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Clan Seats of Scotland – Clan Boyd – Scotcrest Blog

Dean Castle, Kilmarnock – Clan Boyd

Dean Castle Clan Boyd

Dean Castle is a fantastically preserved 14th-century castle located within the grounds of Dean Castle Country Park on the outskirts of the Ayrshire town of Kilmarnock.

The castle was originally built by the Boyd clan and includes a three-storey tower and a 15th-century palace building. The structure is also rumoured to have a secret tunnel hidden deep within its basement which connects to the nearby Crawfurdland Castle.

The Boyd family were first given control of the lands around the castle shortly after the victory of Robert the Bruce and the Scots army at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, a victory in which Sir Robert Boyd, the chief of the clan, was said to have played a huge part.

Sir Robert Boyd’s son, Sir Thomas Boyd, would build the castle’s keep in 1350 to help defend their territory and would make it particularly defensible by designing the walls to be 3 metres thick. This tower would then be complemented by the construction of a palace building in the 15th century (which included a square tower of its own) and both of these buildings are now within a courtyard which can be accessed through a towered gatehouse (seen in the image above).

Robert Boyd, clan chief and owner of the castle during the 15th century, would subsequently become the Guardian of the young King James III from 1466-69. This post effectively made Boyd the ruler of Scotland for a three year period. However, after the questionable way in which he was appointed, he was forced to flee to Denmark before his younger brother, Alexander, was executed for treason thanks to their involvement in what was essentially a power grab by the family. This is not to say that Boyd was a bad ruler, however, as he did manage to negotiate the return of the Orkney Islands, which had long been held by the Kingdom of Norway, by agreeing to a marriage of the King of Norway’s Daughter to King James.

Despite Lord Boyd’s disappearance and Alexander’s execution, the castle would remain in the family’s hands and William, 10th Lord Boyd, would be created Earl of Kilmarnock in 1661. However, the castle itself would eventually perish before the clan when it was struck by a fire in 1735. Following this, the castle was mostly abandoned by the family for the nearby Kilmarnock house and it would be sold by James Boyd in 1746.

Thereafter the structure changed hands many times before being inherited by the 8th Lord Howard de Walden in the early 20th century who would begin a complete restoration of the building including a recreation of its 16th and 17th-century interior. Lord Howard would donate the castle to the town of Kilmarnock in 1975 and it now contains a museum of armour and weaponry.

Dean castle would then appear in contemporary culture as it was featured in the cult TV series of the 2010s, ‘Outlander‘, when it was used as the filming location for scenes set at Castle Beaufort in Inverness-shire, the traditional home of the Lords Lovat.

The castle can now be visited by the general public and the structure and its extensive surrounding lands form the Dean Castle country park which can be accessed in under half an hour by car from Glasgow city centre.

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Learn more about the history of Clan Boyd HERE.