The ruinous remains of a sixteenth century Tower House that occupies the site of a former promontory fort. The structure is unstable and access to the interior has been bricked off. Nevertheless the exterior can be viewed and on a clear day there is an excellent view towards Arran.
Notes: Castle is not sign-posted but is relatively easy to find as it towers over the beach at Doonfoot. Car parking is available off Greenan Road. For those planning to climb to the castle, sturdy footwear is recommended.
Tower House. The interior has been gutted but the location of the turnpike stairs can be seen in the bottom right.
Perched upon the top of a sea cliff, Greenan Castle occupies a site that has been fortified for thousands of years. Originally a promontory fort, it was converted into a motte-and-bailey in the twelfth century. In the fifteenth century a Tower House was built by the Lords of the Isles which later passed into the hands of the Kennedy family.
HISTORY OF GREENAN CASTLE
A promontory fort enclosing around one acre was the first known defensive structure on the site of the later Greenan Castle. Four concentric curved ditches, each around 3 metres wide, cut off the headland with the exception of a single causeway to provide access. Probably a fortified farmstead, it is not known how long this settlement was occupied for but the site was re-used in the twelfth century. At this time an earth and timber motte-and-bailey was raised on the site probably by one of the immigrants encouraged to settle in the north during the reign of David II (1124-53). By 1190 it was in the hands of Roger de Scalebroc - a vassal of Donnchadh, Earl of Carrick - for a charter records him granting fishing rights to the monks of Melrose Abbey at this time. Ownership of Greenan in the following three centuries is unclear but in 1475 it was in the hands of John, Earl of Ross and so-called Lord of the Isles. He granted the lands to his esquire, John Davidson, who managed to retain them despite James IV taking control of the Lordship of the Isles in 1493.
A record from 1510 lists the owner of Greenan as Thomas Davidson and it was perhaps he who built the castle seen today on top of the earlier fortifications. The new building was a three storey (plus attic) Tower House. It took the traditional form - the basement was a vaulted storage area, the Great Hall was on the first floor with accommodation above. Access into the tower was via an external wooden stair to a first floor door that led directly into the hall. An internal turnpike stair, embedded in the thickness of the wall, allowed access to all levels.
In 1576 the castle was sold to Paul Reid, a burgess of Ayr. His tenure was short for it was sold again in 1588 to John Kennedy of Baltersan. He remodelled the castle including adding a new entrance at ground level and also added a three storey wing to the south-east of the Tower. A barmkin (curtain wall) enclosed a courtyard which would have included all the ancillary buildings associated with such a settlement including brewhouse, bakehouse, kitchen and stables. Judging by an engraving on the entrance lintel, these upgrades were completed in 1603.
Greenan Castle was the scene of inter-clan fighting when, in 1601, Sir Thomas Kennedy of Culzean was murdered shortly after he left the fortification in retaliation for the death of another member of the family. The castle passed through various members of the clan before ending up in the hands of Thomas Kennedy, Earl of Cassillis in 1766. The castle seems to have gone out of use as a residence around this time and today the structure is ruinous.