Various architects, including Robert Adam, later 18th century to circa 1833. Courtyard between the Castle and stable court to E, providing outer entrance to both and turning place for carriages, comprising several elements: mortar battery to N; screen wall and piers to E; Dolphin Arch to SE; linking walls to W and SW; central stepped dais. Semicircular forecourt at garden front (S) of Castle enclosed by curved walls to E and W attached to the wall of the garden terrace to the S.
CASTLE WALLS: 1770-1836, incorporating earlier fragments. Curved crenellated stone walls with slab coping and dummy gun loops. Ashlar construction. N WALL AND MORTAR BATTERY: later 18th century and 1829. Concave curves to W and E. Lowered parapet at centre and battery consisting of flagstone platform, with low parapet. Sundial (SE corner of parapet): carved stone head of bearded classical diety surmounted by flat octagonal table with circular brass dial. 2 antique bronze mortars. Further crenellated retaining wall on cliff edge below. W WALL: later 18th century. Pair of crenellated quadrants terminated at centre by a pair of mock sentry boxes flanking E door to Castle. Square plan, crenellated parapets. Each with narrow arched window to E and arched doorways on return elevations. SW WALL: later 18th century. Crenellated segmental quadrant, with dummy arrow slits. Opening in centre flanked by piers in the form of dummy square towers with pilastered corners and machicolated parapets. Painted timber gates. SE WALL: later 18th century. Crenellated segmental quadrant with dummy arrow slits, plain pier on W, and attached to archway on E. E WALL: circa 1815. Screen wall in castellated style. Central piers flanking entrance to stable court: diminutive cylindrical pepperpot towers with dummy arrow slits machicolated and crenelated parapet, conical cap with ball finial. Flanked by pair of diminutive square towers with dummy arrow slits and crenellated and machicolated parapets.
DOLPHIN ARCH: circa 1830. Triumphal arch in castellated classical style, surmounted by sculpture. Pilastered piers, machicolated cornices, roundels in spandrels, volute keystone, crenellated parapet. Panel with sculpted coat of arms on both elevations. Sculpture of boy riding on a dolphin on parapet.
COACH RING: circa 1830. Octagonal-plan triple-stepped stone dais, located on circular grassed island surrounded by gravelled carriageway in centre of courtyard. Antique bronze mortar on timber mounting.
Statement of Special Interest
Part of an A-group at Culzean Castle Estate comprising: Culzean Castle; Castle Walls etc; Fountain Court etc; Ruined Arch and Viaduct; Stable Block etc; Camellia House; Cat Gates; Home Farm; Powder House; Ardlochan Lodge; Dolphin House; Hoolity Ha'; Swan Pond Complex; Swan Pond Ice House; Walled Garden; Bathing Complex; Water Works; Shore Boat House; Battery and Mast House; Main Drive Walls and Piers; Gas Works.
The courtyard at Culzean Castle is an important component of the Castle and Stable Courtyard ensemble (see separate listings) providing a formal place of arrival at the Castle entered by the Dolphin Arch after traversing the Viaduct. It links the various elements of the clifftop ensemble and constitutes completion of the project to rebuild the Castle, begun in 1776, by the 10th Earl of Cassillis and taken up by the 12th Earl between 1794 and 1846. The N wall was probably completed by the 1790s, probably to designs by Robert Adam. The E wall, which includes a decorative entrance to the Stable Block, was probably completed during the 2nd decade of the 19th century, when the 12th Earl undertook many decorative works at Culzean. This was some time after Robert Adam's embellishment of the Stables with mock fortifications in the 1780s. The designer is unknown and there is no such entrance in Adam's drawings for the Stables. Stylistically it is closer to several unexecuted works for Culzean designed by John Thin in the 1790s. The pepperpot gate piers are uniform with a pair on the shore at the entrance to the service drive. An unsigned drawing of the Dolphin Arch, dated 1829, is extant but it is unclear if this is the initial design or an alteration involving the coat of arms. David King attributes the design of the arch to Adam, but there is no corroboration (King p333). While the Kennedy coat of arms contains a dolphin, as well as a pair of swans, the boy on a dolphin sculpture appears to be a reference to Pliny and it may be based on an ancient antecedent. The arch may have succeeded an earlier one that was too narrow for the coaches that were anticipated, as an archway is indicated in several drawings and paintings of the Castle. The Mortar Battery was installed in 1829, and its concept is attributed to landscape designer Thomas White junior (Moss pp145-6 & Turnbull) advising the 12th Earl, who had amassed a collection of old weapons and built an earlier battery to the west of the Castle in 1815. The Coach Ring itself, as it exists today, probably dates from around 1833-6 when the carriage drives were being upgraded. The mortar on its central island is similar to those mounted on the battery and may have previously been sited there.
Together with the remarkable ornamental landscape of its estate, Culzean Castle is acknowledged as the epitome of the Picturesque movement in Scotland, in its own right and is a work of international importance. Culzean, at one time the largest estate in Ayrshire, has been associated with the Kennedy family since the Middle Ages. It was gifted by Gilbert the 4th Earl of Cassillis to his brother Thomas Kennedy, in 1569. In the 1660s, the barmekin around the tower house was breached to create the terraced gardens, orchards, and walled garden for which Culzean was notable, while the caves beneath the castle ' now a scheduled monument ' were fortified to serve as secure stores. Culzean Castle became the principal family seat when Sir Thomas Kennedy (1726-75) became the 9th Earl of Cassillis, in 1759. A continuing programme of improvements was undertaken by Sir Thomas and his successors during the 18th and 19th centuries. The 10th Earl began rebuilding the Castle to designs by Robert Adam. This work was continued by Archibald (1770-1846), the 12th Earl, later the 1st Marquess of Ailsa. From about 1810 onwards he commissioned numerous structures, both practical and ornamental, and several important architects and landscape designers were engaged to embellish the gardens and grounds with ponds, gates, lodges and pavilions, resulting in several key works of the Picturesque era. The 3rd Marquess undertook the modernisation and enlargement of the Castle in the 1870s. In 1945, the 5th Marquess of Ailsa divided the property, making over the Castle, and the policies immediately surrounding it, to the National Trust for Scotland.
Robert Adam (1728-1792) was one of the most prominent architects of his generation and, for a time the most fashionable architect in Britain. He helped to usher in the neoclassical taste that superseded Palladianism and created a refined style of interior design that came to bear his name. His castellated mansions set in Romantic landscapes, such as Culzean and Seton, helped define the Picturesque movement and strongly influenced the design of Scottish country houses in the first half of the 19th century. With his family firm he undertook most types of architectural work, although large public commissions, such as Register House and Edinburgh University, only came towards the end of his career.
Thomas White (1736-1811) was a pupil of the landscape architect Lancelot 'Capability' Brown, the influential advocate of the naturalistic designed parkland. White started up in practice on his own account in County Durham, advising country gentlemen on estate improvement. He made frequent visits to Scotland from about 1770 and was involved with the landscape design of numerous estates there, including the grounds of Airthrey, now the University of Stirling campus, Buchanan Castle, Champfleurie and Scone Palace, as well as Culzean. His son Thomas (1764-1836) continued the practice after his father's death, including further work at Culzean.
The Dolphin Arch was previously included in the listing for Culzean Castle. Listing revised as part of the Culzean Castle Estate Review 2010-11.