At the sale of the lands of Alloway Barony by Ayr Town Council in 1754, Dr. Alexander
Campbell of Ayr purchased the property and lands which, at that time, were known
as Netherton of Alloway. Around 1765 the property fell to Campbell's brother, Archibald
who was a writer in Edinburgh, and in 1775 the property was inherited by John Campbell
of Wellwood (nephew). On the death of John Campbell the property was purchased by
Hugh Hamilton of Pinmore who made his fortune from sugar plantations in Jamaica.
Hamilton extended the estate by purchasing surrounding property and he also built
part of the mansion that we see today and laying out the policies around 1787. It
was at this time that it became known as Belleisle. When his nephew, Colonel Alexander
West Hamilton, inherited the estate he had the former mansion almost entirely rebuilt
and enlarged. In 1839 the estate fell to his son Hugh Hamilton who was in his minority
and was later purchased by William Smith Dixon of Motherwell. In 1886 the estate
was sold once again the new owners being the Coats family (Paisley thread manufacturers)
who further extended the mansion around 1900.
In 1926 Ayr Burgh Council purchased Belleisle Estate for the sum of £25,000, to
develop it as a park, with two golf courses, which opened in 1927. Belleisle was
requisitioned for the war effort, although after the war was restored with two golf
courses, gardens, aviary, deer park and pets corner, with the mansion house as a
hotel and restaurant.
Belleisle House underwent major reconstruction (probably by William Burn, a prominent
architect of the time) in 1829; further additions circa 1800 and 1895; as well as
extensive mid twentieth century additions associated with the building’s use as
a hotel. The building, which is listed at Category B, exists now as a two storey
with basement and attic, eleven bay Scottish Baronial mansion. It is finished in
coursed sandstone with ashlar dressings. It has string courses at ground and first
floor; crowstepped gables; and finials at the apexes.
Other Buildings & Structures
In addition to Belleisle House, there are a number of other buildings and structures
of note, all of which formed part of the Belleisle Estate. They include the North
Lodge; South Lodge; South Lodge Bridge; Conservatory; and Walled Garden. They are
all individually listed and also have a B-Group listing. There are also other remnants
of the former estate, which are unlisted, but are of interest, including the later
Belleisle Lodge on Greenfield Avenue and the former stable block.
The original conservatory was built in 1879 by William Smith Dixon (who was an ironmaster
from Glasgow )and it was rebuilt to its current form in 1955 for Ayr Burgh Council
by Messers Mackenzie & Moncur. The conservatory has a sandstone base with a timber
and iron glazed frame; piended (a Scots term for a hipped roof) glazed roof with
upper piended section; lantern ridge; and iron finials ; the floor tiles are original.
The structure is listed at Category B, for special architectural or historic interest.
Unfortunately, the conservatory fell into a cycle of decline and disrepair and suffered
from repeated vandalism which led to it being closed to the public in 2006.
While Belleisle is a designed landscape not enough of the original features remain
for it to be included in Historic Scotland’s Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes,
a listing of gardens and designed landscapes of national artistic and/or historical
significance. None the less the Estate does have substantial parkland with a number
of key features.
There are two golf courses, Belleisle and Seafield, occupying the lands mainly to
the east and north of the estate. The Belleisle course was designed by James Braid,
a five times winner of the Open Championship and later golf course architect of
some note, who is recognised particularly for his work at Gleneagles and Carnoustie.
Braid is considered to be one of the finest golf course designers of all time. The
Belleisle course has beech tree lined and extra long fairways interlaced by the
Curtecan Burn, combining natural landscape features with good views to the Isle
Both the Belleisle and Seafield courses are public golf courses and Belleisle is
one of the few public courses which hosts professional tournaments. Tour players
are known to practise here before major competitions.
The Estate’s formal gardens are laid out principally to the south of Belleisle House
and include the conservatory and walled garden. The Walled Garden, which is late
18th century and is considered to be a good example of later 18th century garden
architecture, is rectangular in plan covering approximately 4,200 square metres.
The surrounding wall is of red brick and coped rubble wall construction and has
a distinctive curved rubble wall to the NW elevation. The walled garden is listed
at Category C(S).