A 16th-century residence
Carsluith Castle is a lightly-defended tower house. It is typical of the many L-planned tower houses built by the landed gentry throughout Scotland after the Protestant Reformation of 1560. Carsluith, though, has a more complicated building history than most. It seems to have begun life around a century earlier as a simple oblong tower.
The lairds of Carsluith in the 15th century were members of the Cairns family. In 1506 the lands passed through marriage to the Lindsays of Fairgirth, and a generation later to the Brouns from New Abbey. In 1568, they converted the original building into the one we now see. Carsluith stayed with the Brouns until 1748, when James Broun, then a London merchant, sold out to the Johnstons. By that date, Carsluith was no longer a residence of landed gentry.
The major improvement to the original building was the addition of the present stair-tower, by which the main house is reached. This was added in 1568, by a Broun – according to the carved panel above the doorway (now almost illegible). This was a secondary stair tower. One indication of this is the awkward way in which its top storey runs into an old window recess in the original building.
The addition of the stair-tower both increased the amount of accommodation and improved circulation through it. The remodelled residence comprised two stone-vaulted storage cellars on the ground floor, a large hall occupying the whole of the first floor, and two further floors of private chambers, plus an attic storey. A roofed gallery, or balcony, of timber was added at second-floor level, overlooking the front door. This novel and attractive addition has long gone, but the supporting structure remains.
A famous son
The Brouns’ most famous son was Gilbert Broun, last abbot of Sweetheart, who may have been born at Carsluith. He took Holy Orders just at the time when the Scottish Church was in crisis. By the Reformation in 1560 he was abbot at Sweetheart.
He fought the Reformists tooth and nail. He fortified his abbey and continued celebrating mass there. Despite imprisonment and enforced exile, he persisted. As late as 1609, a search of his chambers at Sweetheart revealed a cache of ‘popish trash’. This was destroyed and the ageing cleric was forced once more into exile. He died in Paris.
- The location – an eye-catching ruin beside the main road from Dumfries to Stranraer.
- The waterspout – at the SW corner of the building, carved with a human face.
- The gallery – imagine the lady of the house waving farewell to her husband from here.
Region – Dumfries and Galloway
3.5m south of Creetown on the A75.
Grid reference -NX 494 541.