13th century castle brought back to life as Airbnb accommodation

A medieval castle said to have provided the inspiration for one of Charles Rennie Mackintosh's best-known buildings has been transformed into one of the nation's most historic Airbnb properties.

Old Rowallan Castle.
Old Rowallan Castle.

Old Rowallan Castle, in Ayrshire, has been transformed into luxury accommodation three years after being removed from “state guardianship” to try to secure its future.

It will cost £1,200 a night for up to eight people to stay in its four double rooms – but it does come with a golf course designed by Colin Montgomerie and a country club on its doorstep.

The building, which dates back to the 13th century, was put into the care of the nation since the 1950s due to its declining condition after a new castle was built on the site in the early 20th century.

Its modern-day owners waged a prolonged campaign to be allowed to take back control of the castle and turn it into tourist accommodation.

The Renaissance-style castle – an ancestral home for the Mure and Campbell families – was brought back to life after a deal was agreed three years ago with the Scottish Government, its heritage agency and East Ayrshire Council.

The castle, near Kilmarnock, is based around a two-storey property believed to date back to 1263 in its oldest surviving sections.

Built on the banks of the Carmel Water, it was thought to be the birthplace of Elizabeth Mure, who would marry Robert Stewart, a future Scottish king, in 1346, but she died before he succeeded to the throne in 1371.

Extended in the 16th and 17th centuries, the castle was said to have inspired Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s designs for the Scotland Street School in Glasgow.

Its most recent owner, property developer Niall Campbell, also owns the surrounding estate, which includes a 19th century “new castle” which has been converted into a five-star hotel, as well as the golf course and country club.

The new Airbnb entry states: “Old Rowallan Castle dates from the 12th century and has been lovingly restored. It is a highly unique space and acknowledged as the finest specimen of Renaissance castle architecture. This is an unique opportunity to be king or queen of your own castle. Two of the bedrooms are ensuite, whilst two share a spacious bathroom.

“There is a well-equipped kitchen with a large table and chairs, additionally there is a grand dining room for more formal occasions. As it is a 12th century listed building, the stairs may be uneven in places and some door frames are lower, so beware of bumping your head.”

Mr Campbell said: “To say it’s been a real labour of love is an understatement. We’ve been working closely with Historic Scotland to refurbish this historic castle in as true-to-form a way as possible for nearly 30 years, so we’re incredibly excited to finally be able to open our doors to the public.

“We could not have managed this mammoth undertaking without the support of Historic Environment Scotland and the local council, so we extend our gratitude to each and every person who has been involved. We can’t wait to welcome our first visitors.”