Blairquhan Castle

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Blairquhan Castle
Blairquhan Castle.jpg
Entrance front of Blairquhan Castle
Location Straiton, South Ayrshire, Scotland
UK grid reference NS 36531 05468
Coordinates 55°18′58″N 4°34′39″W / 55.3161°N 4.5776°W / 55.3161; -4.5776Coordinates: 55°18′58″N 4°34′39″W / 55.3161°N 4.5776°W / 55.3161; -4.5776
Built 1824
Built for Hunter-Blair family
Architect William Burn
Architectural style(s) Tudor revival
Listed Building – Category A
Designated 14 April 1971
Reference no. 19094
Criteria Historical
Horticultural
Architectural
Designated 1987
Blairquhan Castle is located in South Ayrshire
Blairquhan Castle
Location within South Ayrshire

Blairquhan (/blɛərˈhwɑːn/ blair-WHAHN, Scots: Blairwhan)[1] is a Regency era castle near Maybole in South Ayrshire, Scotland. It was the historic home of the Hunter-Blair Baronets and remained in the family's possession until 2012, when it was sold to a Chinese company.[2][3]

Blairquhan is protected as a category A listed building,[4] and the grounds are included in the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland, the national listing of significant gardens.[5]

History[edit]

Four different families have lived at Blairquhan or on its lands. The McWhirters built the first tower house about 1346. The Kennedys then inherited the estate through marriage and built the remainder of the old castle about 1573. In the early 17th century the Whitefords took over, but in 1798, suffering the effects of a bank crash, they sold Blairquhan to Sir David Hunter Blair, 3rd Baronet, the second son of Sir James Hunter Blair, 1st Baronet who had married Jean Blair, the daughter and heiress of John Blair of Dunskey in Wigtownshire in 1770. When Jean Blair inherited her father’s estate in 1777, the family took the additional surname of Blair.

In 1820, Sir David commissioned Scottish architect William Burn to design a new house on Blairquhan. The old castle, which had become ruinous due to previous fires and neglect, was torn down for a new the Tudor-style castle, which nevertheless incorporated some of the decorative mouldings and sculpted stones from the old castle into the kitchen courtyard of the new house.[4] The new mansion was completed in 1824, and contains many antiques and an important collection of paintings by Scottish artists.

The estate and grounds[edit]

Perhaps the best achievement of Blairquhan are the three mile (5 km) approach to the castle along the river Girvan and the beautiful walled gardens. The late James Hunter Blair (1926–2004), younger brother and heir presumptive of Sir Edward Hunter-Blair, 8th Baronet (1920-2006), was a noted horticulturalist and forester who spent most of his life restoring the castle and preserving the estate grounds, which includes hundreds-year old trees. An ancient sycamore which stands in the shadow of the castle is thought to be a Dule Tree, planted early in the 16th century during the reign of King James V of Scotland. The once-spreading crown was heavily pruned in 1997, saving the much-weakened trunk from total collapse.

Surrounding area[edit]

Nestled in what is known as "Burns' Country," Blairquhan is within walking distance to the small Ayrshire town of Straiton, and a short drive to Kirkmichael and Maybole. The entire area is known for its gently rolling, pastoral topography, its hills dotted with sheep and traversed by the winding Girvan. On a clear day, Ailsa Craig can be seen in the distance.

The garden front of Blairquhan in winter

As a tourist attraction[edit]

Blairquhan is open to visitors on occasional days, or by appointment.[6] The award-winning gardens are open to the public for tours in the summer. To help offset operating costs, James Hunter Blair opened the 2,000-acre (8.1 km2) estate as a venue for private functions such as weddings, corporate outings and filming. With historic cottages and abundant places to picnic, fish or shoot, as well as its proximity to the legendary Open Championship golf courses in Troon and Turnberry, it is becoming a popular choice for lodging and those touring the Scottish lowlands.

Blairquhan has also increased its profile as a filming location. It was seen in the UK television programme Beauty and the Geek. Its interiors and grounds were also used as a substitute location for Balmoral Castle in the Oscar-winning 2006 film The Queen, starring Helen Mirren.[7]

In late 2012, Sir Patrick David Hunter-Blair, 9th Baronet, sold Blairquhan to Ganten Scotland, a subsidiary of a Chinese company which bottles mineral water for distribution around the world.[8]

References[edit]

External links[edit]