Hunterston Castle is a sixteenth century Tower House that is the seat of Clan Hunter - the descendants of the hereditary Royal Huntsmen to the King’s of Scotland. Replacing an earlier fortification, the tower was intended from the start as an elaborate residence and was significantly expanded in the seventeenth century.
The Hunters were Normans who originally came to Britain in the years following the invasion. They formed part of Queen Matilda's court, wife of William the Conqueror, and thereafter came north to Scotland. In 1116 William Hunter (Williemo Venator) was appointed as Royal Huntsman, which subsequently became a hereditary appointment, and was given land around Ardneil Bay (situated between Portencross and West Kilbride).
During the reign of Alexander II, the Hunter's were given new lands slightly further to the north. At this time Ayrshire was on the frontline between the power struggle between the Kings of Scotland and the Danes who controlled many of the islands off the West Coast of Scotland. In particular its proximity to the mouth of the Clyde, offering access deep into the interior, made it a strategic site. Clearly the Hunter's were trusted to be granted such important territory and it is likely they raised some form of fortification around this time. That structure would later morph into a settlement now known as Hunterston (derived from a corruption of 'Hunter's Town').
The Hunter's retained their lands throughout the Wars of Scottish Independence despite initially supporting Edward I of England. Confirmation of their ownership was formally recorded in 1374 by Robert II and the family continued in Royal service through the subsequent centuries. Most notably Hunter's fought and died at the battles of Flodden (1513) and Pinkie (1547).
During the sixteenth century the Hunter's built a three storey Tower House as a new residence. This was originally surrounded by a barmkin which enclosed all the support buildings associated with such a site almost certainly including a kitchen, brewhouse, bakehouse and stables. The entire site was protected by a moat whilst the surrounding land was originally a marsh which provided further protection.
By the seventeenth century the Tower House itself was deemed too small by its occupants and a large extension was built on the south side. The barmkin and outbuildings were subsequently demolished in later modifications. An additional wing was added to the west in recent times.
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Hunterston Castle is a restored Tower House with an adjoining seventeenth century wing. The site is a private residence and there is no access but the exterior of the building can be viewed from the adjacent public path.
Hunterston Castle is not sign-posted but is relatively easy to find. Turn onto Highthorn Road from the A78 and follow this to a fork in the road (pictured below). Private vehicular access is not allowed beyond this point and, as the road is used for emergency access for the nearby Power Station, must not be blocked under any circumstances. The preferred parking option is shown below. Thereafter walk along the public right of way to view the exterior of the castle.
Car Parking Option
(Road Must Not Be Blocked)
Beech Ave, KA23 9QG
Take the the road on the right of the photo to see the exterior of the castle.