The life of a Jacobean laird
The exterior of this house is deceptively modest. Inside, it is another matter. With the walls plastered and the surprisingly spacious rooms well-furnished, you gain a vivid impression here that the life of a Jacobean laird was not as spartan as might be imagined from the stony shells of so many abandoned towers.
The large hall has a lovely fireplace. From the hall the laird's private stair leads to bedrooms, each with it's own privy (perfect for hide and seek). The wide main stair, in its own tower, has a little room at the top called the cap house, from which you can glimpse the sea. The 18th century brought larger windows to let more light in, the bright clear light of a western peninsula
There are notable gardens to visit, lovely Luce Bay is nearby, and the rolling fields are grazed by cattle more numberous than the human inhabitants. Threave Gardens, Caerlaverock Castle and the Robert Burns Centre are all wonderful places to visit nearby.
‘Mother does not want to leave at all.’
‘Candlelit dinners will never be the same.’
From the logbook
Work began on 1st March 1590
The inscription over the door tells us that work began on the Castle of Park on the first day of March, 1590 (in time for a good long season's work before the next winter); and that Thomas Hay of Park and his wife Janet MacDowel were responsible for it. Thomas had been given the Park of Glenluce, land formerly belonging to Glenluce Abbey, by his father in 1572, and it is said that he took stone from the Abbey buildings for his own new house.
This he built in the tall fashion of other laird's houses of the period, usually known as tower houses. Although very plain, it is on a grand scale, as is shown by the large rooms and the fine quality of the stonework.
The Hays of Park descended from the Earls of Errol. Their first connection with Glenluce was through Sir Thomas Hay, father of the castle's builder, who was Secretary to Mary, Queen of Scots and, from 1560, Abbot of Glenluce. Sir Thomas was also a protégé of the Earls of Cassilis, his wife being a daughter of David Kennedy of Culzean, younger son of the 2nd Earl. It was probably due to the Kennedys' influence that the Hays obtained Glenluce and Park.
Like many tower houses, the Castle of Park was greatly improved in the 18th century, when the windows were made larger and fitted with sashes, and the main rooms were panelled. Two small wings were added on the south and north-east corners at the same time, enclosing a courtyard and providing extra accommodation. Near the castle there were gardens, all long vanished.
In about 1830, the castle was abandoned by its owners, when the contents, and much of the panelling, were taken to Dunragit, the home of Sir James Dalrymple- Hay, who had inherited the Park estate through his mother. From that time, the upper floors of the tower house were left empty, or used for storage, but some panelling remained in the 1890s. The wings meanwhile, were lived in by a farmer, who probably used the old kitchen too. The wings were still in good condition in 1912, but were derelict by 1950.
In 1949, the Castle of Park had been transferred to the Ministry of Works. A year or two later, the roof was renewed, but the floors were stripped out and the wings demolished. Then, in 1976-8, Historic Scotland carried out a full repair of the outside walls, and renewed the floors and windows. Inside, the Castle was left unfinished, with bare stone walls. The upper floors were undivided, and had no ceilings. For several years the Castle continued to stand empty, while a viable new use was sought for it. Such a use has now been found: the Landmark Trust's first visitors arrived on 24th April 1993.
Typical layout of a tower house
The main entrance to the castle is in the sheltered angle between the main wing and the tall stair tower. The door opens into a lobby at the foot of the stair, a common arrangement in tower houses. Turning to the right, you enter a passage which leads to all the rooms on the ground floor. These were service rooms, a scullery and larder (one now a bathroom), and at the north end, a kitchen with a huge fireplace on which the cooking was done. The stone vaults of these rooms are again a typical feature.
In 1976-8, the hatch between kitchen and passage was found, through which the cooks could hand food to the waiting servants. Beside the fire, there was evidence for a sway, a moveable bracket to hold cooking pots, and in the chimney itself there is a smoking board, for hams. The room in the corner was for the cook, and has a drain for waste water. The newly restored stair to the first floor from the room at the south end of the passage was for the servants.
The main stair leads to all the upper floors of the castle. The whole of the first floor was occupied by the great hall, the main room in which the whole household dined once a day. Its importance is shown by the finely-moulded stone fireplace surround, placed in the side wall to heat as much of the room as possible. Draughts were reduced by a wooden screen across the "low" or entrance end, roughly on the line of the new kitchen counter. Another screen may have run back from this to enclose a lobby at the head of the stair, and at the same time hide a servery at the top of the little back stair. Servants bringing food from the kitchen would have waited there, in what is now the kitchen, before entering in procession to serve the high table.
When the Castle was built, the windows would have been much smaller. They were enlarged in the 18th century, when the owners of many tower houses tried to make them more comfortable, without going to the expense of rebuilding. New pine panelling was fitted at the same time. Some of this was still there when drawings were made of the Castle in 1898, and was extremely fine, with rich mouldings, and pilasters, or flat columns, on either side of the windows. Originally, the walls would have been hung with woven cloths or tapestries.
In the north-west corner at the "high" end of the hall, a door leads to another stair, which has been completely rebuilt, having been removed long ago. This was for the private use of the laird and his family. It led only to the two floors above, on which were bedchambers and, no doubt, a private parlour. The partitions on both these floors disappeared long ago, so we don't know exactly how they were arranged. There must have been at least two rooms on each floor, because there are fireplaces at both ends, as well as two garderobes, or privies, in the thickness of the wall. These might have opened off closets, as they now open off the new bathrooms.
On the second floor, it was possible to put the new partition between the south bedroom and the passage exactly in the right place, because the drawings of 1898 show the end wall to have been panelled to that point. This panelling, while not as grand as that of the hall, was also of very good quality. It would have been too expensive to replace the panelling, but the sitting room has been decorated with hand-painted garlands.
Under the steeply-pitched roof of the stair tower is a small chamber or caphouse, reached by its own turret stair. A door from this turret also leads into a large attic in the main part of the house, which was probably where the servants slept. This attic is now kept locked, to provide a safe roost for the three varieties of bat which in the past had the whole Castle as their home.
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