Unearthing the secrets of Ardrossan Castle

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At their August meeting members of the Arran Historical Society were given a presentation by Dr Amanda Simpson, secretary and trustee of the Ardrossan Castle Heritage Society.

Amanda’s presentation focused on research taking place at present at the castle site to discover the original outward boundaries of the castle.

Some of the questions they are seeking answers to are: Why was the castle built so close to the edge of a cliff when there is a large area of flat parkland behind it? Why was there an enormous doorway now blocked with red sandstone in the tower. Was the castle larger with important owners?

Some parts of the castle were at least two storeys high and have been reduced to one storey with a protective layer of mortar made from local beach sand incorporating seashells. What was the subterranean cellar called locally ‘Wallace’s Larder’ used for? There appears to be two types of stone used in the building. The earliest part is built of white sandstone and the later higher part of red sandstone. Are there still parts of a basement still to be discovered?

The excavations along with the archaeologists have been aimed at filling in the details of doorways and walls to complete the plan of the castle. In addition, the large grassy parkland has had a ground penetrating radar survey to test for other buildings or features. The castle would appear to have ditches close to it situated at the edge of the higher smaller plateau.

Round the medieval ruined church on the lower plateau pottery has been discovered along with a number of graves. The total number of these is now 37. Previously a large medieval stone sarcophagus was found buried in the church. This would appear to be of an important person as the carving on the lid is an excellent specimen of its type.

The carvings show a cross and a sheathed sword and well and floral decoration. It may well relate back to the Norman French family who are recorded at Ardrossan in the 11th century. The last owners were the family of Lord Eglinton when the castle went out of use. Its written history was moved to his estate and were lost when his house was burnt down.

The buildings and history of the castle is now being gathered back together. The local people, children and visitors from overseas have enjoyed taking part in the excavations this year. The project hopes to establish a heritage hub with the area being accessible to the public and modern technology used to recreate the castle digitally.

A curio was discovered – a horseshoe built into the wall above a window. Is this a reference to a Lord Eglinton who made a pact with the devil to become a superb horseman!

The large audience in Brodick Hall asked several questions and Amanda was given a vote of thanks for her excellent presentation.

                                                                                                                                   Hugh Brown