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

Sundial to west of Kelburn Castle, Kelburn Castle Estate, Fairlie LB7298

Status: Designated


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


Date Added
Last Date Amended
Supplementary Information Updated
Local Authority
North Ayrshire
Planning Authority
North Ayrshire
NS 21695 56706
221695, 656706


Dated 1707. An early 18th century obelisk sundial of polished ashlar sandstone elaborately carved with incised cup and heart-shaped hollows, intricate geometric symbols and dials on every face, some with metal gnomons. The sundial is 2.6 metres tall including the base and is located at the centre of a square parterre garden area to the immediate west of Kelburn Castle (Grid Ref: NS 21695, 56706). It consists of a stepped plinth, a 5-stage shaft surmounted by a tetrahedral sphere, and a tapering finial capped by a wrought-iron vane with a banner, bearing the monogram of the Earl of Glasgow and his wife, and thistle. The shaft is inscribed with the initials 'EDG' and 'CIC'.

Statement of Special Interest

This early 18th century obelisk type sundial, which is a design unique to Scotland, is an important surviving element of the Kelburn estate and one of the best preserved examples of its type in the country. Located in its early 18th century location, it is one of 25 surviving 17th and early 18th century sundials of this particularly distinctive type. Its elaborately patterned and carved facetted form makes an important contribution to our understanding of decorative garden structures as part of historic garden design, and also the interest in mathematics and timekeeping to 17th and 18th century landowners.

Age and Rarity

The first Edition Ordnance Survey map, published in 1856 shows the position of two sundials at Kelburn Castle. Dated 1707, this sundial is contemporary with the additions made to the tower house during the early 18th century.

Sundials became fashionable in country house gardens in Scotland during the 17th and 18th centuries, both as decorative structures and as time keeping devices, as the science of gnomics (or art of dialling as it was commonly known) became increasingly popular. Horizontal dials with a single gnomon, an engraved dial and perhaps the sun's movement in the zodiac, were common and structures with multiple dials are found throughout Britain, but the tall, tapering 'obelisk' sundial type is unique to Scotland. The emergence of a type of particularly elaborate sundial in Scotland during the Age of Enlightenment, is illustrative of a changing world of increasing prosperity and the spread of rational, scientific and mathematical thought (Daniel, 2008). The similarity of form and detail shared by many of the surviving Scottish examples, which are widely spread geographically, is significant.

The tapering obelisk is a long-established architectural form, likely to have been used as a method of time keeping in ancient Egypt. The 17th century Scottish obelisk sundial traditionally has 3 parts: the square shaft with an octagonal-shaped capital and then a tapering finial above. The shaft is commonly divided into 5 horizontal sections, with a face on each side, and many of the compartments are hollowed out with various geometric shapes, some of which have metal gnomons inserted into them to cast a shadow, or etched lines which mark out the hours as the edge of the shape casts a shadow over the lines. The bulging octagonal capital at the centre usually has square and triangular faces, and the tapering finial also had sun motifs and other shapes inscribed or carved into it and further gnomons.

There are 25 obelisk sundials known to still be in existence in Scotland, many of which are also affiliated with important ancestral seats, including examples at Craigiehall in Edinburgh (LB5559), Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute (LB12054) and Tongue House in Sutherland (LB18459). The earliest one is thought to be the example at Drummond Castle in Perthshire, dated 1630 (LB19883). Another, smaller obelisk sundial at Kelburn (LB7299) stands at the centre of a circular stone basin at Grid Ref: NS 21666, 56823. Though undated, this dial bears the same initials as the former, and is probably of about the same age.

Kelburn is among the oldest ancestral country seats in Scotland to have been continuously inhabited by successive generations of one family, having been in possession of the Boyle family (formerly 'de Boyville') since the 12th century. Kelburn has a prominent coastal setting to the south of the town of Largs, with views from the castle across the Firth of Clyde to the Isles of Cumbrae and Bute and southwest to the Isle of Arran. The Kel Burn runs through the estate, passing through a wooded ravine and over a 15 metre high waterfall into a naturally carved pool to the southwest of the castle.

The castle is the focal point within the Kelburn estate policies. The principal phases of addition are distinctly identifiable and the successive additions dating from the early Scottish Renaissance to the present day represent changing political and cultural values as well demonstrating a significant transition in Scottish domestic architecture at this time. Associated ancillary estate buildings and structures, including sundials, monuments, stable offices, lodges, bridges and worker's cottages (some of which are listed separately) contribute to our understanding of this historically significant ancestral seat.

Architectural or Historic Interest



Plan form


Technological excellence or innovation, material or design quality

This sundial at Kelburn has well-defined hollowed out faces to the shaft and capital, many surviving metal gnomons and a fine metal cap. It is among the finest examples of the important 'obelisk' type sundial in Scotland, adding to our understanding of the 17th and 18th century Scottish interest in mathematics and timekeeping.


This sundial, located in its early 18th century position to the west of the circa 1700 additions to Kelburn House, is part of a group of associated contemporary estate buildings which reflect 17th and 18th century garden design and theory.

Regional variations

There are no known regional variations.

Close Historical Associations

None known at present. Kelburn is among the oldest country seats in Scotland to have been continuously inhabited by successive generations of one family, the Boyles.

Statutory address and listed building record revised in 2016. Previously listed as 'Kelburn Sundial To West Of House'.



Canmore: CANMORE ID: 41170


Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1855; published 1857) Ayrshire, Sheet VI (includes: Cumbrae; West Kilbride) 6 inch to 1 mile, 1st Edition. Southampton: Ordnance Survey

Printed Sources

Old Statistical Account of Scotland (1791-1799) Vol.2: Largs Parish, Ayrshire, p.361

Close R. (1992) Ayrshire and Arran - An Illustrated Architectural Guide. Edinburgh: Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, p.82

Close R. and Riches A. (2012) Buildings of Scotland – Ayrshire and Arran. London: Yale University Press. pp.392-399

Daniel, C. St J. H. (2004) Sundials. Princes Risborough: Shire Publications Ltd.

MacGibbon, and Ross (1902) The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland, Vol V. Edinburgh: David Douglas. pp.407-412

Somerville, A.R. (1987) The Ancient Sundials of Scotland. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. Volume 117, pp233-264.

Weaver, L. (12 August 1916) 'Kelburne Castle, Ayrshire', Country Life Magazine p. 182-6


Scottish National Monuments Record, Ref: AYD/52/2.

About Listed Buildings

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

Listing is the process that identifies, designates and provides statutory protection for buildings of special architectural or historic interest as set out in the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997.

We list buildings which are found to be of special architectural or historic interest using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)

Listed building records provide an indication of the special architectural or historic interest of the listed building which has been identified by its statutory address. The description and additional information provided are supplementary and have no legal weight.

These records are not definitive historical accounts or a complete description of the building(s). If part of a building is not described it does not mean it is not listed. The format of the listed building record has changed over time. Earlier records may be brief and some information will not have been recorded.

The legal part of the listing is the address/name of site which is known as the statutory address. Other than the name or address of a listed building, further details are provided for information purposes only. Historic Environment Scotland does not accept any liability for any loss or damage suffered as a consequence of inaccuracies in the information provided. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing. Even if a number or name is missing from a listing address it will still be listed. Listing covers both the exterior and the interior and any object or structure fixed to the building. Listing also applies to buildings or structures not physically attached but which are part of the curtilage (or land) of the listed building as long as they were erected before 1 July 1948.

While Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating listed buildings, the planning authority is responsible for determining what is covered by the listing, including what is listed through curtilage. However, for listed buildings designated or for listings amended from 1 October 2015, legal exclusions to the listing may apply.

If part of a building is not listed, it will say that it is excluded in the statutory address and in the statement of special interest in the listed building record. The statement will use the word 'excluding' and quote the relevant section of the 1997 Act. Some earlier listed building records may use the word 'excluding', but if the Act is not quoted, the record has not been revised to reflect subsequent legislation.

Listed building consent is required for changes to a listed building which affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest. The relevant planning authority is the point of contact for applications for listed building consent.

Find out more about listing and our other designations at You can contact us on 0131 668 8914 or at


Sundial to West of Kelburn Castle, looking west, with white sky.


Map of Sundial to west of Kelburn Castle, Kelburn Castle Estate, Fairlie

Printed: 23/04/2024 15:44