In the mid-19th Century, Alice Boyd of Penkill Castle became involved in a romantic affair with the painter, William Bell Scott. Before long many of his friends started spending time at Penkill. Artists such as Dante Gabriel Rosetti and William Morris produced many works there after becoming inspired by the surroundings and the companionship of kindred spirits.

Penkill Castle is located four miles east of Girvan. The first Laird of Penkill was Adam Boyd, a relation of the  Boyds of Kilmarnock and it was he who built the original tower-house, and was extended in 1628 by his great-grandson, Thomas. In 1750, the castle passed to a distant relative in America, Spencer Boyd. He never lived at Penkill and the building fell into disrepair; however it was eventually occupied by Spencer's youngest son, whose children were talented artists, his son, also called Spencer, a carver and his daughter, Alice, a painter. 

Spencer died young in 1865, but Alice continued the restoration of Penkill that he had begun. Alice fell in love and had an affair with the painter,  William Bell Scott, who spent his time at Penkill, painting, amongst other works, a mural called 'The King's Quair', which has become one of his best known works, around the walls of the spiral staircase. 

Alice invited many of Scott's friends from the Pre-Raphaelite movement to the castle including Dante Gabriel Rosetti, Arthur Hughes, William Holman Hunt and William Morris (who is responsible for embroidered panels within the castle). 

Penkill fell once more into disrepair in the 1970's, this time to be saved by another American, Elton Eckstrand, who restored both castle and garden and traced many of the original contents. Penkill remains famous as having been a retreat and inspiration to many of the Pre-Raphaelite artists of the late nineteenth century, some of the 'treasures' of Penkill are preserved in the museum collection at the  Dick Institute in Kilmarnock.

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