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Colzean Castle, pp.161-162.



How fearful
And dizzy ’tis to cast one’s eyes so low!
The crown and choughs that wing the midway air
Show scarce so gross as beetles.


THIS noble mansion, the seat of the Right Honourable the Earl of Cassillis, is without exception the most magnificent marine residence upon the Clyde, indeed it may be said, in the kingdom. It was erected about the year 1770, from designs by the elder Adam, and is considered to be among the finest of his works. The site which has been chosen for it, is in the highest degree bold and striking, and adds infinitely to the effect of the Architecture. This part of the coast of Ayrshire rises almost immediately from the sea, into lofty and perpendicular rocks, indented in some places by bays, in others projecting into headlands. On one of these headlands or promontories, Colzean Castle has been erected; and a more sublime situation for such a house, or one more appropriate, can hardly be conceived. The rocks on which it stands rise to the height of 200 feet above the sea, which they so overhang, that a person standing in a balcony formed in front of the windows of one of the principal rooms, may drop any thing into the water at full tide. Towards the sea the castle is surrounded by outworks, and has the appearance of being regularly fortified; and indeed at one place it really is so, where it is defended by a battery of 14 heavy guns. In the north east of the principal building, are extensive walls with embrasures, some of them 100 yards in length, built on the very edge of rocks, 100 feet high. Altogether, therefore, with its sweeping lines, and towering buildings, the exterior of the Castle is singular and striking.

The internal accommodations are exceedingly splendid. The house contains seven or eight public rooms, which all open into a grand gallery formed in the centre of the house, and lighted from the top by a handsome cupola. This gallery which contains the grand staircase, forms one of those beautiful ellipses of which Adam was so fond, and has so often introduced into his works with delightful effect. It is surrounded with three tiers of lofty columns in the Corinthian, Ionic, and Doric orders, resting on one another, and which support the staircase. This introduction of different orders into the gallery, may not be according to the purer taste of Grecian architecture, but it was Adam’s misfortune to study when its chaste beauties were little known, and he could become acquainted with architecture only through the vitiated medium of the Roman school. In spite of criticism, however, this gallery has a grand and imposing effect, and is worthy of the genius of Adam. The entrance hall is rather small for the extent of the house, but it is finely fitted up as an armoury. Besides the grand staircase, there are six other staircases which ascend from the bottom to the top of the house.

The grounds around Colzean are very extensive, and contain considerably more than 3,000 acres of thriving wood of various ages, some of it of splendid growth. The walks which intersect it have been laid out with great taste and judgment. The drive through the grounds, entering at the east lodge, and passing out at the west, is about four miles in length. The approach to the Castle is over a beautiful Gothic bridge 200 yards long, passing under a handsome arch at each end. The ground in front of the Castle is laid out in terraces, which are adorned with beautiful climbers, and there are myrtles 18 feet high. The gardens are of great extent, the kitchen garden alone containing about six acres of ground.

The rock beneath the Castle is penetrated by several deep caves, which popular opinion has peopled with supernatural beings. Burns alludes to this in his poem  of Halloween. The caves are known, however, to have afforded shelter to Sir Archibald Kennedy of Colzean, after the Revolution, who had rendered himself offensive to the government, by his adherence to the exiled family. On the site of the present Castle stood the ancient fortalice of Colzean, the residence of a branch of the family of Kennedy, who, as already mentioned in the account of Dunure Castle, succeeded to the titles and estates of Cassillis in default of male issue of the original family.

Seen from the sea, the coast at this place presents a splendid mass of rocks rising to a great height from the water, and beautifully intermixed with wood growing to their very edge. From many points of the coast road from Ayr, the castle is beheld to great advantage, rising amidst its fine woods and towering over its singular and rock-bound seat. The road, however, when it approaches the grounds of Colzean takes a considerable circuit inland, passing entirely round them before it again comes to the coast; so that in its immediate vicinity, no view of the Castle can be had from thence. The view given in the engraving is taken from a projecting cliff, situated in the grounds to the north east of the Castle. The view from the Castle is extensive and magnificent. Up the Frith are seen the islands of Bute and Cumbrae, immediately opposite the mountainous island of Arran, and stretching away beyond it the coast of Kintyre; and looking down in clear weather, part of the highlands of Ireland can be distinctly seen. But the most singular object of attraction is the rock of Ailsa, which will be noticed more particularly in the account of Pladda Light House, rising like a huge cone sheer up from the sea, at the distance of fifteen miles from the land.

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