Kilchurn Castle, Highlands, Scotland

Now standing as a splendid ruin on a small peninsula along the marshy banks of Loch Awe, Kilchurn Castle represents 250 years of building, and a similar period of desertion. Originally built as a five storey Tower House, that still survives, largely intact, at the eastern end of the site, Kilchurn Castle was remodelled many times throughout its history.

Sir Colin Campbell of Glenorchy first erected the Tower House c1420 and, unlike many English castles where access was often at first floor level, Kilchurn Castle was entered from the ground floor. Directly above the vaulted entrance would have been the Great Hall, with two further storeys above providing the various accommodation requirements of the castle and, at the top, a garret leading onto a parapet walk. A curtain (Barmkin) wall would have enclosed the remainder of the site, the southern section of which still survives.

At the turn of the 16th century Kilchurn Castle was extended by Sir Duncan Campbell with the addition of a single storey dining hall built along the inside of the south curtain. During the second half of the century, another Sir Colin Campbell, the 6th Laird, continued to improve the castle's accommodation by adding some chambers to the north of the Tower House, and remodelling the parapet. This included the introduction of the circular corner turrets adorned by corbels, most of which have survived remarkably well.

Towards the end of the 16th century the MacGregors of Glenstrae were occupying the castle. Once owning the Lands of Glenorchy during the 14th century, until they passed through marriage to the Campbells, the MacGregors were appointed keepers to Kilchurn Castle as the Campbells spent much of their time at Fincharn. This arrangement lasted until the very early part of the 17th century, when a violent feud between the two families brought it to an end.

In 1616 Sir Duncan, the 7th Laird, built a second storey over the dining hall, and extended the eastern end adjoining it to the Tower House. This extension provided additional storage on the ground floor, with a chapel above. The final stage of building was c1693 when a range of barracks were constructed along the northern wall, and three round towers were added to the north, south and west corners of the curtain, only two of which still stand.

Unusually, Kilchurn Castle appears to have had a relatively trouble free history, apart from being briefly besieged when garrisoned by Sir John, 1st Earl of Breadalbane, whilst supporting the government against the Earl of Argyll's invasion of 1685. Garrisoned once more by government troops at the time of the 1715 and 1745 Jacobite uprisings, Kilchurn Castle had been virtually abandoned by the family, who had moved to Taymouth Castle in 1740. Struck by lightening in 1769, and losing its roof in 1770, Kilchurn Castle soon fell into a state of decay.


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