The Cunninghams of Glencairn owned Finlaystone for 400 years. It was the nucleus of the Cunningham's power and influence in Scotland from Robert III (the second Stewart king) to Robert Burns. The castle itself dates back to 1299 and was originally owned by the Dennistouns, first of the lairds of Finlatstone, who owned the castle for 100 years. Sir Robert Dennistoun died without a male heir. His daughter Margaret married Sir  William Cunningham, giving William not only the Finlaystone estate, but the baronies of Finlaystone and Glencairn.

During Sir William Cunningham's  lifetime he was given various other royal grants, among them "the baronies of Kilmaurs, Lambrachton, Kilbryde, Skelmorlie, and Polquharne, Ayrshire; the lands and barony of Redhall, co. Edinburgh; the lands of Nevy, Forfarshire; the barony of Hassingden, Roxburghshire; and the lands of Ranfurley, in barony of Renfrew."

Sir Alexander Cunningham, grandson of Sir William helped King James II defeat the Douglas' and was granted the Barony of Kilmaurs, the lands of Kilmarnock, and Hilton. In 1484, Alexander moved the Seat of Clan Cunningham to Finlaystone.  Four years later he was made 1st Earl of Glencairn by royal charter. The Cunningham fortunes then took a turn for the worse. Sir Alexander Cunningham was killed along with his king, James III, fourteen days later at the Battle of Sauchieburn.  His titles were stripped by the following King, James IV, but Sir Alexander Cunningham's son and heir, Robert Cunningham (2nd Earl of Glencairn), managed to retain the earlier title of 2nd Lord Kilmaurs and keep Finlaystone as the family seat. Shortly afterwards the Montgomeries officially began the Cunningham-Montgomery feud by burning down the Cunningham's Kerelaw Castle.

Throughout the ensuing years of the feud, Finlaystone remained untouched while other family strongholds were not so lucky. A momentous occasion at Finlaystone was the visit by John Knox,  widely recognized as one of the primary founders of Scottish Presbyterianism and great religious reformers of his time.  In 1556 he performed the first Protestant Reformed Communion service on Easter Sunday under a Yew tree at Finlaystone for Alexander Cunningham, 5th Earl of Glencairn. During the ceremony Knox performed for the Earl, wine goblets could not be located. Candlesticks were used instead. They became heirlooms of the family but vanished without a trace in 1899. Visitors can still find the ancient Yew tree where John Knox held the ceremony, which was moved 40 yards in 1900 to the Southeast to afford better sunlight into the manor house. Another noteworthy visitor to Finlaystone was the poet Robert Burns. It was due to the patronage and support of Burns by James, the 14th Earl of Glencairn, that the poet was able to rise to literary prominence. So important was the Earl to Burns that the poet wrote a poignant lament at his patrons' passing called "Lament for James Cunningham, 14th Earl of Glencairn." The whole poem relates the sadness and desolation the poet felt at his benefactor's death. At the end of the poem Burns says "I'll remember thee, Glencairn, And a' that thou hast done for me!"

There is physical evidence of the friendship between Burns and James Cunningham at Finlaystone. Burns carved his signature on a window pane using a diamond ring James had given him. Burn's signature can still be seen in the Bard's room. The male line of the Earls of Glencairn ceased with James's son John who died without a male heir in 1796. Since there was no Cunningham to which the property could pass to, the possession of Finlaystone went to John Cunningham's cousin, Robert Graham. The Graham's possession spelled the end to the Cunninghams connection to the estate. The son of Robert was William Cunningham Graham. His father changed his name to Robert Cunningham-Graham, forcing his son to accept the name William Cunningham Cunningham-Graham. After his father died, William Cunningham Cunningham-Graham (aka "Wicked William") became a criminal and gambler,  falling to forgery to pay for his gambling bills.  Finlaystone fell victim to a card game which Wicked William lost to a Colonel Archibald Campbell, after which no Cunningham or relative of the Cunninghams owned the estate.


In 1425 Caprington Castle was given to Adam Cunyngham as a result of his marriage to Sir Duncan Wallace's daughter.  John V, great-grandson of the first Laird, was active in the politics of his time. He raised an army and drove the English from Yester Castle in 1548 and later fought in France with another force he formed. Caprington was spared destruction during the Cunningham-Montgomery feud despite the Cunninghams of Caprington's heavy involvement in the quarrel.  William, the fifth Laird was made High Commissioner of the Church of Scotland in 1581. He was "the first and only commoner to be so appointed" until the 20th century. John, the seventh Laird was a Baronet of Nova Scotia. The earliest parts of the current structure date to around the 15th and 16th centuries. Subsequent remodeling in the Georgian and baronial styles give the estate its current majestic appearance.

Ancestral Castles of Scotland by Hugh Cantlie. Published by Collins and Brown, copyright 1992

Storied Dumbarton Rock is situated on the eastern edge of the town of Dumbarton on the Northern shore of the Clyde River, it is a volcanic plug of basalt with twin towers, known as White Tower Crag and The Beak, connected near their summits and rising 240 feet straight up on a tiny peninsula where the River Leven empties into the River Clyde. It holds the distinction, among many others, of being a stronghold in Britain longer than any other in recorded history, dating from at least the fifth century AD. In fact the derivative of Dumbarton, Dun Breatann means 'the fortress of the Britons.' 

(Above) A view of the Governor's House at Dumbarton Castle where four Cunninghams served as Governors from as early as the 16th century. Inside is a Coat of Arms display of the Governors that served there spanning eight centuries from 1264 through 1996. The three Cunningham's Coat of Arms displayed there are: 1571, John Cunningham, 6th of Drumquhassil; 1692, John, 11th Earl of Glencairn and 1714, Colonel William, 12th Earl of Glencairn. The fourth Cunningham Governor was 1955, Admiral Sir Angus Cunninghame Graham, 16th of Gartmore K.B.E., C.B.

(Above)  After you pass through an outer iron gate in a low stone wall, you cross a courtyard, ascend a stone stair and pass through the fortress wall at King George's Battery with its round domed sentinel box. Beyond stands the Governor's House, built along with King George's Battery in 1735, replacing the medieval gatehouse and rampart.

(Above)  A view from inside the castle grounds of the rear of the Governor's house and grounds with the Clyde River in the background.


Image from The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland

Our society recently received an email message on November 29, 2008 from a descendant of the esteemed Glencairn line of Clan Cunningham! "Interested to learn there is a clan society in the U S. I moved here with my family from Scotland two years ago, you may like to add to your ruined castles list the castle on inch Talla on the Lake of Menteith owned by myself and my siblings. Nice to see my Grandfather Admiral Sir Angus Cunninghame Graham mentioned in your pages. If I can give you any more information please let me know. Yours Colin G Cunninghame Graham"

(Above) General oblique aerial view centred on the remains of the priory and site of the castle, taken from the WSW, from the RCAHMS web site.

Inchtalla or Inch Talla is an island in the Lake of Menteith, central Scotland. ("Inch" derives from innis which is an old Gaelic word meaning "island"). It was also known as the Isle of Monteith, but is not as big as Inchmahome nearby. The entire island is dominated by Talla Castle, which appears to have been built in the 17th century, but on the site of an earlier building dating from 1428.

REFERENCE - Scottish Record Office

Isle of Monteith [Inchtalla]. Agreement, Countess of Airth and William, Earl of Monteith 'the haill rooms within the hall door with the second chamber nixt the hall called the schoolhouse and the north chamber nixt adjacent to the hall to be of equell use whenever occasions offers of any of the said countess hir relations or yet the said earl's (being men of quallitie) and the kitching and brewhous to be of common use for serving both parties, and the said Earl to have the littellvoult east the turnpyk on the South syd of the cloass'.


In 1479, William Cunningham was granted the lands of Craigends, becoming the first laird of Craigends. William was the second son to Alexander Cunningham, first Earl of Glencairn. In all, there were seventeen esteemed Cunningham Lairds of Craigends. The title went dormant after John Cuningham 17th Laird.

   John Cunningham, 13th Laird

In 1917 when the last laird died without  an heir, the house fell into disrepair and was mostly demolished in 1971. The remaining ruins were removed from the site in 1980 and a housing development now stands in its place.


Glengarnock Castle in Ayrshire was the seat of the Cunninghams of Glengarnock. It was once a great castle but was abandoned and left to decay in the 18th century. Glengarnock castle was the fortress controlling the Barony of Glengarnock. The Cunninghams of Glengarnock were a cadet branch of the line of the Earls of Glencairn. John Cunningham, son of Sir James Cunningham of Glengarnock was given 1,000 acres called Dunboy in Donegal Ireland in 1608.

Originally owned by the Cunninghams of Kilmaurs, Skelmorlie was given to the Montgomery Clan in 1453. This was the home of Lord Hugh Montgomery of Skelmorlie whom the Cunninghams killed in 1586 during the Cunningham Montgomery Feud.

The ruins of the Ravenscraig Castle are all that is left of this Cunningham stronghold (also known as Old Corsehill Castle) located in Stewarton.

Perhaps the most distinguished contemporary branch of the Cunninghams is that of The Marquess Conygham of Slane Castle, Ireland. It was founded by Sir Albert Conyngham, a Lieutenant General (and the GG Grandson of William Cunningham, 4th Earl of Glencairn of Scotland) who fought at the Battle of the Boyne. It was Sir Albert's father, Alexander Conyngham, a member of this noble Scottish Glencairn family of very great antiquity in the West of Scotland, who entered into holy orders, emigrated to Ireland from Scotland, and was appointed in 1611 the first protestant minister of Enver and Killymard, County Donegal, who became Dean of Raphoe in May 1630. Dean Conyngham settled at Mount Charles, County Donegal, which estate he held by lease from the Earl of Annandale. Alexander, Dean of Raphoe's other claim to fame is that he married the daughter of Sir John Murray, with whom he had twenty-seven children. His eldest surviving son, Sir Albert Conyngham, proved invaluable to King William at the Battle of the Boyne by raising a regiment of dragoons at his own expense. Sir Albert's son, Henry, a Major General, displayed a degree of sure-footedness after JAMES desired his army to shift for itself. Henry consequently left Lord Mountjoy’s jacobite regiment with 500 men and joined the Willliamite cause. He pursued a distinguished military career culminating in the defeat of the French at the Battle of St. Estervens in Portugal, where he was serving as a General in the King of Spain’s Army.

Sir Albert's grandson, also named Henry, was Captain of horse on the Irish establishment, and M.P. from 1727 until elevated to the peerage of Ireland, by the title of Baron Conyngham of Mount Charles, County Donegal on 3-OCT-1753. His Lordship was created Viscount Conyngham on 20-JUL-1756, and Earl and Baron Conyngham of Mount Charles on 4-JAN-1781, this barony to descend, in case of failure of male issue, to his nephew, Francis Pierpont Burton of Buncraggy, County Clare, Esq., an M.P. for that county in 1761. Upon Henry's death without issue, all his honours became extinct except the Barony of Conyngham, which devolved, according to the provision upon the above mentioned.

Those honours were only extinct for one generation, however, when Francis' son, the 3rd Baron Conyngham was created Viscount Conyngham of Mount Charles on 6-DEC-1789; Viscount Mount Charles and Earl Conyngham on 5-NOV-1797; and Viscount Slane, Earl of Mount Charles, and Marquess Conyngham on 22-JAN-1816, all in the peerage of Ireland. He was made a peer of the United Kingdom, as Baron Minster, of Minster Abbey, County Kent, on 17-JUN-1821.

Thereafter the Marquessdom has succeeded to the present 8th Marquess, Henry Conyngham, with heir apparent, Alexander Conyngham, Earl of Mount Charles, and heir apparent to the heir apparent, Rory Conyngham, Viscount Slane.

A short distance from the village of Slane on the Navan road is Slane Castle, an imposing castellated mansion with towers and embattled parapets, built on a beautiful site overlooking the river valley. Slane Castle was bought by the Coyninghams after the Battle of the Boyne when the estate was confiscated by the victorious King William of Orange. Constructed to its current form by the Conyngham family, it is the home of Lord Henry, The Marquess Conyngham, with the surrounding grounds boasting a natural amphitheatre of immense size. The reconstruction of the existing building commenced in 1785, and it is principally the work of James Gandon, James Wyatt and Francis Johnston. Gandon is responsible for some of Dublin’s finest architecture, and James Wyatt designed Castle Coole in County Fermanagh. Francis Johnston, one of Ireland’s most distinguished architects, is responsible for the dramatic Gothic gates on the Mill Hill in Slane, and in essence he completed Wyatt’s work. The famous Gothic Ballroom is designed by Thomas Hopper, whose work can also be seen at Dromoland Castle in County Clare. He was an architect much favored by George IV. The work was commissioned by the first Marquess Conyngham, and the room was completed for George IV’s visit to Slane in 1821. The Stable Yard, and the parklands, was laid out by Capability Brown, although it is interesting to note that he never actually visited Slane.

The building as you see it today was reconstructed under the direction of William Burton Conyngham, and his nephew the first Marquess Conyngham, who inherited the Slane Estate from his uncle on his death in 1796.

William Burton Conyngham was the most distinguished member of the family in the eighteenth century. William Burton was Teller of the Exchequer at the end of the eighteenth century, a distinguished Parliamentarian, and a great patron of the arts. Conyngham Road in Dublin is named after him. He was a complicated and tempermental man, whose taste the present castle reflects.

The first Marquess died in 1832 and was succeeded by his son, Francis Nathaniel, who pursued a highly successful career in politics, attaining Cabinet rank, and an equally successful career at court, where he held the position of Lord Chamberlain to both William IV and Queen Victoria. After his retirement from public life he resided at Slane Castle. He married the daughter of the first Marquess of Anglesey, Wellington’s second-in-command at the Battle of Waterloo. A distinguished soldier, he was known as “old one leg,” after losing his leg in the famous battle.

Slane Castle is renowned worldwide for the annual Rock Concerts held in the natural amphitheatre in front of the Castle. In 1991, there was a disastrous fire in the Castle, causing extensive damage to the building and completely destroying the Eastern section facing the River Boyne. The concerts provided a means of earning the revenue needed to repair the extensive fire damage. It took ten years to restore, a program completed without any public funding. Slane Castle continues to host concert venues and was used by the internationally renowned rock band U2 to record their acclaimed "Unforgettable Fire" album. A picture of the castle is also on the album cover.


The castle of Kerelaw is a majestic ruin located in the parish of Stevenston. Of particular note are the impressive large catherdral-like windows of the ruin. Abandoned after its destruction a later mansion was built near the ruin called Kerelaw House.

Originally the Campbells of Louden received the lands of Loudan and Stevinstoun from Robert I, after which the property was passed to the Cunninghams of Glencairn. "Kerlia" Castle became one of the Cunningham's most important possessions and was well fortified and defended. The Earls of Glencairn spent their time between Kerelaw and Finlaystone. Local Fishermen who leased land from the Glencairns were recorded as being obliged to "carry the Earl’s furniture, in their two boats from the creek of Saltcoats [from Kerila] to Finlaystone, every spring, and bring it back again in the autumn when the family returned to Kerila. Also to furnish him yearly with half-a-barrel of herrings."

The castle was burned by the Montgomeries in 1488 during the Cunningham-Montgomery feud, dramatically escalating the hostilities. The castle should have withstood the attack but the Cunninghams inside were taken by surprise. The Montgomeries attack on Kerlia castle gave the Cunninghams cause to seek revenge and eventually burn down the Montgomery's Eglinton Castle.


Once known as Kilmarnock Castle, (from the days of surveyor and cartographer Timothy Pont.) Dean Castle was once owned by the Boyd's who kissed it goodbye in 1748. The Earls of Glencairn owned it for some thirty years during the latter part of the 18th century. It was later reconstructed by de Walden and gifted with land to the Kilmarnock & Loudon District Council over thirty years ago. They have looked after it all ever since. It is open to the public.


Robert de Conyngham was from the well known Scottish Cunninghame family. He went to France somewhere between 1436 to 1440 to serve in the Scots Guard for King Charles VII. The Scots Guard was an elite fighting force renowned throughout Europe who served the kings of France for around 400 years, possibly longer.  Robert de Conyngham served as Captain of the Guard and played a brilliant role in the recapture of Normandy in 1450 and Bayonne in 1451. A plot was uncovered in 1450 that implicated members of the Scottish Guard in an English backed plan to kidnap Charles VII. Robert Conyngham was implicated and sent to prison. Powerful Cunningham relatives pressured the French and brought the Scottish King James III to make a plea for Robert's release (CCSA has a translation of the original letter).  The French court gave mercy and by 1461 Robert was again back in favor with the new French King Louis XI and commanding a company of ordinance with "50 lances fournies."   

Robert Conyingham was again captain and in 1469 was listed as being in the command of one-hundred men-at-arms and two hundred archers of the ordinance. Robert Conyngham ceded his post of Captain of the King's Bodyguard and Captain of the Guard to his son Joachim who held these positions until at least 1478. Robert de Conyngham in the meantime served as esquire of the kings stable, councilor and royal chamberlain (high steward/factor/treasurer) to the king at this time.

In May 1476 Louise Chenin married Robert de Conyngham. This marriage gave him ownership of
Cherveux Castle and it was Robert and son Joachim who built the castle into the structure it is today. At Robert's death, the castle was passed to Joachim who was first, Lord of Roche and later Lord de Cherveux. Joachim and Catherine de Montberon's son, Jacques was in turn Lord of Cherveux. Jacques died in 1495 of wounds received at the siege of Novate. (Below) Coat of Arms of Robert de Conyngham

The castle was passed to his sons and then several other families until the current Redien family acquired the estate in 1931. Guided tours and rooms for rent are available to the public. For more information, please see their web site at

Scottish Soldiers in France in the Second Half of the Fifteenth Century, by Phillip Contamine, Univ. of Aberdeen, John Donald, Edinburgh 1990. 
Charles VII, by M.G.A. Vale, Eyre Methuen London, 1976.
Les Ecossais en France Les Francais en Ecosse, by Francisque-Michel, Premier Volume, Londres Trubner & Cie, 1862.
Chateau de Cherveux by Nicolas Faucherre

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