Traditional Homeland and Castles

The Kennedy Clan held the lands along the southwestern part of what is now called Strathclyde, along the southwestern coast of Scotland. This area extended from Ayr on the north to the Solway Firth area, including Wigtown on the southerly coast. This vast area included the town of Ballantrae, made famous by Robert Louis Stevenson, and the River Doon, whose bridge — Brig o’ Doon — undoubtedly inspired the name of the magical village in the well-known Lerner and Lowe musical Brigadoon.

One of the ancient castles of the Kennedy Clan was located at Dunure, south of Ayr on the coast and protecting a fishing village of the same name. The ruins of this castle, on a promontory overlooking the sea, still can be visited today. The castle was destroyed during the long decades of religious and royal strife that convulsed and devastated Scotland from the 1500s to the mid-1700s.

In 1746, the Battle of Culloden settled many of the issues between England and Scotland and brought peace at least to the Scottish lowland clans. The Kennedys prospered, having been on the winning English king’s (Protestant) side. A few miles south of Dunure near Girvan, a clan castle called Culzean (pronounced “cullane”) was an important base for the Kennedys. It was built originally as a defensive castle in the 13th century. During the late 18th century, the 10th Earl of Cassillis employed the famous English architect, Robert Adam, to renovate and restore the castle. The renovation took 15 years (1777–1792) to complete; the 10th Earl wanted a showplace and got it just before he died in 1792. Culzean is more palace than castle, a magnificent edifice in a beautiful setting overlooking the sea. The Kennedy family donated Culzean to the National Trust for Scotland after World War II, and it is open to visitors. It is one of the National Trust’s biggest attractions. The current head of the Kennedy Clan, Lord Ailsa, Charles Kennedy, was born at Culzean.

There are 20 other Kennedy castles, most of them in ruins, around the area between Ayr and Stranraer, a port on the southwestern tip of Scotland. Most of the castles were homes, but some were fortified posts for clansmen guarding the approaches to Kennedy territory from land and sea.

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