Dundonald Castle

The Laigh Hall

Dundonald Castle

Nevermore

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.

Highlees 

A Highlees Field

Highlees Farm

Highlees Mount

Highlees Farm

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, Andrew Lynn 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.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  

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