Any train passengers traveling through Scotland from Johnstone to the coast or drivers on the A737 passing by the Howwood/Lochwinnoch area can’t fail to notice the stark, roofless ruin crowning Kenmure Hill.
Little is known about “The Temple.” Local folklore states the octagonal structure was a place of worship for the landowner’s servants or his foreign wife. Other tales claim it was a nursery for a sick child, or a watch tower for ladies to attend to their embroidery while the men hunted below on horseback.
Records show the building was constructed around 1760 for Colonel William McDowell, a wealthy merchant who made his money in the West Indies. Originally, there were avenues of trees on the hill, which was a common feature for summer houses of that era. The inspiration for this may have come from James Gibbs’s 1728 A Book of Architecture, Containing Designs of Buildings and Ornaments, a kind of scrapbook for building ideas.
The very fact so much mystery surrounds the reason it was built also alludes to the idea it may actually have been a Masonic temple. Freemasonry was practiced widely around here, and still is to this day.
In 1830, a lightning strike and subsequent fire damaged the roof. The building is in remarkably good condition despite this, and is a testament to the quality of its construction.