MAYBOLE, SCOTLAND - Balmoral Castle. Edinburgh Castle. They are the names most people recognize when it comes to Scottish castles. Both made famous by the kings and queens who occupied them. However, there is one castle in Scotland that is best known because of the American who lived there.
Culzean Castle, one of the best preserved of all of Scotland’s castles, was the home away from home for Dwight D. Eisenhower, the American general who commanded the Allied Forces during World War II before going on to be U.S. President.
Eisenhower stayed at the 16th century Culzean Castle four times during his lifetime – each time falling more in love with the honey colored castle that sits perched on a rocky cliff overlooking the Firth of Clyde and the rolling Scottish countryside.
“It is said that once during a wartime conference, General Eisenhower became so frustrated with proceedings that he ordered his staff to ‘pack everything up – we’re heading off to Culzean’ ” said a castle guide. “Culzean was the one place in Earth where the general felt most relaxed.”
In 1945, the Marquess of Ailsa, a member of the Kennedy clan who has ruled Culzean since 1569, was so grateful to Eisenhower for his wartime leadership he donated the castle’s upper apartments to the general for his private use for the rest of his lifetime.
One of the main reasons Eisenhower, an avid golfer, loved coming to Culzean is because some of the world’s greatest courses – Turnbury, Royal Troon and Old Prestwick – can be found just a short drive from the castle entrance.
The apartments, which appear today pretty much as they did when Eisenhower stayed in them, are now rented out to people who like sleeping with history.
Left: The bedroom where Dwight D. Eisenhower stayed is open to the public. Right: Lovely Culzean Castle sits perched overlooking the Firth of Clyde.
The furnishings in the bedroom where Eisenhower slept – he and his wife always slept in separate rooms – are all original, except for the mattresses. The desk and uniform General Eisenhower wore during his Africa campaign are displayed in the handsome apartments along with key maps of landing positions. One fascinating chart shows where all allied troops landed on D-Day.
“Americans love the chance to sleep in the same bed as President Eisenhower,” a guide told TNNworld.
Culzean is much more than the Eisenhower apartments, though. The lower floors of the handsome structure are jammed with memorabilia, including some fascinating portraits of the Kennedy clan, not relation to the U.S. Kennedys, by the way. There are whispers that the Kennedys made their fortune smuggling goods across the Firth of Clyde to the fortified caves beneath Culzean.
One of the most fascinating rooms at Culzean is the armory, whose walls are decorated with hundreds of pistols and swords. In all, there are 24 different varieties of British army flintlock pistols on display in the room. The library and dining room look more like museums, with priceless treasures adorning walls and cabinets.
The main attraction in the castle besides the Eisenhower suite is the ornate oval staircase, adorned with lush red carpeting and held up by massive white columns. The staircase displays the genius of architect Robert Adam, who designed the structure and then oversaw the furnishing of each room.
The upper drawing rooms look out of the Clyde and the dramatic shoreline, where mighty cliffs drop straight to the water. As you can imagine, the grounds at Culzean are pristine. There’s a deer park on site and the gardens look like they stepped right out of the Chelsea flower show.