Kelburn castle, a Category A Listed Building is the seat of the Earl of Glasgow with origins in the 12th century when the Boyle family settled here and constructed a wooden tower. This was followed by a Norman keep of stone, parts of which still survive in the present castle’s fabric, as in 1581 development of the castle incorporated the keep. In 1700 the First Earl of Kelburn enlarged the building by adding a mansion house and a Victorian Wing was added in 1879 – 80.
Kelburn castle is claimed to be the oldest continuously inhabited home in Scotland. In 2007 when the exterior surface of the castle was deteriorating the Earl of Glasgow invited a team of Brazilian graffiti artists to decorate it and hopefully preserve the underlying fabric. In 2011 permission was granted from Historic Environment Scotland to keep the artwork permanently making Kelburn the most unusual looking ancient castle in Scotland.
Kelburn is the home of two ancient yew trees which an information plaque claims are 1000 – 1500 years old. They stand in a garden below the castle and the first yew met upon entering the garden, a female, is partially enclosed by iron railings bordering access to some nearby cottages and many branches are almost reaching the ground creating a dome of yew growth. It has a fine fluted trunk with girth measurements of 498cm @ 50cm high, 515cm @ 100cm and 534 at 150cm (SYTHI 2020) showing the girth swelling the higher it goes until reaching the first major branches.
Its nearby companion, also with a fine trunk, enjoys an open aspect and is featured as part of the garden design and has girth measurements of 510 cm @ 50 cm, 532 cm @ 100 cm and 601cm @ 150 cm (SYTHI 2020) and, like its companion, demonstrating trunk swelling the higher it goes. Although classed as a female yew, closer investigation found evidence of male flowers on some branches.
As a rough guide, the girth measurements would suggest these yews are at least 500 years old and perhaps 600 or slightly more, well short of the claims made on the information plaque. However, the claim cannot be discounted without proof and so the true age of these yews must remain conjecture without further investigation – though that they are magnificent ancient yews is beyond doubt.
There are other yews of note at Kelburn adjacent to the boundary wall of the castle’s immediate grounds. One, probably a few centuries old, was pruned and revealed the existence of an undiscovered 18th century ice house. At the gateway on the path to the castle stands another, again with a fine fluted trunk with girth measurements of 472 @ 50cm, 466 @ 100 cm and 470 @ 150 cm with a rough age estimate of between 400 – 500 years, which means it too is classed as an ancient yew.