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29 Jul 2019

Chance to discover Culzean Castle’s subterranean secrets

The caves in the cliffs at Culzean Castle, seen looking up from the beach.
We’re offering the chance for visitors to don hard hats and explore Culzean Castle’s subterranean secret world! With limited spaces, the weekly guided tours are a must-see summer attraction for those who like to explore Scotland’s history from a different angle.

Culzean Castle is renowned for its splendour and history but less well known are the caves below. Shrouded in mystery and boasting a fascinating wealth of stories, there’s evidence of human activity in these caves since the Iron Age. The caves pre-date the construction of the castle by several millennia; their existence shows that this rocky outcrop on the Ayrshire coastline has been an important site for humans for a very long time.

From being used as a smuggling hideaway in the 1700s - when it’s thought that contraband made its way ashore from the Isle of Man and was hidden along the coast – to the tale of a piper who entered the cave and was never seen again, this place is rich with intrigue and secrets.

A group of people stand or kneel in a cave, lit by lights on tripods. A square trench has been dug in the middle of the cave floor, and a person sits inside this.
A recent archaeological dig in the caves beneath Culzean Castle

An archaeological dig organised by the National Trust for Scotland last year uncovered Iron Age artefacts and the remains of a mysterious hidden door. Pottery, glassware and 18th-century wine bottles were also unearthed during the excavation, deepening our understanding of how the caves may have been used. 

Three people stand beside or in a trench just inside a cave entrance. Boxes of tools lie alongside the pit.
Digging close to the cave entrance

Gareth Clingan, Operations Manager for Culzean Castle & Country Park, said: ‘The caves are an extraordinary part of Culzean’s colourful history and it’s always a treat to be able to take the public in and show how humans have continued to use them for hundreds, possibly thousands, of years.’

Tours will be guided by the Trust’s expert rangers, who’ll take visitors through the chambers and share their knowledge of the caves’ extraordinary past. Tours will take place throughout the summer with bookings being taken for Friday 9 August, Thursday 15 August, Saturday 24 August, Saturday 7 September, Sunday 22 September and Sunday 6 October.

For more information and to book, please see our Events listing.

Hollywood actor Billy Boyd recently visited Culzean Castle and heard about the caves

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