So here it is. Our last full day in South Ayrshire. It's a day of showers but it's certainly a lot drier then when we arrived two weeks ago.

We had been very frugal, only eating out once and visiting only places where it was free to get in. So we actually had some cash left at the end of the holiday (which is unknown of for us even when I am in paid employment). So we decided to blow it on a visit to the local national trust property, the admission price to which I complained about in an earlier post. However, we didn't pay the full £15.00 which would have given us admission to the interior of the house. To be honest, the stinking rich have always filled their homes with pretty much the same sort of (look how wealthy I am) stuff and once you've seen an imposing, oil painting of an ancestral, puffed up, chinless wonder you've seen them all (it's the inbreeding - our aristocracy have more conformity of looks than most Kennel Club registered breeds of dogs). So we just paid £9.50 each to nose around the estate and gardens. I'm glad we did because they are well kept and extensive, so the dogs had an excellent, long walk in the woodlands and us two humans had plenty to look at.

Culzean Castle (pronounced "kul-layn" castle for some toffee-nosed reason) is a castle near Maybole, Carrick, on the Ayrshire coast of Scotland. It is the former home of the Marquess of Ailsa, the chief of Clan Kennedy, but is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland. The clifftop castle lies within the Culzean Castle Country Park and is opened to the public. Since 1987, an illustration of the castle has featured on the reverse side of five pound notes issued by the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Culzean Castle was constructed as an L-plan castle by order of the 10th Earl of Cassilis. He instructed the architect Robert Adam to rebuild a previous, but more basic, structure into a fine country house to be the seat of his earldom. The castle was built in stages between 1777 and 1792. It incorporates a large drum tower with a circular saloon inside (which overlooks the sea), a grand oval staircase and a suite of well-appointed apartments.

In 1945, the Kennedy family gave the castle and its grounds to the National Trust for Scotland (thus avoiding inheritance tax). In doing so, they stipulated that the apartment at the top of the castle be given to General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower in recognition of his role as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during the Second World War. The General first visited Culzean Castle in 1946 and stayed there four times, including once while President of the United States. An Eisenhower exhibition occupies one of the rooms, with mementoes of his lifetime.

The castle re-opened in April 2011 after a refurbishment funded by a gift from an American millionaire. William Lindsay, who had never visited Scotland, requested that a significant portion of his $4 million go towards Culzean. Lindsay was reportedly interested in Eisenhower's holidays at the castle.

Culzean Castle is used as the castle of Lord Summersisle (played by Christopher Lee) in the 1973 cult film The Wicker Man. The scenes here were filmed in February 1972.

The Castle is reputed to be home to at least seven ghosts including a piper and a servant girl.


The views from the cliffs on which the castle perches are stunning. There's that island again!

The Swan House near the Swan Pond (which is convenient)

The common cormorant or shag
Lays eggs inside a paper bag
The reason you will see no doubt
It is to keep the lightning out
But what these unobservant birds
Have never noticed is that herds
Of wandering bears may come with buns
And steal the bags to hold the crumbs.

(Christopher Isherwood)

The Culzean pagoda was completed in April 1814 and was designed to house exotic birds and animals. From the upper floor the Kennedy family enjoyed captured views of the Castle, and Goatfell on Arran. Surviving pagodas are rare, making this one unique in Scotland. There are only three in Britain and this is the only one built from stone. The original architect is unknown.

The structure became derilict and roofless in the 1930s and was reconstructed in 1997 in the spirit of its contemporaries and the main vista, from the Swan Pond, re-established.

The monkey's tails in the balustrade and the monkey shaped weather-vane are a subtle allusion to the fact that the Kennedy family at one time kept monkeys in the Pagoda, which local people called the 'Monkey House'. (At least that's what the Kennedys claimed. My guess is that it was probably the castle, itself, that the locals called the Monkey House)

One annoying thing happened. The website for the castle advertises the existence of a secondhand bookshop on the estate. Knowing my love of such places, Mrs MP enticed me into going for a long walk round the estate with the promise that I could then visit the bookshop (a rare treat for me as, for some unknown reason, wives can spend hours dragging their husbands round clothes shops but if a husband stays longer than five minutes in a secondhand bookshop or record shop the sighs and glares begin, followed by the unannounced exit from the shop by the wife in that way that says "If you don't follow me out the rest of the day is going to be hell for you!"). However, when we finally arrived at the shop after our lengthy walk we found that it closed at 3 o'clock, even though the castle and grounds didn't close till 5 o'clock. It was five to three. I threw a real paddy over that, I can tell you.

So I waited whilst Mrs MP looked for Christmas presents in the gift shop (without me tutting or glaring I would point out), and then we went to the walled garden, a very peaceful and beautiful oasis away from the families with kids, as kids don't like the sort of thing you find in formal gardens. The following photographs are really just me showing off what I can do with my trusty little camera. It's just an instamatic type camera from the early days of digital cameras. The number of pixels it boasts would be laughed at nowadays even by the most Luddite of photographers. But over the years we have got to know each other well. I have terribly shaky hands. If I have to carry a cup on a saucer you can here it rattling from a mile away. When I first started taking photos with this camera you could see my affliction very clearly in all the photos I took. But the camera must have some good technology in it as it now appears to correct the shuddering. And I've learnt how to compose a reasonable photo over the years. So together we make quite a good team and I'm pleased with most of the results of our joint endeavour. Of coure, I never show anybody the cock-ups or what I prefer to call my experimental shots.

So there you have it. The MadGangs first holiday for two years and a bloody good one at that. I hope you have enjoyed my reports along with all the photographs. Thanks for popping in each day to check them out. And an especially big thank you to all of you who made it possible through your generosity and all of you who would have been just as generous if you weren't as badly off, or worse, than I am. My reward was checking out my stats occasionally and discovering that an unemployed, unwanted priest can still produce something of worth to other people.



  1. I have greatly enjoyed your holiday journal. Your photographs are excellent.
    Ro Ford
    (Boo Cat)

  2. MP, spectacular travelogue! I have enjoyed the photos and narrative immensely. And I am truly happy for you and Mrs MP on a successful (if damp) holiday!

  3. I have enjoyed every bit of your holiday journal and the excellent piccies MP.

    So glad you have enjoyed it too.

    I hope it has done all of you (dawgs too) a power of good.

  4. Hi, MP–

    Lovely pictures!

    The reason for most of those very odd Scottish pronunciations of words spelled with a “z” (Menzies being another example) is that it wasn’t originally a “z”, but rather the old letter “yogh”, representing something in the “y” or “gh” family, depending on the context. When printers stopped having the older letter on hand, they substituted the similar looking “z,” and in a few cases people actually started to pronounce it as that; mostly, though, we were just left with apparent nonsense.

  5. Thanks. I had just assumed that the Scottish landed classes suffered from the same annoying tendency as the English landed classes of never pronouncing their names and addresses as they are spelt for purely snobbish reasons.

    Perhaps you could answer a question that has bugged me for years. Why are the celtic languages still spelt so differently to how they sound? It must be a major obstacle to getting people to learn the native languages.

    • You’re more than welcome.

      I’m not at all an expert on the Celtic spellings; my impression is that (like a lot of spelling oddities) history plays a role. Another piece of it, though (I believe) is just pure arbitrariness of having to choose some combination of letters to represent a sound. For instance, Shakespeare spelled that Welsh sound that’s now “ll” as “Fl,” in “Fluellen.”

  6. “all of you who would have been just as generous if you weren’t as badly off, or worse, than I am”

    You are most welcome. Some day I’ll “come into my millions” {snort}, and then you’re near the top of my Largesse List…

    Glad you had a great trip. Will post more re the pics later….

  7. Wow! You know how when you see a fireworks display, they pop up one at a time, or sometimes two or three in an arrangement, and then at the end, they just throw them all up at the sky for about ten minutes of solid, unbroken fireworks and it’s just the most wonderful thing in the world?
    That’s how I feel about this last series of vacation photos, MP. The travelogue things are lovely, then, suddenly, just one after another in an unbroken chain of beauty, and Mrs. MP walking down the alley of trees at the end. Ahhhhh! Thank you for sharing your travels.

  8. Wot the others said……
    Some of those photos would make wonderful covers for sets of cards to use as stationary, you know, picc on cover ad bank for note in the inside.

    Beautiful job, MP!

  9. Wot the others said……
    Some of those photos would make wonderful covers for sets of cards to use as stationary, you know, picc on cover ad bank for note in the inside.

    Beautiful job, MP!

  10. I actually have enjoyed your holiday shots very much. In a dark and depressed time of my own, they have been a ray of light. Thank you for them.


  11. Wow! What Lois and others said. Your photos are wonderful. And you were right: skip the house, always go for the garden.

  12. Oh, I’m SO glad you got to experience this and then share it with us. And that closing shot or Mrs. MP? Couldn’t be more perfect or poignant.

  13. wives can spend hours dragging their husbands round clothes shops but if a husband stays longer than five minutes in a secondhand bookshop or record shop the sighs and glares begin

    Not so. I’m a wife (got the photo to prove it) and if I’m going to shop, I’d rather it be in a bookshop or music shop; I hate clothes shopping. Joe can actually outshop me in all categories.

  14. Wow some really arty shots here MP. I think you’ve out done yourself with this lot. KJ had better watch out. Thansk for the pictures and the travelogue. Bad luck about the bookshop. They usually keep weird hours. I hope you and Mrs MP had a really great time.

  15. I just don’t have the equipment that KJ is blessed with, Boaz. Anyway, I wouldn’t know what to do with an enormous zoom if I had one. I mean, where would you put it when you’re not using it? You could hardly shove something that size into your trouser pocket.

  16. Thanks for the vicarious trip you gave all of us! I don’t want to downplay the enormous effort it took you nearly every day to bring us both the pix and the narratives-it was a huge labor to do that while still on holiday and I’m glad you did. Thanks!

  17. Mrs MP is a voracious reader. She got through five books on her Kindle whilst I “played” on my laptop. So we were both happy, LA.

  18. Learning the castle belonged to Clan Kennedy, made me think of an old priest friend of mine, Fr Dean Kennedy (OBM). [I wonder how some Kennedys are Scottish, and some (the famous ones) are Irish?]

    “with a circular saloon inside”: with Kennedys, either Scottish or Irish, you’d only expect! ;-p

    I *so* empathize re the bookstore, MP. I’d be crushed, too! [Ask skittles: when she and I would travel together, used bookstores would be FIRST on our Must-Sees!]

    LOVE your pics—your camera’s a trooper! Faves are the bee, the Noble Stag, the will-be-afore-long-ripe apples, all the purdy flowers, the Monkey House. Great stuff!