See all stories
10 Sep 2019

Going underground

A view of Culzean Castle and the steep cliffs from the beach. A group of children clamber over the rocks at the tide line.
There’s a network of caves in the cliffs underneath Culzean Castle.
At number 87 on our 100 Ways list, we’ve been opening up some of Culzean Castle’s more unusual locations to give visitors an even better insight into its fascinating history.

Culzean Castle is renowned for its splendour and history but less well known are the mysterious caves below. All summer long, the Trust has been running special hard hat tours, enabling visitors to explore Culzean Castle’s subterranean secrets. With limited spaces, these weekly guided tours have been a must-see summer attraction for those who like to explore Scotland’s history from a different angle. 

Shrouded in mystery and boasting a fascinating history, there’s evidence of human activity in the caves since the Iron Age. The caves predate the construction of the castle by several millennia and their existence shows that the rocky outcrop has been an important site for humans for thousands of years.

Quote
“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.”
Gareth Clingan, Operations Manager at Culzean Castle

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

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 unearthed during the excavation, deepening our understanding of how the caves may have been used.

A group of people stand inside a cave in the Culzean cliffs, lit by lights on tripods. They have dug an archaeological pit.
Archaeologists have discovered items going back to the Iron Age in Culzean’s caves.

The National Trust for Scotland works every day to protect Scotland’s national and natural treasures. From coastlines to castles, art to architecture, wildlife to wilderness, we protect all of this For the Love of Scotland.

In Our Strategy for Protecting Scotland’s Heritage 2018–23, we set out how we’re planning to work towards our vision that Scotland’s heritage is valued by everyone and protected now, and for future generations.