The Laigh Hall
In 1371, a grandson of
Robert the Bruce was crowned King Robert II of Scotland. To mark his
ascendancy to the throne, he had this castle
built on a previously fortified hill in Ayrshire which he considered part of his
ancestral lands. He gave it the site’s ancient name, "dun of Donald," the
word "dun" being Gaelic for "fortress." Robert II died in
Dundonald Castle in 1390, and
for the next 100 years it was used by the Stewart kings as a residence.
It then passed to the Cathcarts and subsequently the
Wallaces, but fell to ruins by the end of the seventeenth century.
The Laigh Hall of the castle was a banquet hall. The host
of the banquet and his principal guests
would be seated at a high table beneath the window, while other guests would sit
on stools or benches at lower tables along the side walls. Guests would
enter through the doorway (which, reflecting the sunlight, appears green in the image
above). Fires burning in braziers would warm the assembly,
leaving smoky traces on the stone walls still seen today.
When we told one of the
guides at Dundonald that we once lived in Baltimore, Maryland, he told us
the castle also has a connection to that city. Edgar Allen
Poe lived, died and was buried in Baltimore; however, his stepfather was from
the village of Dundonald, Scotland. Consequently, Poe once visited Dundonald and spent time at the castle. His
experience there is believed to have helped inspire perhaps his most famous
poem, "The Raven." Indeed, as we walked through the castle ruins, several large
black birds swooped down between the roofless walls, flew about, and perched on the grate in
one of the windows.
A Highlees Field
A Highlees Field
Just south of Dundonald castle lies this lovely property. Its name has been thought to refer to a nearby religious site, with "highlees" being a corruption of the word "holy."
However, since the word "lea" is the Scots word for grassland or
pasture and these fields crest high above the surrounding countryside, a much more reasonable view is that the name is a rendering of
the descriptive language "high leas."
Highlees was owned by the Lords of Lynn, also known as the Lynns of that
Ilk, for a period of at least 200 years beginning about 1452. In that year,
chartered Highlees to William Hunter of Arnele. It appears that Hunter
was a vassal of the Lynns since the charter grants Highlees to Hunter "for
services rendered and to be rendered." From that time until the
eighteenth century, whenever chiefship passed in either family, the charter was renewed by
the then chief of the Lynns of that Ilk.
The present-day farm is seated behind the crest of Highlees Mount.