They’ll come face to face with a costumed interpreter playing Anne, Duchess of Hamilton – who played an influential role in the development of the imposing mansion more than 300 years ago.
The performances will be some of the highlights of two free open afternoons at the property – which also boasts some of the best renaissance wall paintings in Scotland.
The events – on Saturday and Sunday (April 16 and 17) – have been organised jointly by Historic Scotland, which cares for the House, and the charity The Friends of Kinneil.
The events will run from noon to 4 p.m. each day, with the last admission at 3.30 p.m.
Maria Ford, the chair of the Friends of Kinneil, said: “We’re pleased to be working with Historic Scotland on a new series of open days at Kinneil House.
“You can visit the grounds of the building, and its neighbouring museum, throughout the year. However, access to the interior of the house itself is limited to special open days like this.
“As well as the two, free open afternoons this weekend, there are further open days planned on June 26, August 28 and October 30 this year.
“Kinneil House is a wonderful place to visit and I’d encourage people to come along and enjoy the free tours. The addition of performances from our ‘Duchess’ will make the April openings even more special.”
Anne, 3rd Duchess of Hamilton, was an impressive and influential character. She and her husband William were responsible for the major expansion of Kinneil House in the late 17th century. This saw the original 15th century tower house adjoined to the nearby palace building by means of one of two decorative towers, flanking the original tower house.
Gareth Cheeseman, of Historic Scotland’s Interpretation Unit, says: “Anne, Duchess Hamilton, played such an important part in the history of Kinneil House so it’s fitting that visitors hear all about her.
“Our talented costumed interpreter will be giving hourly performances to bring her story and the past of this fascinating mansion to life to enhance the tours of the property.
“We first introduced visitors to the Duchess at Kinneil House two years ago when we ran this event to tie in with Scotland’s Year of Homecoming. It proved extremely popular so we hope that it will now encourage many more visitors to come along to this outstanding site.”
Kinneil House is the centrepiece of the magnificent Kinneil Estate, a public park owned by Falkirk Council. The estate features a cottage used by inventor James Watt, the ruins of a medieval church, and remains of a Roman Fortlet – part of the Antonine Wall, Scotland’s latest UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There is also a small museum in the former stable block in front of Kinneil House. The museum is open throughout the year, from 12.30 p.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Saturday, and admission is free. It interprets the House and the wider estate and features an audio visual show and hands-on exhibits. To find out more about Kinneil, visit www.kinneil.org.uk
NOTES FOR EDITORS
· Kinneil House is located on the western edge of Bo’ness, off the A904 (follow signs for Kinneil Estate and Museum).
· Set in a public park, the oldest part of Kinneil House is a 15th century tower remodelled by the Earl of Arran between 1546 and 1550 and transformed into a stately home for the Dukes of Hamilton in the 1660s.
· The grounds contain the ruins of James Watt’s cottage and the boiler of his Newcomen Engine.
· The history of Kinneil dates back to 1323 when lands were granted by Robert I to Walter Fitzgilbert of Hamildon, the head of the family which later produced the Dukes of Hamilton. The Hamiltons’ main seat was in west central Scotland but over the centuries Kinneil became their base in the east. In the 1400s they built a small tower house here in an easily defensible position overlooking a ravine. In the late 1400s or early 1500s the tower house was enlarged. In 1553 James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran, built a palace to the north east of the tower house to its north east. In 1667, William, 3rd Duke of Hamilton and his wife Anne launched a major expansion of Kinneil House. Within a century, however, the Hamiltons had ceased to use Kinneil, and rented it out to tenants.
· The Friends of Kinneil was set up in 2006 to support and promote the development of Kinneil House and the surrounding estate and area, and to enhance and protect its heritage. Over the past few years it has worked with Historic Scotland to improve public access to Kinneil House, running a series of free open days. It also takes part in other activities within the estate. The Friends of Kinneil is a registered charity (Charity Registration Number: SC 038368). Find out more at www.kinneil.org.uk/friends
· Kinneil House is one of 345 heritage properties and sites throughout Scotland in the care of Historic Scotland. From the Highlands and Islands to the Borders, these range from prehistoric dwellings to medieval castles, and from cathedrals to industrial buildings. They include some of the leading tourism attractions in the country including Edinburgh, Stirling, and Urquhart Castles, Fort George, Linlithgow Palace, the Border Abbeys, and Skara Brae. For further details visit: www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/places