Visit to Turnberry Castle

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Turnberry Castle

Turnberry Castle

Last week Gillian and I had the opportunity to go to Turnberry Castle where RCAHMS are carrying out a survey as part of an ongoing improvement of the Canmore database relating to early stone castles. 

Turnberry Castle lies on the Ayreshire coastline and was built in the 13th century. It was a stronghold of the Bruce family and the possible birth place of Robert the Bruce. Now a ruin, the castle lies within a golf course and a nineteenth century lighthouse inhabits the site where the castle once stood.

During our drive to Turnberry Castle, RCAHMS archaeologist George Geddes discussed the landscape and asked us to point out human features that had an impact on the environment around us. Like a game of eye-spy we pointed out agriculture, wind farms and road networks as George explained that the landscape has changed a great deal. The landscape is densely layered with past human intervention and George helped us to visualise these layers. It was interesting to reconsider how we observe the landscape and was useful to apply this way of looking at Turnberry Castle.

The RCAHMS survey team checking out one of the castle walls

The RCAHMS survey team checking out one of the castle walls

Upon arrival at Turnberry Piers Dixon gave us a tour of the castle. The castle is ruinous and at first glance there doesn’t seem to be much there, however with Piers’ tour we began to see how the castle may have looked and worked as a building in medieval times. It would have been an extremely impressive and complex castle dominating the landscape on its rocky outcrop overlooking the sea. One of the most striking features was the sea gates which would have acted as entrance ways to the castle from the sea. Sections of cut stone were visible which helped the survey team piece together how these gates may have looked and functioned.

Walking through a potential sea gate

Walking through a potential sea gate

 Later in the day we got chance to do a bit of survey work ourselves with the help of John Borland. Using a Self Reducing Alidade we observed measurements of the lighthouse wall and plotted them onto the drawing. Different parts of the castle are recorded and then brought together in a master drawing. The master drawing details the castle as a whole based on the evidence at the site and will become an important resource for interpretation and aid the visualisation of a complex site. We are very much looking forward to seeing the finished drawing!

Self Reducing Alidade equipment and survey drawing

Self Reducing Alidade equipment and survey drawing

 The visit was a great opportunity to gain an insight into was is involved in the surveying and recording. Working in collections we often catalogue survey reports and the visit will help us further understand the material we catalogue. 

Luckily enough for us the weather was fantastic and Gillian took lots of great photographs of Turnberry Castle, a few of which are available for viewing here on the Skills for the Future blog and on the RCAHMS Facebook page.

RCAHMS still have work to do on Turnberry Castle and once completed, all survey data and photography carried out by the Survey and Recording team will be available to the public through the database Canmore.

Holly and the  RCAHMS Survey team at Turnberry Castle

Holly and the RCAHMS Survey team at Turnberry Castle