as seen from the field boundary path.

Following the path, it goes down first (originally a defensive ditch), then back up and opens up, giving a view of the castle again; the rough path takes you through another dense section before arriving at the castle itself.

Castle ditch and grassy rubble mounds.
The path leads down this ditch which was once part of the castle defences.
 
The last part of the path to Greenan Castle.
The final stretch to reaching Greenan Castle.

Arriving at Greenan Castle

The area directly next to the castle is devoid of vegetation, and the castle really hits you in the face as you emerge from the bushes! This large stone tower house is built in such a precarious position but is equally supremely defensible against attackers and gives a commanding view out to the Firth of Clyde.

At the foot of Greenan Castle. The mighty stone wall.
This four-storey tower house looks huge when standing right next to it.

Sadly the castle itself is inaccessible, likely due to looking like it could slip into the sea at any second! There is a small entrance about 15 ft up the nearest wall for those brave (or silly) souls who would like to take a look inside, but I wouldn't recommend it! The entrance on the east side is wholly sealed with modern bricks.

The tower house itself is large and impressive, with many original features still visible, like the bottoms of the turrets. There are traces of a walled courtyard which probably housed stables and a kitchen.

Metal bracing.
Metal braces have been added to the castle to help against future collapses.
 
Greenan Castle stonework.
The stonework is impressive.
 
Corbelled towers.
The fine corbelled towers are still visible.
 
Another corbelled tower.
Greenan must have been a very fine tower house in its time.
 
West view from Greenan Castle and courtyard wall.
View west from the castle.
 
Close to Greenan.
The main view of the castle when accessed via the cycle path. Note on the left side where the lean to hall house once existed.

The views east and west from the castle are stunning, and it's possible to see many of the features of Ayr, including The Wallace Tower and Ayr Town Hall.

Panoramic view of Ayr, Scotland.
The panoramic view of Ayr is fantastic.

Descending to Greenan Beach

There is a very rough path down via the castle's west side by scrambling over the ruined castle wall and descending down an incredibly steep path. If visiting again, I would probably retrace my steps and find a better route down to the beach; the steep way is very dangerous, and I don't recommend it.

Lower view of the castle from the beach path. Once a castle town.
Looking up at the castle from the steep path to the beach.
 
Steep path from Greenan Castle.
The path here is far from ideal; a safe route should be found.

Now on the beach, the tide was well out and gave a variety of great views of the castle, ideal for photography. We also noticed some of the biggest jellyfish I've ever seen washed up on the beach.

We first walked west and then over the beach round to the east side of the castle, and I took various photos from many different angles.

East view of Greenan Castle. Once known as Davidson Castle?
Looking east to the lonely ruins.
 
Thomas Wallace and a boy called Gilbert Ramsay.
This is the shot I wanted with the castle reflected in the beach sand pools.

History of Greenan Castle

Here is a very brief overview of the history of Greenan Castle.

Originally a promontory fort existed on the site of the castle but was then converted into a motte and bailey-style castle in the 12th century. The tower house that is seen today was built in the 15th century.

1476 - The lands of Greenan were forfeited by John, Earl of Ross and Lord of the Isles, for treason against King James III.

1493 - James IV granted the Lands of Greenan to William Douglas, son of Archibald, Earl of Angus.

Thomas Kennedy

1602, May 12 - Sir Thomas Kennedy of Culzean was ambushed in the woods of St Leonards and murdered in retaliation for the death of the young Laird of Bargany in December 1601 at the Battle of Brockloch, near Maybole.

1603 - John Kennedy of Baltersan gained control of Greenan and built the tower house that still exists today.

1766 - The castle ended up in the hands of Thomas Kennedy, Earl of Cassillis, and around this time, the residential use of the castle seems to have stopped, leading to its current state as a ruin.

Walter Muir of Cloncaird and Lancelot Kennedy.
The castle lends itself to a wide variety of photographs.

Visitor Information

There is no dedicated signed route to the castle, and the dirt paths are overgrown and difficult to pass. The castle could be considered unsafe and is explored at your own risk.

There are no ticket fees, and the site is not accessible to disabled visitors.

Google Maps Location
What3words: ///songbook.shirts.ascendant
O.S. Grid Reference: NS312193
GPS coordinates: 55.438624,-4.670105

A view of Ayr from Greenan Beach. Thomas's half brother, Thomas m'alexander.
Ayr as seen from Greenan Beach.

FAQs on Greenan Castle

Here are some frequently asked questions about Greenan Castle:

Where do I park for Greenan Castle?

The most straightforward place to park is Greenan Road Car Park to the castle's east. You can walk along the beach and see the castle from the foot of the cliff. There is a rough, very steep path up to the castle on its west side.

We parked at the end of Greenan Road near the start of the cycle path, which leads to the castle itself instead of the beach below.

How old is Greenan Castle?

The castle seen today is about 420 years old.

West view of Greenan Castle. Important for domestic and military interest.
Looking west at the castle.

Who built Greenan Castle?

The Kennedy family, specifically John Kennedy of Baltersan, is credited with building the castle in 1603; the initials J K appear above the doorway.

Is Greenan Castle safe?

It's safe to get reasonably close to the south side. You cannot entire the castle, and the entrances are bricked shut. The castle is built in a precarious spot, so it could collapse at any time... or never! Visiting this castle is at your own risk and is not openly marketed or maintained for visitors.

The path west of the castle to access it to or from the beach is very steep and treacherous.

If you would rather not get too close, there are still fantastic views from the beach east and west.

What is the castle on Firth of Clyde?

A few other castles on the Firth of Clyde; these include Dunure Castle, Culzean Castle and Ardrossan Castle.

Greenan Castle ruin. Earlier castle raised by the Davidson family.
I wonder how much longer this ruin will last on this sheer coastal cliff.
 
Path back to the start.
We followed this path back to our car.

Greenan Castle videos

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

Castle and beach view looking west.
 
Looking east towards Ayr from the castle.
 
View from Greenan Beach.
 
Beach view.
 
Another clip showing the castle and beach.

Key information on Greenan Castle

  • Built-in 1603 by John Kennedy of Baltersan Castle.

  • Abandoned and ruined by 1766.

  • It is situated on a rocky promontory above Greenan Beach.

  • Accessible via the beach or from the cycle path directly south of the castle.

  • Greenan Castle would be considered unsafe by many.

  • It's not possible to safely explore the interior of the castle.

  • The view of Ayr from the castle is fantastic.

  • The castle is a fantastic subject for photographers.

Greenan Castle seen from Ayr.
Greenan Castle as screen across the bay from Ayr.

Conclusion

We enjoyed our trip to Greenan Castle. Sometimes it's fun to explore a castle that's a bit more off the beaten track, and Greenen definitely fits that description - the castle really does look like it could fall off the cliff at any moment; I felt lucky to have visited it, even in its current ruinous state.

If travelling the South West Coastal 300 route, Greenan Castle is a great place to stop.

While not the most spectacular castle in Southwest Scotland, it's still an interesting place to visit and wonderful for photographers.

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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