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Kelburne House, pp.147-148.



Tall elms embower me; and the dell
Sends up the larch-tree’s fragrant smell;
There plane, and oak, and ash, and pine,
Their vernal tint of leaf combine;
Bright shines the sun; beneath is made
A wondrous lattice-work of shade.


THIS ancient manor house, is the seat of the Right Honourable the Earl of Glasgow, whose ancestors have been in possession of the lands of Kelburne, for a succession of centuries. It is situated at the bottom of a pleasant valley nearly his among its woods, within 400 yards of the sea, and about a mile south of Largs. The back part of the building is obviously of considerable antiquity. It has been a lofty oblong structure, with turrets at the north east and south west corners, and bears marks of having been at one time a place of strength, though it has no doubt been as much as possible modernized at the time the front portion was erected. This would appear to have been in 1700, at least this part bears that date above the entrance, and from its general appearance, we should presume it to have been erected about that period. The house with its various pointed gables, and turreted staircases, has altogether a picturesque and interesting appearance, when taken in connection with the rich woods in which it lies embowered, and the splendid scenery of the frith of the Clyde. Within, the house has all the same ancient yet interesting appearance. The rooms, their decorations, furniture, and pictures, all are antiquated, and remind us of a former age.

The peculiar charm however of Kelburne, is the lofty and magnificent wood with which it is surrounded. The surface of the extensive pleasure grounds is very varied, and slope down from the hills behind, towards the sea, affording through opening glades in the leafy beauty with which they are covered, commanding propects of the frith of Clyde, with the islands of Cumbrae, Bute, and the mountains of Arran towering in the distance. The deep glen through which the water of Kelburne flows towards the sea, gives a most picturesque and romantic effect to that portion of the grounds, which form its banks. They are in many places steep, and so covered with wood, that from the higher walks, although we hear the running of the stream over its pebbled bed, or the din of its various falls over the rocks, the water itself cannot be seen. Cool and shady walks extending for miles have been formed throughout the grounds, and so as to form terraces of different heights along the banks of the romantic glen. The wood is of different kinds, lofty and majestic; in particular there are many fine specimens of the ash, the elm, the pine, the sycamore, and the lime. In a retired and romantic situation on the banks of Kelburne water, stands a handsome monument erected by Elizabeth Countess of Glasgow, to her deceased Lord, John the late Earl. This nobleman was in the army, was wounded at the battle of Fontenoye in 1745, and again severely at the battle of Lauffield in 1747. In a recess of the monument is a beautiful figure in white marble, of a weeping female, leaning on an urn, which is placed on a small altar. Below is an appropriate inscription, and above a shield containing the family arms. The effect of this monument in so peculiar and retired a situation is very striking, and many will pause here, who would elsewhere pass it by unheeded. A visit to the grounds and walks of Kelburne, have long formed a favourite excursion with the many visitors who frequent the watering places in the neighbourhood.

About a mile south of Kelburne, on the west is the little village of Fairlie, which probably does not contain much above 150 inhabitants, but is a good deal frequented by sea bathers during the season. There are a good many handsome villas in its neighbourhood, some of them the property of Glasgow merchants, who retire here for the summer. Its shore is well suited for bathing, and from its neighbourhood to Largs, all those necessaries may be obtained, which the smallness of the village of Fairlie render it impossible to obtain in it. On the hill immediately behind stands Fairlie Castle, once the residence of a family of that name, but which long since became the property of the ancestors of the Earls of Glasgow. It receives an interest it would not otherwise possess from being the castle alluded to in Lady Wardlaw’s beautiful ballad of Hardyknute, as the residence of that fabulous knight. The castle is thus described in the ballad;

Hie on a hill his castle stude,
With halls and toures a’ hicht;
And guidly chalmers fair to se
Quhair he lodg’d mony a knicht.

This ideal Lord fights with great bravery according to the ballad, at the battle of Largs fought in the neighbourhood. This ballad was at first given out as being ancient, and for a time deceived even the most learned antiquaries; it was afterwards discovered however to have been written by Lady Wardlaw. This fact has long been so generally known, that it is rather astounding to be informed in a work published in 1822, that it, “either was itself the castle of Hardyknute, or occupies the site of one in which this hero resided, when the battle of Largs in which he so distinguished himself was fought. We need scarcely inform any reader that it is to this Hardyknute, the celebrated ballad commencing,

Stately stepped he east the ha’
And stately stepped he west,

has reference.” The author ought undoubtedly to have informed his readers, where he ever heard of Hardyknute, except in this ballad.

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