Hunterston Castle, the seat of the Chief of Clan Hunter for over 900 years
The first Hunters arrived in Ayrshire in the opening years of the 12th century. Experts in hunting and fieldcraft with generations of experience in the forests of their land of origin, these Norman lords were invited to Scotland by Scottish King David I who was himself brought up in the Norman court. In papers relating to the King's Inquisition in 1116, we find mention of WILLIELMO VENATOR (William the Hunter - 1st Laird) who was appointed as Royal Huntsman while his wife had the honour of serving Queen Matilda as a lady-in-waiting. William put his expertise to good use in the wild forests and fens, then rich with wildlife, which surrounded the site of the timber fortress which was to become Hunter's Toun. As recognition of his family's skills, the title of Royal Huntsman became a hereditary appointment. In the mid-thirteenth century King Alexander III of Scotland urged his liegemen to build in stone against possible incursion by Norsemen.
It was probably about this time that the pele-tower of Hunterston Castle was constructed.
From this stronghold the family, allied with other powerful neighbours, faced down the aggression of King Hakon of Norway and drove him to defeat at the Battle of Largs in 1263. It sheltered them throughout the turbulent War of Independence from which they emerged with their lands intact, having probably supported William Wallace and certainly Robert the Bruce. In 1374 the great king's grandson RobertII granted William Hunter (10th Laird) a charter of lands for faithfull services rendered. The family still possess this ancient document. For many years, the Hunters continued to serve the Scottish Crown as Royal Huntsmen and as soldiers, sometimes at great cost. John Huntar (14th Laird) died with King James IV at Flodden in 1513 and Mungo Huntar (16th Laird) died for Mary at Pinkie in 1547.
As times became more settled, the Hunters devoted more time to farming their extensive lands although they still produced soldiers of distinction over the generations. Gould Hunter-Weston , husband of Jane Hunter (26th Laird) fought in India at Lucknow in 1857 and their son Aylmer (27th Laird) was a well known general in the First World War.
In spite of more recent threats, this time from industrialization rather than invasion, recent Lairds have held true to precedent and often against the odds, managed to retain the castle and its grounds as the heart of the Clan.