Clan Kennedy itinerary

Originating from Ireland, Clan Kennedy is mainly associated with the far south of Scotland, particularly the Carrick district in Ayrshire. They were kinsmen of the Bruce clan and staunch supporters of Robert the Bruce at his victorious battle of Bannockburn. Over time, the Kennedys settled worldwide and remain an important name in US politics.

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  • Looking over to the ruins of Crossraguel Abbey in the sunshine
    Crossraguel Abbey
  • Looking over the Firth of Clyde towards Culzean Castle, Maybole
    Culzean Castle, Maybole
  • Looking to the town centre of Dunkeld
    The town centre of the beautiful 18th century town of Dunkeld
  • Dunure Castle, Dunure
    Dunure Castle, Dunure
  • The main street through Maybole, South Ayrshire
    The main street through Maybole, South Ayrshire

This itinerary highlights just a few of the stories and places where the Kennedy clan have left their mark in Scotland, taking you to the attractive Clyde coast with its many ancient castles and ruins, superb country parks and gardens, and to more northerly places including the ancient religious centre of Scotland at Dunkeld.

Travel south to Maybole, the ancient capital of Carrick. John Kennedy of Dunure and Cassillis married the heiress of the Carrick earldom in the mid 1300s. Maybole has many fine buildings which are proof of its lengthy history and it is surrounded by many sites of interest.

The 16th century Maybole Castle was the Earls of Cassillis' town house and is still in occupation today, being looked after by the Maybole Historical Society. The castle has a square tower and round turrets typical of this period's architecture.

Around 2 miles south is Crossraguel Abbey, which was founded by the Earl of Carrick in 1244. It is one of the best preserved abbey ruins in Scotland. Nearby on the road towards Kirkoswald is Baltersan Castle, built by John Kennedy in 1584. Although now ruinous it was once a fine example of a Scottish mansion.

Set in a majestic landscape to the west on the coast is Culzean Castle. Originally built in the 13th century as a defensive castle it was restored by the 10th Earl of Cassillis in the late 1700s. It houses a fine collection of paintings, furniture and armour.

North from Maybole and along the coast is Dunure, a small fishing village and harbour built by the Kennedy clan. Once a Kennedy stronghold, Dunure Castle is a crumbling ruin and is being gradually washed into the sea. It was built by "Good Sir John Kennedy" but is notorious for the activities of Gilbert, the 3rd Earl of Cassillis, who tried to encourage the Commendator of Crossraguel Abbey to sign over lands to him by roasting him over a fire in the dungeon. Fortunately for him, the Commendator escaped and greedy Gilbert did not get the land he wanted.

Travel a mile or so southwest of Stirling to visit the very poignant site of the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Following the vanquishing of his rivals in Dumfries, Robert the Bruce was crowned King of Scotland and began a long and arduous campaign to secure his title, finally achieving success at this battle, supported by the Kennedy clan.

Travel on to Edinburgh, Scotland's magnificent historic capital. At the other end of the Royal Mile is Edinburgh Castle. In 1460 James III was nine years old when he inherited the throne from his father. Gilbert the first Lord Kennedy was one of the six regents who ruled Scotland until James III came of age. James was very generous to his favourites, but this made him many enemies and at one time he was imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle.

James Kennedy, brother of the first Lord Kennedy, was one of Scotland's most respected bishops; he was Bishop of Dunkeld which can be found north east of Stirling. King David I made Dunkeld the centre of Christianity in Scotland. There have been religious settlements here since 730 AD and now the narrow winding streets of the picturesque village lead to the ornate gates of the magnificent Dunkeld Cathedral set beside the River Tay with rolling hills beyond.

Now head south towards St Andrews. James Kennedy the Bishop of Dunkeld also became the Archbishop of St Andrews. He founded St Salvator College in 1455 and was buried in the college chapel in a magnificent tomb. Ruins of the chapel are still visible today.

If you now drive east and follow the coast north enjoying the scenery, wildlife and castle monuments on the way, you will arrive in Aberdeen. Spend a few hours exploring the distinctive grey-stoned architecture that gives the place its nickname of the Granite City. The Kennedys of Kermuck were hereditary constables of Aberdeen from 1413. Little remains of their time here because in 1652 the family was outlawed following a fight where John Forbes of Watertown was mortally wounded. The family moved north to Orkney and later some family members travelled to Canada as employees of the Hudson's Bay Company.