The stately homes of Scotland,
How beautiful they stand
Amidst their tall ancestral trees
O’er all the pleasant land.
The deer across their greenward bound
Through shade and sunny gleam,
And the swan glides past them with the sound
Of some rejoicing stream.
THE princely demesne, amid the groves of which stands this splendid residence of the noble family of Eglinton, lies in the parish of Kilwinning, about two miles from Irvine, and seven from Ardrossan. The castle is within sight of the sea, but is distant nearly two miles from it. The grounds of Eglinton are very extensive, consisting of upwards of 1500 Scots acres. They certainly cannot boast of the romantic or picturesque interest of many of those we have hitherto met upon the Clyde; but their mild features, and highly cultivated beauties are not the less worthy of admiration, nor do they afford less intense delight to the visitor. Throughout the whole extent of the grounds there is hardly any variety of surface, but where there is a gentle eminence, it has been taken advantage of, and made to add to the general beauty. The wood is heavy and luxuriant, and the most favourable disposition of the walks and trees, which the eye of taste in landscape gardening could suggest, has been adopted. The Lugton, a small brook which runs through the grounds, has also been forced to give its aid in increasing the beauties of this delightful place. By dams, carefully concealed, its waters have been increased and spread over a larger surface, and so present the appearance of a considerable stream. Alexander the tenth Earl of Eglinton, who was one of the early improvers of agriculture in Scotland, planted a considerable quantity of wood, and otherwise highly embellished the grounds of Eglinton; but it is to the fine taste and cultivated mind of the late Earl Hugh, that this magnificent residence is indebted for its present beauties. The garden occupies about 14 acres of ground; and the hot-houses and green-houses are proportionally extensive. During the life-time of the late Earl, nineteen men besides the head gardener were constantly employed in attending the gardens and hot-houses.
The mansion house is an extensive square building in the castellated style, flanked by lofty circular turrets at each corner; and from the centre of which rises a lofty octangular tower on which is placed a flagstaff. It was commenced in 1797 and finished in 1800, from a design by Paterson, by the late Earl who succeeded to the title in 1796. It stands partly on the site of the old Castle, which in the original plan was intended to have been retained as a part of the building. In digging the foundations of the new portion, however, the old building exhibited symptoms of giving way, and it was found necessary to take it down. From the park the castle has a noble appearance, and its battlemented towers when seen rising over the trees with which it is surrounded, forcibly arrests the attention and carried the mind back to the time of its ancient lords. In examining the interior, the visitor is particularly struck with the beauty and proportions of the hall, and the circular saloon into which it opens. The saloon indeed has a peculiarly grand appearance, as it rises through the whole height of the buildings to the top of the centre tower, from whence it is lighted by a dome. The principal rooms are spacious and elegantly proportioned; and altogether the castle forms a magnificent family mansion.
The lordship of Eglinton in very early times belonged to a family who took their name from the lands. Hugh, the most remote ancestor of this family mentioned, flourished in the reign of Malcolm [III.] Canmore, between 1057 and 1093. Eglun was the second in succession from Hugh. From him, or some previous possessor of the same name, the lands in all likelihood received the name of Eglunston, hence Eglinton; and subsequently the name of the lands was taken as the name of the family. Sir Hugh de Eglinton, supposed to have been the fifth in succession from the first mentioned Hugh, was Justiciary of Lothian in the reign of David II. He married the daughter or sister of Godfredius de Ardrossan, the last male of that ancient family; and by this lady acquired the lordship of Ardrossan. Sir Hugh died without male heirs, leaving an only daughter and heiress Elizabeth de Eglinton. This lady afterwards married Sir John de Montgomery of Eaglesham in Ayrshire, who in consequence acquired the Lordship of Eglinton, and Ardrossan. From this Sir John, the present noble family of Eglinton is descended. He signalized himself with Earl Douglas, at the battle of Otterburn in 1388, taking Henry Percy prisoner, with whose ransom he built the castle of Pulnoon on his estate of Eaglesham. He was the sixth in descent from Robert de Mundigrumbi, a baron of Norman extraction, who accompanied Walter the son of Alan, the ancestor of the Stewart family, when he came to Scotland, during the reign of David I. Walter conferred the manor of Eaglesham upon his friend, and thus the family of Montgomery acquired their first lands in Scotland. The estate of Eaglesham has thus been about 700 years in the possession of the family. The present Earl who succeeded his grandfather in 1821, is a minor of 17 years of age. On him at present rest the hopes of this ancient and noble family.