A Mighty Stronghold, Dunstaffnage Castle, Scotland


We had passed Dunstaffnage Castle many times on our trips to Oban, Scotland, but there never seemed enough time to visit, but one day in 2013, there was.  You can see the castle through the trees across the water from the main road, but it’s really only when you get closer, do you realise what a stronghold this castle was.





One of the oldest stone castles in Scotland, which was in use until 1810, with so much history within its strong powerful walls.  The castle has seen it’s share of violent history through nearly 800 hundred years.  Its stands on the the mouth of Loch Etrive where is mets the Firth of Lorn, with wonderful views from the ramparts, of both bodies of water.



The original castle was built about 1220, to guard the seaward approach to the Pass of Brander.  The massive stone walls built of local rubber and courses of large blocks were build upon a rocky outcrop.  The walls would have been coated with white lime render, so that none of the stone work would have been visible.   Around the castle was a ditch of at least eight metres wide and on the landside of the building, there were no openings apart from narrow arrow slits.


You enter the castle through this door way and make your way into the courtyard and now you have a real feeling of being in an almost intact castle.  I am not going to go into depth about the history of the castle, there are plenty of sites which will give you more than enough information.  I will just say, it was possibly started by Duncan MacDougall, who was the Grandson of Somerled ‘King of the Isles” a title he held until his death in 1164.  Duncan also built Ardchatten Priory, six miles east from the castle, which I have posted about.

Around 1250 three towers were added to the castle, the largest was the donjon, and was probably three storeys high and the upper levels would have been the Lord’s living apartments.  The west tower was most likely the same as the donjon although not as big, you can see what is left of tower in the photo below, where the wooden stairs are placed.






The gatehouse remodelled in the 1500’s.

The next family to make an impact on the castle were the Campbells, who became owners in 1470.  They made major changes to the gatehouse, and reconstructed the northwest range of building in 1500’s.  Another change was in 1767 when the old kitchen was rebuilt as a two story house.  The castle at this time had an air of decay about it and in 1810 the castle was devastated by a fire.


The new house built in 1767


DSC_0930 2

The castle well.

The castle was given into the care of the state in 1958, when the Duke of Argyll and the 21st Captain of the castle agreed that the castle was in need of saving.  The castle has been saved and is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon exploring its ancient walls and surrounding area.



Remains of the old coach house.







  1. Great photos, Lynne! I can’t think of a better word than massive for this place. Probably why it’s still around. It worked! 🙂 Interesting to see the ornamental bits. Don’t usually have any of that left. And great views, too! Do they make use of the gatehouse at all? I’m sure if they let you in we’d have pictures. 🙂

    1. Thank you Pat, it is a very interesting castle. The gatehouse is where the Castle’s Captain lived and could still do. There is a little display in the ticket office, but I missed it 🙂

      1. Looks like you’re going to have to go back, Historic Scotland says the gatehouse is now opened to visitors. 🙂

  2. Lovely photos, Lynne! Especially looking back through the great entrance door. What a magnificent place it is. I loved the views from the top. It would have looked truly spectacular (and daunting!) in its day. My favourite part of the world.

      1. The first time we went it was cold and damp and miserable, and in a way I think it suits some places better (that’s what you have to tell yourself, I think!) 🙂

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