Kelburn Castle

This is taken from the Facebook page to “Save Kelburn Castle’s Brazilian Mural”.

“A peer is seeking to have rules governing the preservation of historic buildings overturned to maintain a controversial graffiti mural on the walls of his family’s 13th century castle in Ayrshire.

The Earl of Glasgow has written to Historic Scotland seeking guidance on whether the exhibit, which took 1500 cans of enamel auto spray paint to complete, might be allowed to remain as a permanent feature of Kelburn Castle, in Largs.

Work on the mural, which features a psychedelic series of interwoven cartoons depicting surreal urban culture, was completed by a group of Brazilian graffiti artists commissioned by the Earl’s son and daughter, in 2007 at a cost of £20,000.

It was permitted by North Ayrshire Council on the understanding that it was temporary. A three year limit was put on the graffiti, pending the start of work to replace the harling render on the exterior of the turret.

The castle is located in the grounds of Kelburn Estate, which also houses a country centre open to the public and featuring a series of outdoor attractions. Spanning 3,500 acres, it offers country walks in its gardens and glen, environmental games and activities and conservation projects.

The mural has become an iconic feature whose popularity has spread around the world. Last month it was named as one of the world’s top 10 examples of street art by Tristan Manco, the designer and author. Other examples included works by celebrated graffiti artists Banksy in Los Angeles, the Favela Morro Da Providência – Rio de Janeiro, and Keith Haring’s Houston St & Bowery Mural in New York.

Manco, who designed the iconic album cover Think Tank for the band Blur, said the mural was a ‘rare and unique example of inspired contemporary mural art’ and that its enforced removal would be folly.

The latest memorandum of guidance published by Historic Scotland states that owners of listed properties should only use ‘historically correct colours in a manner which is appropriate to the building’.

It adds: ‘Where more than one colour is to be used, they should all relate to the architectural features of the whole building in a logical and consistent manner. The painting of one storey a different colour from another, or indeed any part of the building differently from the remainder, should always be avoided.’

The Earl, Patrick Boyle, whose family has been in Kelburn Castle for 800 years, has written to Ranald MacInnes, Historic Scotland’s principal inspector for Glasgow and the south west, seeking to establish whether it is likely the agency would object if he sought consent from the local authority to allow the graffiti to stay indefinitely.

‘In the three years that the mural has been on the castle it has attracted enormous interest from around the world and it is loved by everyone who sees it,’ said Boyle.

‘It has become a landmark and a talking point and it has given the castle and the estate a whole new character. It began as a bit of fun by my son and daughter but it quickly took on a greater significance. We now regard it as part and parcel of the place and we would hate to see it go.’

The peer said he realised there were strict rules governing the preservation of historic buildings, but insisted the graffiti added to the character of the castle rather than diminishing it.

‘What we now call historic buildings have always been drivers of fashion in architecture and design,’ he said. ‘Features that we now take for granted would have seemed radical in their day. The mural might look a bit outlandish and futuristic but if it provokes interest and makes people smile so why shouldn’t it stay?’

Manco, whose publications include Street Logos and Graffiti Brasil, said: ‘Matching a 13th Century Scottish castle with some of the most exciting urban artists to have emerged from Brazil’s influential graffiti scene has produced a tour de force, which has allowed these artists to shine and produce something spectacular.

‘The facade of a real castle was a golden opportunity for these artists whose work connects with fantasy and magical worlds, which is unlikely to be repeated. In which case, given how sought after these artists currently are, this makes Kelburn Castle an important hot spot for mural art at an international level.’

Manco added: ‘Now is too soon to lose the mural – maybe in the another five or 10 years time but I think it’s inspiring and important now and it would be folly to lose it as long as it stays in good shape.'”

being a bit of a history buff, my personal opinion is that we have lots of art in the world and not enough castles. i think Historic Scotland has a point about decorating according to the time period of the castle. however, i’m willing to have another look at it and see if i change my mind.


more information on the Kelburn Estate can be found here.


4 thoughts on “Kelburn Castle

  1. How astonishing! Yet another aspect of Scottish life that you have alerted me to. I was horrified when I saw the top photo, but by the end of your post I think I’m with the Earl that it’s too fun to lose just yet.

    1. thanks, Christine. i’m still of mixed emotions on this one … trying to move with the times but still highly valuing those wonderful old castles as they were.

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