Sitting elegantly on the Ayrshire coast, Culzean Castle doesn’t look like your typical Scottish fortress. The castle was designed in the 18th Century but it absorbed an older towerhouse full of history into its walls. While Culzean might be grand and luxurious above ground, the real stories come from the dark and mysterious and caves underneath.
These caverns give us an abundance of legends. They’re said to contain ghosts and demons as well as an entrance to the fairy kingdom. The caves were such animportant feature that the Kennedy family living in the castle above became known as the Lairds of Co’.
The wildest legend comes from the 16th century when a small boy, carrying a little wooden mug approached the castle gate. The Laird of Co’ himself happenedto be outside and the boy begged him for some ale to help his sick mother. The laird was a kind man and had no hesitation in sending the child to his chief servant for a full mug of ale out of his personal store.
There was a barrel already open, so the servant started to pour ale into the mug. The barrel got emptier and emptier, but the mug never seemed close to being full. When the barrel was dry, the boy insisted he was promised a full mug and it certainly wasn’t full yet. The servant knew about the fairies below the castle, and it was obvious some sort of magic was at play here. He was loathed to open a new barrel and lose that as well. However, the laird insisted that he must stick to his word even if it took all the ale in Culzean’s cellar. To the servant’s surprise, one drop from the new cask and the mug was full.
That would have been an interesting anecdote but luckily the story doesn’t end there. When the Laird of Co’ was fighting a war in Flanders he had the misfortune of being captured and sentenced to death. His prison was an impenetrable dungeon and the days passed slowly with no sign of rescue for the honourable man. The night before his execution, the laird was thinking of Culzean and his mind wandered to that peculiar day with the mysterious child who asked for his help.
At that very moment, the door to his cell swung open and in walked the little boy. It had been years since they met but the lad hadn’t aged a day. The laird knew then that this was one of the fairies who inhabited the caves below his home. His rescuer grinned and commanded, “Laird of Co’, rise and go.” He followed the fairy boy out of the dungeon, hopped onto his back as instructed and was quickly flown back to his home at Culzean.
Before the fairy boy disappeared back to his home in the caves, the laird asked him why he had travelled all the way to Flanders to rescue him. The fairy replied that every good turn deserves another and the noble laird had cared enough to help even his poor, old mother.