Hail old patrician trees so great and good!
Hail ye plebeian underwood!
Where the poetic birds rejoice,
And for their quiet nests and plenteous food
Pay with their grateful voice.
CASTLE TOWARD, the seat of Kirkman Finlay, Esq. of Glasgow, stands amidst pleasure grounds very richly wooded, and of pleasantly varied surface, on that part of the coast of Cowal which is opposite to Rothsay, from whence it is distant about three miles, and within the entrance to the Kyles of Bute. The situation of the house is considerably elevated, but the ascent from the shore is gradual and easy. It is protected from the northern blasts by the hills which rise to a great height behind, while to the south it has an agreeable exposure, and possesses a magnificent view of the bay and town of Rothsay, over which rise the serrated tops of the Arran mountains; and of the frith of the Clyde with its varied shores and islands.
Mr. Finlay purchased the estate of Auchenwillan, on which the Castle stands, some years ago; and subsequently he also acquired, by purchase the adjoining estate of Toward. In 1821 he erected this splendid mansion, on the site of the house of Auchenwillan, from designs furnished by David Hamilton, Esq. Architect, Glasgow, a gentleman whose talents have been often exerted in the decoration of his native city. Mr. Hamilton has here adopted the castellated style of architecture. Upon a previous occasion, when writing of Lee house, we mentioned the great difficulty, in our opinion, almost the impossibility of adapting a structure in the style of a fortification of the middle ages, to the purposes of a modern residence; and in Mauldslie Castle we showed how utterly even the great Adams had failed in this attempt. In the present instance, however, the genius and invention of Mr. Hamilton have enabled him to overcome these difficulties, and to produce a building in which are found all the internal elegance and accommodation required in modern life, with the external appearance of an ancient castle. It does infinite credit to the talents of Mr. Hamilton who designed it, and to the taste of Mr. Finlay who adopted it.
The principal part of the building is an extensive oblong structure, the walls of which are apparently strengthened at intervals by projecting buttresses, and protected by four large square turrets which flank the corners. The principal entrance is under a projecting porch having pointed arches, which adds both to the beauty of the front, and to the resemblance to a feudal castle. From the centre of the building a lofty octangular turret rises considerably above the other portions, on the top of which is placed a flag-staff. This turret commands a most extensive panoramic view of the surrounding country. The back part of the building has the appearance of a large circular tower, which the fancy at once imagines to have been the great keep or donjon of the castle, in which in ancient times were the state apartments, and to which, as a place of peculiar strength, the garrison retired when probably every other portion of the works were destroyed. Even the kitchen court, which surrounds this tower, with its arched gateway, over which in a pointed niche is hung a bell, instead of injuring the effect, is made materially to heighten the intended deception. The offices too, which are situated below upon the shore, from their being in the same style present the likeness of a strong barbican or outwork, intended to protect the coast.
When Mr. Finlay acquired the estates of Auchenwillan and Toward, they had received little improvement, and a considerable portion of them were little better than in a state of nature; but, notwithstanding the short time these lands have been in this gentleman’s possession, he has given to the whole a new and highly cultivated aspect. He has increased and improved the arable lands by a better system of agriculture than had ever been adopted in this Highland district, and he has enlarged the woodlands and pleasure grounds by much valuable and ornamental planting. In fact he has formed an earthly paradise, where he found little better than a desert. Mr. Finlay has been lord provost of the city of Glasgow; and was M.P. for that burgh in 1812.
A little way south-east of the present building but on the estate of Toward, stands the ruins of the old castle of Toward, once the residence of the Lamonts of Lamont, anciently the most considerable family in this part of the country. Here the unfortunate queen Mary dined on the day she left Dunoon, during the journey she made through the west country, as already mentioned in our account of that place. After dinner she and her retinue were ferried over in boats to Ayrshire. This castle was attacked in June 1646, by a body of Campbells under the command of the laird of Ardkinglass. After a siege of six weeks the castle was surrendered by capitulation, to the terms of which, however, little attention was paid. Sir James Lamont was kept a prisoner several years, the Castle of Toward being first plundered of every thing which it contained, was then burnt and destroyed, the adjoining lands were wasted and the cattle driven off, and the garrison after being taken to Dunoon, were part of them hanged and the remainder cruelly butchered with dirks and pistols in cold blood. This forms part of the charges in the indictment preferred against the marquis of Argyll in 1661 for high treason. The injury sustained by Sir James and his followers by these ravages of their ancient enemies, is estimated in the indictment at L50,000 sterling.