During one of our last visits to Europe, we were fortunate enough to make a British Isles cruise. We were aboard the Caribbean Princess, a Princess Ship that we’ve sailed before, surprisingly, in the Caribbean. This time the ship was the same, but the setting was different.
One of our stops along this cruise was in Glasgow, where we jumped off the ship and boarded a bus for a day out in the Scottish countryside. We made a couple of quick stops along the way, but ended up at the Culzean Castle (pronounced Kul-LAYN) around noon.
This is one of those kinds of ship tours we like, where we get basic transportation to and from a place with some explanation along the way. Once we get there, we’re turned loose to find our own way, which is what we did here.
Culzean Castle was built in the late 18th century, between 1777 and 1792, by the then 10th Earl of Cassillis. The Earl was the head of the Clan Kennedy, and the castle remained in the Kennedy family until 1945, when it was turned over to the National Trust for Scotland in order to avoid inheritance taxes. There was one stipulation when the property was turned over, and that was that the uppermost floor was to be held for the use of General Dwight D. Eisenhower for as long as he wanted to use it, in recognition of his contribution to the efforts of World War II. And indeed, General Eisenhower, and later President Eisenhower, visited the apartment four times, beginning in 1946.
Local folk lore says that there are at least seven ghosts present in the castle. One of which is a servant girl who has been seen on the grand staircase, and another is a piper, who has been heard playing his instrument in the caves along the cliff walls beneath the castle.
Something we don’t get to enjoy from a ship’s tour are some of the more exclusive things that come with a place like Culzean Castle. There’s a hotel located on the top floor, which are the rooms of General Eisenhower’s apartment. After President Eisenhower’s death, the apartment was converted into the Hotel Eisenhower, a small hotel capable of accommodating up to 20 guests.
There is a restaurant that serves an upscale dinner on Friday and Saturday nights, and breakfast is served daily.
Prices to stay at the Hotel Eisenhower are surprisingly moderate, considering the exclusive and luxurious nature of the surrounding. Of course, the definition of our use of the term “moderate” may not be the same as another’s idea. For some it might be out of the question and for others, the price might be trivial. Only you can decide if it’s right for you. Reviews of the hotel seem to indicate that most folks regard it as a good value.
Across the main parking lot from Culzean Castle there’s a large fenced area where you can view several different species of animals. There were various deer herds, llamas, a few goats, and so on. But one of the most interesting animals we found was the pheasant we found walking in the grass among all the ungulates. The bird was certainly a wild animal since he was clearly capable of flight, but probably learned to hang with the Deer Park animals, mainly for the food.
The purpose of the Deer Park at one time might have been to demonstrate some of the animals that might have been hunted on the property back in the last part of the 18th century, when the Castle was new. That is, of course, until the Llamas showed up. And there might actually be a purpose for the Llamas that we’re missing, so we can leave it at that.
The Deer Park wouldn’t be a reason to come to Culzean Castle in and of itself, but it was fun to watch the animals as they went about their business, mostly ignoring the tourists.
How to get there
Culzean Castle is on the coast of Scotland overlooking the Firth of Clyde, which is a body of water between Scotland and Northern Ireland. It’s about 50 miles southwest of Glasgow, and 430 miles north of London. The two ways that make sense to us for visiting is either from a British Isles Cruise like we did aboard the Caribbean Princess, or from a plain ol’ road trip. We flew into London and rented a car a couple of years ago and drove up into northern Scotland for a little over a week. We had a great time visiting the sights. Culzean Castle could have easily been on the list had we known about it at the time. Actually, we would have strongly considered spending the night, had we known about it at the time.
Another way to visit Culzean Castle is to consider a train to Glasgow, then use a tour company from town to get out into the countryside. We’ve found these advertised at modest prices.
We’ll no doubt make another road trip into northern Scotland at some point in the future, and Culzean Castle will be on the list. We would like to spend more time there, perhaps staying the night and walking the beaches below the Castle along the cliffs. Who knows, we might find the ghost of the piper.
However you may prefer to travel, if you find yourself in Scotland, this is a place to see. In the meantime, here are a few of our images: