Chatelherault Park

chatelherault-dukes-bridgeAddress:  Carlisle Road, Ferniegar, Hamilton, ML3 7UE

Tel:  0871 716 2363

Admission:  Free

Opening hours:  The Visitor Centre is open Monday to Saturday 10am – 5pm, and on Sunday from 12pm – 5pm.  The main house is open Monday to Thursday and Saturday from 10am – 4.30pm, and on Sunday from 12pm – 4.30pm.

Chatelherault is a 500 acre country park and restored William Adam hunting lodge with visitor centre. The park is comprised of ten miles of footpath in historic landscape of the Avon River gorge, including ancient oaks, extensive semi-natural woodland and a huge variety of wildlife.

chatelherault-house

Chatelherault Country Park is just to the east of Glasgow in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire.  The name Chatelherault is derived from the French town of Châtellerault from which a French dukedom (Duc de Châtellerault) was conferred on James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran, in 1550.  The title was inherited by the Dukes of Hamilton.

The park is centred around the beautiful hunting lodge of the former Hamilton Palace, which used to be linked by an avenue of lime trees.  The lodge was designed by William Adam, and completed in 1734.  Historic Scotland renovated the lodge in the 1990s, including the fine Georgian plasterwork, and a visitor centre was built to the rear.

The visitor centre contains permanent and temporary exhibits which tell the history of the lodge.  You can also find out about the park, and the wildlife in the area which includes roe deer, otters, badgers and a wide range of woodland birds.  The visitor centre also has a café and shop.  To the rear of the lodge there is a wonderful historic garden.  Around the lodge, there are a number of picnic areas and barbeque sites, an adventure play area.  The lodge is also available for function and conference hire.

chatelherault-parkWalking and Cycling

Beyond the main house, Chatelherault Park contains 10 miles of paths and walkways through the ancient woodlands along the Avon Gorge.

The densely wooded Avon Gorge holds an array of woodland flowers in spring and early summer which indicates its history of unbroken wooded cover dating back at least 400 years.  Within the forest, some of the walks can be rather spooky, with dark trees and deep ravines.  The open field edges come to life in the summer with their own range of wild flowers to delight the eye.

Central to the gorge is the River Avon, which has cut the impressive gorge into the 350 million-year-old sandstone since the end of the last Ice Age.  The river changes mood with the weather but is always a delight to walk near.  The area also has the famous Cadzow Oaks, some of the oldest trees in the UK thought to date back some 600 years, and the ancient ruin of Cadzow Castle which dates back to the 16th century.

The Chatelherault Country Park Trails Leaflet and the Chatelherault Green Bridge Trail Leaflet help walkers navigate their way along the various footpaths.  These range from the 1km Huntsman’s Trail to the 8km Green Bridge Trail.  There is a trail to suit most levels of walking ability.

cadzow-castle-chatelheraultCadzow Castle

Cadzow Castle sits high above Avon Water, within Avon Gorge in the grounds of Chatlelherault Park.  Hamilton was once known as Cadzow, until it was renamed in 1455 in honour of James Hamilton, the 1st Lord Hamilton. The original Cadzow Castle was built in the 12th Century as an occasional royal residence for David I.  Royal charters of David’s reign were issued from here as early as 1139.  His successors Alexander II and Alexander III, and others down to Robert the Bruce also used the castle, primarily as a hunting lodge.

The current ruins are those of a more recent castle, built by Sir James Hamilton of Finnart around 1530.  It is here that Mary Queen of Scots stayed after her dramatic escape from Loch Leven Castle in 1568.  Having been destroyed by the Crown in the late 16th century, it was partially rebuilt in the 18th century, to serve as a folly within the Duke’s park.

The site is now owned and managed by Historic Scotland and there is no public access to the ruins, as the structure is unstable, and largely supported by scaffolding.  Footpaths within the country park allow visitors to view the ruin.  Beautiful views of the ruin can be seen from Duke’s Bridge, built high across the Avon Gorge.

cadzow-oaksCadzow Cattle

A herd of Cadzow cattle live in the fields overlooked by the hunting lodge.  This ancient breed are easily recognised with their white coats, long horns and distinctive black muzzles, ears, feet and horn tips.

The wild white cattle once roamed freely in the northern forests of Britain, but their ancestry is unclear.  They may have originated from the native wild ox of Europe, the Aurochs, or from the wild cattle that roamed through the ancient Caledonian Forest.  In the 15th century, they became scarce but their distinctiveness and reputation as a challenging quarry for the hunt saved them from extinction.  Aristocratic influence led to the formation of hunting parks specifically for these animals.  Five park herds of the remaining wild white cattle were established, the Dukes of Hamilton’s cadzow herd being one of them.

The white cadzow cattle used to roam beneath the magnificent cadzow oaks in the Hamilton high parks, Chatelherault.  In the late 1960’s the herd was moved to the Duke of Hamilton’s estate in East Lothian.  However, since 1987, up to six cadzow cattle have also been a feature in the fields in front of Chatelherault.  It is hoped that one day a breeding herd of these magnificent white cattle might once again be established at Chatelherault.  However in the meantime the Duke of Hamilton’s Cadzow herd remains the only such herd in Scotland.

Events at Chatelherault

Throughout the year, numerous events take place at Chatelherault Country Park including the annual Chatelherault Classic Automobile Rally in August.  All events are listed in the council What’s On page.  You can also download the Country Parks Events Diary from the council website.

Getting to Chatelherault

Get directions to Chatelherault

  • By car:  On the M74, take junction 6 towards Hamilton.  Chatelherault is well signposted from the roundabouts leading into Hamilton.
  • By bus:  There are bus stops on either side of Carlisle Road in Ferniegair, which drop you off just outside the entrance to Chatelherault.  The bus from to/from here takes a mere 5 minutes to/from Hamilton.  Buses run frequently from the centre of Glasgow to Hamilton.
  • By train:  Chatelherault train station is situated near to the entrance of the park.  This provides 2 trains from Glasgow (via Hamilton) per hour.
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