In 1371, the grandson of Robert the Bruce was crowned King Robert II of Scotland. To mark his ascendancy to the throne, he had this castle built on a previously fortified hill in Ayrshire which he considered part of his ancestral lands. He gave it the site’s ancient name, "dun of Donald," the word "dun" being Gaelic for "fortress". Robert II died in Dundonald Castle in 1390, and for the next 100 years it was used by the Stewart kings as a residence. It then passed to the Cathcarts and subsequently the Wallaces, but fell to ruins by the end of the 17th ce The Laigh Hall of the castle was a banquet hall. The host of the banquet and his principal guests sat at a high table beneath the window, while other guests sat on stools or benches at lower tables along the side walls. Guests entered through the doorway (which, reflecting the sunlight, appears green in our photo). Fires burning in braziers warmed the assembly, leaving smoky traces on the stone walls still seen today. When we told the guide at Dundonald that we once lived in Baltimore, Maryland, he told us that the castle also has a connection to that city. Edgar Allen Poe lived, died, and was buried in Baltimore, but his stepfather was from the village of Dundonald, Scotland. Consequently, Poe once visited Dundonald and spent time at the castle. His experience there is believed to have helped inspire perhaps his most famous poem, "The Raven". As we continued our walk through the castle ruins, two large black birds swooped down between the roofless walls, flew about, and perched on the grate in one of the windows. Just south of Dundonald Castle lies this lovely property. Its name has been thought to refer to a nearby religious site, with "highlees" being a corruption of the word "holy". However, since the word "lea" is the Scots word for grassland or pasture and these fields crest high above the surrounding countryside, a much more reasonable view is that the name is a rendering of the descriptive language "high leas". Highlees was owned by the Lords of Lynn for more than two centuries beginning at least as early as 1452. In that year, Andrew Lynn chartered Highlees to William Hunter of Arnele. It appears that Hunter was a vassal of the Lynns since the charter granted Highlees to Hunter "for services rendered and to be rendered". From that time until the 18th century, whenever chiefship passed in either family, the charter was renewed by the chief of the Lynns of that Ilk. The present-day Highlees Farm is seated behind the crest of Highlees Mount.
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