Friday, June 18, 2010

Dunstaffnage Castle

Dunstaffnage Castle stands at the point where Loch Etive and the Firth of Lorn meet.

Dunstaffnage, the chief seat of Clan MacDougall, guarded the seaward approach from the firth via Loch Etire and the Pass of Brander into the heart of Scotland. When it was built around 1220, Argyll lay on the frontier between the kingdoms of Scotland and Norway. Neither king directly controlled the region. The sons of Somerled, 'King of the Isles', a man of mixed Gaelic and Norse parentage, took over their father's patrimony upon his death in 1164. The eldest, Dubhgall (Dougall), claimed his father's power base of Lorn, ruling over most of Argyll as well as the islands of Mull, Lismore, Kerrera, Scarba, Jura, Coll and Tiree. His son, Duncan MacDougall, Somerland's grandson, built Dunstaffnage Castle.

Sir Duncan MacDougall was a powerful lord with large forces and fleets at his disposal. He moved easily between the two realms competing for his loyalty.

The curtain wall of Dunstaffnage Castle rises up from an immense rock on which it sits. It is over 11 feet thick and almost entirely featureless. The two projecting round towers and gatehouse entrance were not part of the original.

Duncan's son, Ewan, inherited the lordship of Lorn in the 1240s. He became 'king' over all of the isles from Man to Lewis, then transferred his allegiance to Alexander III of Scotland. Ewen was succeeded by his son Alexander. His allegiance was with the English against Robert Bruce. In 1309, the forces of MacDougall and Bruce met on the battlefield. Bruce won, and the MacDougalls' defeat marked the end of their hold on power. The stronghold of the son of Somerled was now the property of the King of Scots. 

The castle was turned over to the Campbells in 1470. They added a gate entrance along with the gate tower for additional protection.

In 1745, Flora MacDonald was held prisoner in the prison tower after she helped Prince Charlie escape dressed as her maid.


  1. thank you for sharing.
    I wish I'd had time to see this castle. I'm crazy about anything to do with the Campbells. Kilchurn castle and Cawdor Castle were on my list. I did get to go to Cawdor but missed Kilchurn. Maybe next time.
    Teresa R.

  2. Great history here. This castle is awesome. I agree with Teresa on Cawdor Castle. We spent an afternoon there and so fell in love with the gardens.

  3. Fantastic post. Your blog always warms my heart. I think in a past life I lived in Scotland and you're triggering some latent memories.

  4. Thanks everyone for the feedback. I think Scotland warms many a heart.

  5. Hi Victoria,

    I visited this castle and got very eerie vibes from it. So much so that I won't ever go back and I'm not a vibe person. I wonder what it was. Of course the flock of ravens in the trees around it and the skull on the outbuilding didn't help :-)

    Teresa, I love Kilchurn Castle. Defintely need to visit it next time you go. But then again I love the really old. My favorite is Doune :-)