The Keep of Kilmarnock Castle, now known as Dean Castle, was completed around 1350 by Sir Thomas Boyd.
Built as a defence structure, the walls are 2-3m thick with battlements at the top which stand 19m from ground level. There are few windows and the original entrance can still be seen high above ground level. There are no arrow slits in the walls of Dean Castle, which is very rare for a Scottish castle from this time period, All of the shooting was done from the battlements. At this level of the Keep there is also a set of apartments for the soldiers
The Keep houses displays that tell the story of the Boyd family and medieval life as well as East Ayrshire’s outstanding collections of arms and armour.
Within the Keep is the Great Hall, Minstrels’ Gallery, Kitchen, Dungeon and Solar, which would have been the private chambers of the Lord and Lady.
The dungeon, called a bottle neck dungeon, within the Keep has a narrow entrance which leads into a small vaulted chamber. When the hatch is closed there is no source of light or air except for a tiny vent in the wall. Prisoners would be dropped into the dungeon or, if they were lucky, lowered in on a rope.
During the Covenanter uprising, prisoners that were captured at the Battles of Bothwell Bridge and Rullion Green would have been imprisoned here while awaiting execution or deportation.
The Guard Room is the only access point to the Castle dungeon. A guard would always be present in this room to ensure both the security of the dungeon and the entrance to the castle.
The Keep has just under 70 steps in total (23 to the first floor) which will make it in inaccessible for some visitors. We have tried to bring the Castle to life for those visitors with an AV and 360 degree tour which can be viewed in the accessible Keep Cellar.