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HISTORY OF HOUSE OF CRAIGIE


This beautiful country house, providing self-catering accommodation for larger groups with a private indoor swimming pool, sits high up in rolling Ayrshire countryside overlooking the Firth of Clyde and its islands. 

Built in the late 18th Century the rare edition, “Castles and Mansions of Ayrshire” by Michael C David makes special mention of the House as “a former manse now a country house”.

A sense of place in time is inspired by the cornerstone which bears the inscription “APRYLE 8 1746 ” , a turbulent point in Scottish history, just eight days prior to the Battle of Culloden when the Jacobites led by Prince Charles Edward Stuart were defeated during the last battle fought on British soil. 

In the historical records for the House the Minutes of the Annual General Meeting of the Parish of Craigie on 6th June 1883 record that “The minister, Rev. Mr. Campbell, stated that he would like to have a Bath Room with Hot and cold Water laid on”.  The cost of this was estimated at £ 32 and 10 shillings.  His request was declined.  Persevering, the Rev. Campbell finally achieved agreement for a cold water bath later that same month at a slightly reduced cost!  Up to that point water was supplied from a nearby spring to a water pump in the courtyard.     

During 1939 the Church of Scotland sold the House and its acreage to the Duke of Portland’s Welbeck Estates. 

After only a short time in their ownership there was a further sale in 1942 to Sir James Finlay Muir of Braco Castle, Perthshire whose trustees sold in 1967 to Lady Sara Elena Collins of the publishing family.

Lady Sara’s husband, William Jansen Collins, was able to indulge his passion for tennis at House of Craigie with the addition of the all weather tennis court.

Remaining in the Collins family for 37 years the House was again sold in 2004 to the present owners.

The House itself has since benefitted from sympathetic improvements.  The courtyard buildings, used variously over the preceding 250 years as stables, byre, hayloft, cart shed, tool house, wash-house, game larder, ice-house and staff cottage, are being restored for their 21st Century use as holiday cottages.

Seen from the House, only ¼ mile distant, is the village of Craigie and the Church.  Visitors can follow the path of the minister’s commute to work, no more than a pleasant stroll across fields to the rear gate of the churchyard.  Built in 1776 the present Church occupies a site which has supported a place of worship since medieval times. The land was gifted by Walter Hawse of Cragyn in 1177 to the monks of Paisley and the property remained in their hands until the Reformation.

The Church has services on the first and third Sundays of each month, one minister now serving each of the parishes of Craigie and Symington. 

Six ministers of the Parish of Craigie are interred in the churchyard their tenure covering a period from 1709 to 1929.

Most notably a large table stone marks the grave of the Reverend Doctor Andrew Shaw minister at Craigie from 1766 – 1805.

Reverend Shaw is mentioned by Robert Burns in the poem The Twa’ Herds or The Holy Tulzie which chronicles a quarrel between two neighbouring ministers, the Rev Moodie of Riccarton and the Rev Russel of Kilmarnock.


The Rev. Shaw contributed a detailed and eloquently written description of the Parish for The Statistical Account of Scotland 1791 – 1799 covering topics such as Minerals, Climate, Produce, Cattle, Roads, Population and Character. Today we can rely on his words to describe the situation of the parish and the outlook from House of Craigie -

 “This parish is about 7 English miles in length, and 1 ¼ in breadth.  It is situated in that district of Ayrshire, called Kyle, in the presbytery of Ayr....though not perhaps more than 500 feet above the level of the sea, yet commands a most extensive and delightful prospect.  It may be safely said, that, above 100 square miles of rich land may be seen; and that in all that extent, almost every nobleman and gentleman’s seat, every town and village, every garden and wood, appear distinctly.  Here also are beheld the venerable Ben Lomond, and several of the other Grampian hills, -the firth of Clyde flowing beautifully to the ocean; - the ridges in the Isle of Jura, - the lofty tops of Arran, and the majestic rock of Ailsa, {Ailsa Craig} beyond which the hills of Ireland seem to rise from the sea.”

The environs of House of Craigie have witnessed settlement from earliest times. 

An ancient fort occupied the hill directly behind the village where its circular ramparts enclosed the summit.

Immediately to the north of this fort lay Camp Castle, a further fortified earthwork widely held to have been a dun but recently established as having actually been a broch, unusual, since this type of structure was more often associated with lands further north.  Excavations in 1961 uncovered a stone wall around 5m thick enclosing a courtyard 10m in diameter.

Unfortunately not much remains of these structures but their strategic advantage can be appreciated standing on the sites, particularly recalling the Rev. Shaw’s words describing the view over the sea and the approaches to the Firth of Clyde.   

Downhill from House of Craigie are the ruins of the 15th Century Craigie Castle probably incorporating much earlier buildings.  Within its rapidly deteriorating walls can still be seen some fine masonry work originally forming part of the vaulted great hall. The Castle was at one time inhabited by the Wallace family, relatives of Sir William Wallace, the Scottish patriot famed for his victory at Stirling Bridge in 1297 and who met an unpleasant end in London, executed by Edward 1, the Hammer of the Scots.

Seen from House of Craigie atop Barnweil Hill, The Wallace Monument is an eighty foot high foursquare Gothic tower built 1855 to commemorate Sir William Wallace and his burning of the barns around Ayr trapping English troops. The Barnweil Monument predates the Wallace Monument at Stirling by some years.     

Dundonald Castle, which again can be seen in the distance from the House, was erected by Robert II on his accession to the Scottish throne in 1371 and for the next 150 years was used as a royal residence by the Stewart kings.  Recent excavations have established settlements on Castle Hill dating back to the Stone Age and an earlier 13th century castle built by the High Steward of Scotland as part of the defence against the Vikings.  The Castle, tearoom and visitor centre is now in the care of Historic Scotland and the Friends of Dundonald Castle.

House of Craigie sits solidly in its elevated position in the Ayrshire countryside yet steeped in years of history. 

The final word is left to Constable Matthew Anderson, a policeman at Symington and poet, whose collection of poems was published in 1912 by The Standard Press, Kilmarnock.  Two farms neighbouring House of Craigie were deemed praiseworthy in the following verse about Craigie.

 

 

They boast about the Thames and Tyne,

The Paris Seine and German Rhine,

Whar silly buddies sip their wine

And mak’ theirsel’s sae baggy,

While here’s the wee Pow Burn sae braw,

For health and strength fair beats them a’.

Then gentlemen, shout hip, hurrah,

For Symington and Craigie,

 

The greatest place beneath the sky

For Clydesdale horse and Ayrshire kye.

In all the bliss of perfect joy

They roam the fields sae lovely.

There’s Craigie Mains and Laigh Langside,

In them we feel a special pride,

Their name and fame are world wide.

Then hip, hurrah for Craigie !

 

It’s beauty spots are rich and rare,

Wi’ which nocht foreign can compare.

In Coodham and Dankeith sae fair

There’s naething mean or scraggy.

While up on Barnweil sae high

The Wallace Tower points to the sky,

And thrills wi’ patriotic joy

Sweet Symington and Craigie.