Kames Estate and Castle: Bannatynes and later owners.

Jess Sandeman.

Transactions of the Buteshire Natural History Society Vol.25, 2000.

The Hoyle years

In 1854 Hamilton's son Rev. James Alexander Hamilton, sold the Estate (excluding the one-man-burial-ground) to Duncan Hoyle, who had been born on the Kames Estate, in one of the cottages at the Lint Mill. He made a fortune in the Australian gold fields and a further considerable sum by running a public house at St. Enoch's Square, Glasgow. It must have been a very proud moment for him to be able to buy what was left of this great estate. During his time at the castle he was responsible for the erection of the wooden steamer pier at Port Bannatyne, which proved a great asset to the village with a considerable number of stammers calling daily. Following the opening of 6th March 1857, there was a celebration meal in the Port Royal Hotel, with lost of speeches and 22 toasts. Unfortunately Hoyle made some remarks which the villagers considered insulting and a quarrel ensued. Later there was a dispute with the fishermen over hanging nets without permission. The pier served the village for over eighty years, the last call being made by P.S. Jupiter on 2nd September 1939.lxi

When flax was grown on the island, the Lint Mill (at Tree House – Hilton Road end) was quite prosperous. The flax was steeped in pools, then beaten and hackled at the mill, with the spinning being done in the people's houses. When this trade declined, Duncan Hoyle converted the mill into a sawmill with George Halliday being the first tenant. Hoyle also built the original Ettrickdale House.lxii

The villagers must have mended the breach with Hoyle, as when he was in dispute with the Bute Estate over the boundary between Hilton and Ardmaleish they got up a petition on his behalf. Tired of all the arguments, he sold the estate on 11th November 1863 to the Bute Estate. He died on the 21st January 1879 and is buried in Croc-an-Raer cemetery, in the tomb marked by a large white cross.

Bute Estate Ownership

The sale of Kames Castle in 1863 took place during the minority of the 3rd Marquess and his trustees decided to rent it out. Hearing of the availability of Kames, and of the good shooting on the island, John Colquhoun, the second son of the Chief of the Clan Colquhoun at Luss, signed a lease for three years. He had a house in Edinburgh, but no country seat, and Kames seemed ideal. Lucy, the youngest daughter, kept a diary, and later when married as Lucy Bethia Walford incorporated it in her book Recollections of a Scottish Novelist.lxiii She describes the "winding stairs, narrow passage, odd nooks and deep-set windows everywhere." It was alleged to be one of the first houses in Scotland to have gas installed. Lucy describes dinner parties with "our Laird, the youthful Lord Bute" dancing in the Great Hall to the skirl of the pipes while the villagers looked on from the doorway, bathing parties at Ettrick Bay, and walks in the grounds where Joseph, the peacock, strutted over the lawn. The Castle is seen as a very different place to the one occupied by the early Hectors and Ninians.

For a time the castle was rented out for shorter periods, mostly for the shooting, but about 1873 a long lease was granted to the MacRaes of Otter Ferry. Duncan MacRae, a retired Surgeon General, had spent many years in India. With his wife, a fluent Gaelic speaker, and family, Duncan MacRae lived in the castle for almost 26 years. His son Stuart, was a Major in the Black Watch, and was distinguished for outstanding bravery during the Sudan campaign, while his brother John was later 22nd Constable of Eilean Donan Castle. Colin, the youngest son, married Lady Margaret Crichton-Stuart, only daughter of the third Marquess of Bute.lxiv Duncan Macraie died at Kames on the 4th December 1898, and six months later his wife went back to their estate at Otter Ferry.lxv The MacRaes had endeared themselves to the people of Port Bannatyne, and were greatly missed.

By 1905 only the old square tower of the castle was left, as a disastrous fire had occurred, and with no official fire brigade on the island at that time, help arrived form Rothesay too late. In 1911 the 4th Marquess ordered that schedules should be sent out for the work of restoration. On 20th December the plans designed by Mr A M McKinlay were approved. The tower was to remain, and a series of one storeyed buildings were to be erected to the west of it on three sides of a spacious courtyard. On 27th December it was announced that the successful contractors were:-


A.M. McKinlay


Robert Bone


Alex Brown


John Cruickshanks


Matthew Duncan & Co

In March 1912 a local paper report that the "work of reconstructing the building is in progress, but demolition is proving laborious owing to the thickness of the walls. It was wrongly reported by a Glasgow newspaper that a secret star which had been unearthed was to be demolished. This is untrue, only a few steps had to be removed and the remains will be kept intact. Search is being made for window panes and plaster work designed of the 15th century."lxvi When the building was completed the 4th Marquess was congratulated on the well-thought out and quickly executed plans for the Castle.lxvii

Kames Castle then took on another role. After the death of the 3rd Marquess in 1900 the Dowager Marchioness had lived at 22 Mansefield Place, London. Once the rebuilding was completed she began to divide her time between her London home and Kames. Having left the gamekeeper, garden staff and two housemaids at Kames over the winter, the Dowager Marchioness travelled up every spring with a dozen staff. The brother of the 4th Marquess, Lord Colum Crichton-Stuart, at that time unmarried, was M.P. for the Northwich Division of Cheshire and often came to see his mother, staying for several weeks. As well as his Parliamentary acquaintances he had a host of friends form his days with the Diplomatic Corps, and he frequently organised large shooting parties. In August 1921 Lord Colum's party of 66 guns over Auchavoulig had an excellent bag of 72 brace grouse, 1 snipe, 1 hare, 2 rabbits.lxviii Other families, with nursemaids, nannies, ladies' maids, valets and chauffeurs in attendance, came for a few weeks holiday, and the castle walls echoed to the laughter of children.

In the 1920s John, Lord Dumfries (heir, and subsequently 5th Marquess) and his brothers Patrick, Robert, Rhidian and David were often brought by Munro, the chauffeur of the Mount Stuart Rose Royce, to visit his grandmother. These young kilted boys had a splendid time, the younger ones playing hide and seek and climbing trees. Their favourite game was sliding in the Great Hall and diving through the serving hatch – much to the chagrin of the cook!

When John married Lady Eileen Forbes (daughter of the Earl of Granad) they went to live at the Castle. Their twin boys, John and David, with their young brother James, all stayed in Kames during World War II. Like their uncles before them, they had a wonderful time with many adventures in the castle grounds. At first they had lessons from a governess, but soon the twins went to Prep. school. One summer day in 1942 a naval cutter crewed by a naval officer and two Wrens from HMS Cyclops (one of whom was the writer) sailed round to Port Bannatyne slip with two young passengers. There they picked up the three kilted boys from Kames. The beach at Toward was used for commando practice, and the girls nervously managed to beach the boat on an unmined section of the shore. The boys set off to gather sticks for a fire. John got tar on his sock and tried to wash it off in the sea, David lost a buckle off his shoe and Jimmy tore his jersey on a barbed wire fence. Sitting beside the Commander, busy with a frying pan, wee Winnie piped up "Hey, Commando, is the eggs no ready yet?" Jimmy queried "What did she say?" On being told, "Oh, Commander, are the eggs not ready yet?" said "It didn't sound like that to me." All the way home he practised, and it became the in-phrase at the castle. Their father, the Earl, who was a Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and worked as a Cypher Officer on board HMS Cyclops, depot ship of the 7th Submarine Flotilla, said "They arrived back dirty and dishevelled, but had a super time."

Deferring to wartime petrol-rationing regulations, the family laid up their cars and travelled by bus or taxi. Consequently they became familiar figures in the village. Like the old Dowager, Lady Dumfries worked very hard for the Red Cross, and other charities.

One the death of the 4th Marquess in 1947 the Dumfries family moved to Mount Stuart. The twins had just started at Ampleforth, and John then became Earl, with his own address, Kames Castle. There is no record that he stayed there, indeed he had little opportunity, as after National Service in the Scots Guards he went to Cambridge. When his father died in 1956 he became the 6th Marquess, and Kames was no longer an official residence.lxix For several years the cottages at the castle were let separately, mostly to Naval families. From the late 1960s until 1972 the castle was used as a holiday home by the Scottish Council for Spastics.

From 1972-1984 it was leased, at a peppercorn rent, by the Glasgow Social Work Department as a home for 32 children taken into care because they had been neglected, abused or abandoned. Finding themselves in an alien situation, living in a castle surrounded by acres of grounds and with the seashore outside the gate, these Glasgow children were bewildered. At first they could not believe they were allowed to walk and play on the grass, expecting the "parkie" to come out and chase them. The Bute Estate gamekeeper came up twice daily to feed the pheasants which were considered by the children to be funny looking hens. The staff being forewarned that a shooting party was coming, the children would be kept indoors. They used to be greatly indignant when they saw "a bunch of toffs" about to shoot the birds. Frequently a blind eye was turned on finding a pheasant smuggled into a wardrobe or hidden under a bed. The Home closed in 1984, and the following year the castle was sold, and run as self-catering units by Dr. Whitehouse, then for several years by Mr and Mrs Buchannan. Mr and Mrs Hardie, the present owners, have operated a successful business since 1997, and would like eventually to refurbish the Tower, despite the restrictions imposed by Historic Scotland. It is hoped the laughter of children will ring round Kames Castle for many years to come.