Listed Building

The only legal part of the listing under the Planning (Listing Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 is the address/name of site. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing – see 'About Listed Buildings' below for more information. The further details below the 'Address/Name of Site' are provided for information purposes only.

Address/Name of Site

Mauchline Castle (Abbot Hunter’s Tower), Mauchline LB14471

Status: Designated


Where documents include maps, the use of this data is subject to terms and conditions (


Date Added
Last Date Amended
Local Authority
East Ayrshire
Planning Authority
East Ayrshire
NS 49771 27264
249771, 627264


Mauchline Castle is a late-medieval tower house, which was built in the mid-15th century as the focal point of a Cistercian grange (a monastic farm) of Melrose Abbey. There are two principal floors, a vaulted basement and an attic. The rectangular plan measures 10m by 9m, with walls of 5ft thick. It is constructed of squared ashlar red sandstone with carved detailing. The tower has a steeply-pitched slate roof with crowstepped gables, ashlar chimneystacks and a corbelled parapet. The south elevation is abutted by an L-plan house of late-17th century origins, Gavin Hamilton's House (LB14472), and the buildings appear to have been internally linked by the pend, which was built around 1800. The tower house has been vacant since at least the late-19th century.

The main entrance to the tower house is on the south elevation and contains a square-headed door opening with dressed surrounds. A secondary entrance on the first floor has recess above (for a statuette) and is accessed via a stone forestair, which was added in the 17th century. There are two garderobe outlets with covered chutes on the north elevation, discharging into the Mauchline Burn. There are small and plainly detailed square-headed openings to the upper levels. The east and north elevations contain relatively large non-defensive window openings, some of which are arched and are generally blocked with late-20th century brickwork. A twin-light opening is ornately detailed with cusped-heads, an elaborate architrave and a carved figurative boss.

The tower house was partially repaired between 1976 and 1978 and the east and west walls were strengthened by iron girder ties. Once part of a larger complex of buildings, there are raggles (groves in the stonework) to the west and south elevations, which indicate the roofline of previously adjoining buildings. The retaining wall which runs west along the burn, may also be the remains of previous ancillary buildings. The neighbouring Gavin Hamilton's House is understood to contain a vaulted ground floor room, which may be part of a building contemporary with the tower house.

The interior was not seen in 2017 and the description is based on written accounts from 1931-2002. Reid (p.166) notes that over the centuries the interior has been subject to successive alterations and some areas have been reconstructed. His account states that it comprises a basement with two vaulted cellars, accessed via an external stair to the west. A turnpike stair contained within the southwest corner connects all floors but the opening to the first floor has been blocked (Reid, p.170) and there has been some collapse of the stair (Field Officer Report, 1995). The large ground floor room once had a timber ceiling supported on large corbels but was gone by 1991 (Davis, p.324). Davis states that the first floor is accessed via the external forestair to the south, and contains a two-bay hall (7.6m x 6m) with quadripartite ribbed vaulting carried on carved corbels. Field Officer Reports (1989-2002) note that there were three decorative bosses to the first floor ceiling but that one had fallen by 1991. Davis (1991) notes a stone window seat has been retained to the north and garderobe and intermural chambers remain on the principal floors. He also notes that fireplaces and window surrounds have largely been altered and the door openings to the former ancillary buildings to the south and west elevations have been blocked.

Statement of Special Interest

Surviving upstanding remains of medieval monastic granges are very rare in Scotland. There is no other example of a tower house surviving within a medieval grange that survives to the same degree as at Mauchline. It is therefore a unique example and is of national importance. Built to function as the centre of a major Cistercian grange, Mauchline Castle is an impressive and relatively intact structure. Its status is reflected in the scale, form and architectural detailing, which make it comparable to the contemporary tower houses of secular lords and the residences of major prelates. It is the only remaining fragment of the late-medieval monastic grange, around which the settlement of Mauchline was established. Representing tangible evidence of medieval monastic administration and organisation, as well as the town's early origins, it is therefore of special interest.

Age and Rarity

Mauchline Castle or Abbot Hunter's Tower is a tower house which was built as a residence for the ecclesiastics managing the Ayrshire estate of Melrose Abbey (Reid, p.171). It is first shown on Gordon's map (1636-1652). In stylistic terms the tower house is thought to have been built in the mid-15th century and this date is supported by an ornamental boss which bears the arms of Andrew Hunter, who was Abbot of Melrose between 1444-1471 (Reid, p.170).

The first Cistercian monastery in Scotland was founded at Melrose in 1136, and in the late-12th century the Order were granted lands in Ayrshire by William I. A grange was then established at Mauchline, which functioned as the administrative centre of this large ecclesiastical estate. Granges were monastic farms that produced food for the monastery and were worked either by lay brothers who belonged to the order, or by paid labourers. Granges were often sited within walking distance of the monastery, but being located some distance from Melrose, that at Mauchline demonstrates the wealth and extensive landholdings of Melrose Abbey. Granges were often substantial in size and their complex of buildings could include a hall, offices, dormitories, a kitchen, granaries, barns and other farm buildings. The exact extent of the grange at Mauchline, and the disposition of the buildings within is not currently known (2017). However, there is evidence of a chapel dating from at least the 13th century, which was located adjacent to the tower house, until it was replaced by the present parish church (LB14470) in 1829. (Dennison et al. p.10)

Constructed during the late-medieval period, the tower house would likely have been the administration centre of the grange (Dennison, p.19). Located a day's ride from Melrose, Mauchline required a greater level of supervision than other granges and this may explain the presence of the tower house, which is a feature not commonly constructed as part of a grange (Dennison, p.10). Originally the tower house was part of a complex of buildings, forming a courtyard which was likely enclosed by perimeter walls. Apart from the vaulted remains of an ancillary building which are incorporated as part of the neighbouring house (LB14472), none of the other structures survive. However, raggles on the south and west elevations indicate the scale and position of various phases of the adjoining buildings (Dennison et al. p.13).

Mauchline became a burgh of barony in 1510 and developed as an important market centre. After 1521 the tower was transferred to Sir Hew Campbell of Loudon, who was both Bailie of Barony and Sheriff of Ayr, and by 1608 Hugh, Lord Loudoun was granted control over the whole estate (Dennison, p.20, 22: Reid, p.171). Alterations were carried out after the Reformation when the tower became secularised, and these may have included the insertion of the square-headed windows to the west elevation (MacGibbon and Ross, p.203) and the addition of the forestair to the south elevation. By the early 17th century the tower house had been replaced as the principal residence in Mauchline, by Netherplace House (now demolished). Around the late-17th century the present house (LB14472) to the south was built and this was extended around 1760 and again in the early 19th century. The crenellated parapet and slated roof were replaced sometime in the 19th century. The parapet was later removed, likely during the 1976 restoration which also involved the insertion of structural reinforcements to the walls (Dictionary of Scottish Architects).

The present layout of the town originates from the early 16th century, when Mauchline became a burgh, and from the late 18th century when alterations were made following the Ayrshire Turnpike Act in 1766 (Dennison, p.33). These changes shifted the focus of the town towards the north and the east, away from the tower house. No other buildings or street patterns from the medieval period survive upstanding in Mauchline, and therefore the tower house provides valuable tangible evidence of the medieval settlement about which the present town was established.

The listing criteria state that the older a building is and the fewer of its type survive the more likely it is to present special interest. All buildings erected before 1840, which are of notable quality and survive predominantly in their original form, have a strong case for listing. Dating from the mid-15th century, Mauchline Castle is the oldest building in Mauchline. Despite some adaptation, restoration and structural alterations (Reid, p.166), it has remained relatively unaltered. Buildings from this period which survive largely intact are highly significant and rare.

Surviving buildings or structures from medieval monastic granges are a rarity. The fortification of monastic property in the later medieval period was not uncommon and could range from the extensive walls of a major priory, such as St Andrews, to the more modest examples, of which the tower at Mauchline is one (Dennison, p.46). Although there are references to towers having existed on other Cistercian granges, their survival is very rare and that at Mauchline is unique within the context of Scotland (Dennison, p.46). It is therefore of special interest as a well-preserved example of a late-medieval tower house, which is unusual for its construction as part of a major monastic grange.

Architectural or Historic Interest


The interior was not seen in 2017. Information is based on 20th century written accounts (1931-2002).

There has been successive alterations to the fabric, such as the modification of fireplaces and some window and door openings, however, according to written accounts the interior is known to be relatively well-retained up to 2002.

The vaulted floors, the turnpike stair, stone window seats and the intermural chambers are all common features of tower houses from this late-medieval period. The quadripartite vaulting and decorative bosses are uncommon features for a tower house of this date and add to the architectural interest. They give the building a very distinctive character and illustrate the status and significance of the tower house, as well as its connection with Melrose Abbey.

Plan form

The interior was not seen in 2017. Information is based on 20th century written accounts (1931-2002).

Rectangular on plan the building comprises two principal floors, a twin-chambered basement and an attic, with garderobe and intermural chambers to the principal floors. The layout is typical for a tower house of this period and contributes to the architectural interest. Over the centuries there may have been some minor alterations but the historic plan largely remains intact. The tower house did not stand alone and the layout appears to have been partially altered when the ancillary buildings were removed, possibly around the 17th century.

Technological excellence or innovation, material or design quality

Tower houses are a widespread but diverse building type across Scotland. They became a popular form of residence with the Scottish nobility and lairdly class during the 14th century, perhaps influenced by David II building a tower house at Edinburgh Castle around 1367. Tower houses continued to be the chosen architectural form for the residences of Scottish elites throughout the late medieval and early post-medieval periods, with most surviving examples dating from the 16th to 17th centuries. They provided a degree of security but were also a means of displaying wealth, social status and martial strength.

Mauchline Castle was built as a high-status tower house in the mid-15th century. The general form, construction and materials are typical for the building type during this period, however Mauchline is more unusual as it was constructed as part of a Cistercian grange. This ecclesiastical association is reflected in elements of the architectural detailing, which set Mauchline apart from secular tower houses of the period. Such notable features include the length and refinement of the garderobes, the statue niche over the entrance, the carved detailing of the cusped windows and the quadripartite vaulting in the hall. The siting of the tower house also reflects the fact that it was built as part of an existing grange complex.

Mauchline Castle is unique in terms of surviving granges in Scotland. While the former Cistercian grange at Campsie Linn (SM11143) does include an abbatial residence, it is only the footings of the buildings that now remain (Hall, p.23). Penshiel Grange (SM6028) is another example of a grange belonging to Melrose Abbey, however the remains indicate that it was more agricultural in nature and it did not have a tower house. As the administrative centre of a major Cistercian estate, which was located some distance from the mother Abbey, the high status of Mauchline is reflected in the architecture of the tower house. In stylistic terms it is therefore more in keeping with the tower houses of secular lords and the residences that were built for high status clergy, such as the Bishop's Palace, Kirkwall (SM90193), and the Abbot's Houses at Crossraguel Abbey (SM90087) and Kinloss Abbey (SM1227).


Located within the centre of Mauchline town, Mauchline Castle is sited within a 19th century walled garden setting and forms part of the conservation area. The present setting and arrangement of buildings has not changed significantly from at least the early 19th century, as is shown on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map (surveyed 1857). Originally, the tower house would have been part of a larger grange complex, enclosed within a perimeter wall and interconnected with various ancillary buildings. None of these other structures survive but evidence of their position remains. The castle was purposely constructed with the garderobes feeding into Mauchline Burn, and this relationship with the burn is maintained.

Mauchline Castle and the later Gavin Hamilton's House to the south (LB14472), form a good historic grouping, along with other nearby listed buildings that include the Old Parish Church and Graveyard (LB14470) and those on Castle Street and Loudoun Street. While the original context of the castle has been altered since late-medieval times, the present grouping dates from the 18th century and is largely unchanged from at least the 19th century. It therefore adds to the interest and authenticity of the tower house.

Regional variations

The tower is constructed from Mauchline stone, a good quality red sandstone, which was the common building material within the local area. It was also readily used in the west of Scotland and Northern Ireland from the late-Victorian period on (Close, 1992, p.146). Red sandstone is a standard building material for Ayrshire and its use here is not unusual.

Close Historical Associations

Mauchline Tower has a close historical association with a nationally significant person.

During the 18th century the tower and the adjoining house were the property of Gavin Hamilton, who was factor to the Campbell's of Loudoun and a close friend of the poet Robert Burns. Burns wrote 'Holy Willie's Prayer' about Hamilton's quarrels with the minister of the adjacent church (LB14470), and it is understood that he composed 'The Calf' while in Hamilton's house. Burns' wedding to his first wife Jean Armour, may also have taken place within the house.

Statutory address and listed building record revised in 2018. Previously listed as 'Mauchline Castle (Abbot Hunter's Tower'.



Canmore: CANMORE ID 42697


Pont, T. (1654) Atlas of Scotland, the Provence of Kyle, Amsterdam: Blaeu, J.

Armstrong, A. (1775) A New Map of Ayrshire.

Thompson, J. (1828) Ayrshire.

Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1857, published 1860) Ayr Sheet XXVII.8 (Mauchline), 1st Edition, 25 inches to the Mile. Southampton: Ordnance Survey.

Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1895, published 1896) Ayrshire 028.08 (includes: Mauchline; Tarbolton), 2nd and later editions, 25 inches to the Mile. Southampton: Ordnance Survey.

Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1908, published 1909) Ayrshire 028.08 (includes: Mauchline; Tarbolton), 2nd and later editions, 25 inches to the Mile. Southampton: Ordnance Survey.

Printed Sources

Close, R. (1992) Ayrshire and Arran, An Illustrated Architectural Guide, Rutland Press, pp.146-147.

Close, R. and Riches, A. (2012) Buildings of Scotland, Ayrshire and Arran, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, pp.522-23.

Coventry, M. (2008) Castles of the Clans: the strongholds and seats of 750 Scottish families and clans, Musselburgh, pp.85-86.

Cowan, I. and Easson, D. (1976) Medieval Religious Houses, Scotland: with an appendix on the houses in the Isle of Man, 2nd, London: Longman. p.81.

Davis, M. (1991) The Castles and Mansions of Ayrshire, Argyll: Privately published, pp. 324-325.

Dennison, E.P. Gallagher, D and Ewart, G. (2006) Historic Mauchline: Archaeology and Development, the Scottish Burgh Survey, Edinburgh: Historic Scotland, pp. 2, 10-15, 17, 19-22, 33, 45, 46, 50.

Hall, D. (2006) Scottish Monastic Landscapes, Stroud: Tempus, p. 23.

MacGibbon, D. and Ross, T. (1887-92) The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland from the Twelfth to the Eighteenth Centuries, Edinburgh: David Douglas, pp. Vol.3, 202-204.

Reid, R.C. (1931b) Mauchline Castle, in Trans Dumfriesshire Galloway Natur Hist Antiq Soc, vol. 16, (1929-30), Field Meetings, pp. 166-71.

Wilson, Prof and Chambers, R. (1846) The Land of Burns - A series of Landscapes and Portraits, Illustrative of the Life and Writings of the Scottish Poet, Glasgow: Blackie & Son, p. 23.

Online Sources

Dictionary of Scottish Architects, Mauchline Castle [accessed 16/02/2018]

Grose, Captain Francis. (1791) Plate from Antiquities of Scotland, Vol. II, London, S. Hooper, pp.210-211.

[accessed 27/10/2017]

Hill, D.O. (1846) Engraved Plate of Gavin Hamilton's House,-mauchline-(1).aspx [accessed 16/02/2018]

Historic Environment Scotland, Scheduled Monument Record, Campsie Linn, grange site (SM11143) [accessed 16/02/2018]

Mauchline Castle and Gavin Hamilton's House, [accessed 16/02/2018]

Ordnance Survey Name Books (1855-57) Ayrshire, volume 44, p.61. OS1/3/44/61. [accessed 16/02/2018]

Other Sources

Historic Environment Scotland (1989-2012) Field Officer Visits, Mauchline: Abbot Hunter's Tower.

HER/SMR Reference

  • 7254
  • 7253

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Mauchline Castle, northe elevation looking south, during daytime, on clear day with cloudy sky.
Mauchline Castle, principal elevation, looking northeast, during daytime, on clear day with cloudy sky.



Printed: 13/07/2024 20:36