The 16th-century tower was built by a branch of the Boyd family, relatives of the Earls of Kilmarnock, and extended several times. In the late 1850s, the Pre-Raphaelite artist William Bell Scott became friendly with the then owner of Penkill, Alice Boyd. Scott painted a series of murals illustrating James I's The Kingis Quair in the staircase. Scott died at Penkill on 22 November 1890. The original castle grounds were extended in the late 19th Century by Alice Boyd. The castle was frequented by members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, including visits by Christina Rossetti, who noted "Even Naples in imagination cannot efface the quiet fertile comeliness of Penkill in reality."
In the mid-20th century Penkill fell into disrepair. It was subsequently bought and restored in the 1980s by Elton 'Al' Eckstrand, an American lawyer and former drag racing driver, known as "The Lawman".
In 1992 Penkill was sold by Eckstrand to Scots-born Canadian businessman Don Brown, then subsequently in 1993 to the then HTV Wales Chairman and TV producer/director Patrick Dromgoole, and thus remains in private hands.
- "Scott, William Bell". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
- Christina Rossetti: A Biographical and Critical Study (1898) by Mackenzie Bell, page 51
- Penkill Castle site record at CANMORE at Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS)
- PENKILL CASTLE (Ref:1148) Listed Building record at Historic Scotland
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