Castles of Scotland

To try and capture as many Scottish Castles that I can.

Balloch Castle Country Park, West Dunbartonshire, Scotland

Its not often that you get to see a castle being restored, but we did last year 2016.  We had a couple of hours to spare in and around Dumbarton in Scotland, before meeting family, so of course we went off to explore a little.  I had seen a sign for Balloch Castle Country Park, well there must be a castle, so we followed the sign post, and the road went on and on.  Husband started to get a bit twitchy as the road was eating into the little time that we had, and then suddenly there was the entrance.  Couldn’t see any castle from the car park, lots of parkland and beautiful shrubs, but there was no sign for a castle, so maybe there wasn’t one.  Husband went off down a path and I went down another, a shout from husband had me scurrying down his path.  There was the castle, not quite what I was expecting, but non the less quite interesting.

A little history…. The Castle designed by Robert Lugar in 1809 is listed category B, however it is a pioneer of its type and an important house of its date. There are also Stables and two lodges. The site of the 13th century castle is a scheduled ancient monument.

Balloch was for several hundred years the stronghold of the Lennox family. The remains of their old castle, a mound surrounded by a moat, are still to be seen in the south-west of the Park and are scheduled as an ancient monument. In 1390 the Lennoxes moved to the island of Inchmurrin for greater safety but Balloch remained in their ownership until 1652 when the 4th Duke of Lennox sold it to Sir John Colquhoun of Luss. In 1800 the estate was acquired by John Buchanan of Ardoch who commissioned the architect Robert Lugar to build the new Gothic-style castle on the present site. John Buchanan started the laying out of the present landscape, planting unusual trees and shrubs, and his work was continued from 1830 by the next owner, Gibson Stott. Between 1845-1851, the estate was sold again, to Mr A.J. Dennistoun Brown who died in 1890. Glasgow City Corporation bought the 815 acre estate from his Trustees in 1915 in order to improve opportunities for visitors. In 1975, the Park was leased to Dunbarton District Council for a period of thirty years at a nominal rent and in 1980 it was registered as a Country Park

I think a return visit is required, one, to see how the restoration is coming along, two, to see the ancient castle remains and three, to explore the wonderful parkland. 

 

Kilchurn Castle, Loch Awe, Scotland

In 2016, I ticked a castle off my wish list, Kilchurn Castle, one of the iconic castles of Scotland.  We have passed by so many times, and each year I wanted to visit, but I wanted a nice sunny day.  Well I got the sunny day in 2016, we parked in the small car park and then walked to the castle.

The closer we go to the castle, the bigger my smile got, finally I was going to explore one of my favourite castles.  We walked up to the door…….it was locked, we tried again, and still it remained firmly locked……no it was suppose to be open, more people turned up, a discussion follow, but still it stayed well and truly locked.  I did find a window to hold the camera up to, to get a shot of inside, as there wasn’t really any other way of seeing the interior, I got a little glimpse, which will have to do until we go back.

 

 

A little history ………Kilchurn Castle is a ruined structure on a rocky peninsula at the northeastern end of Loch Awe, in Argyll and Bute, Scotland. It was first constructed as a five storey tower house with a courtyard in the mid-15th century as the base of the Campbells of Glenorchy, who extended both the castle and their territory in the area over the next 150 years.

By the 17th century, it was a military barracks and in 1760 it was damaged by fire and abandoned. Kilchurn fell out of use and was in ruins by 1770. It is now in the care of Historic Environment Scotland.

After exploring in the sunshine, we made our way back to the car, a little disappointed, but it was still a good visit.  The following photos show you how most people first see the castle from the road, the second is a close up of the same photo, but I have changed it to b&w.

Duntulm Castle, Skye, Scotland

Duntulm Castle with spectacular views of the Outer Hebrides, you can understand the reason they built it there, and no, not just for the view, although I would have done.  The castle, with sheer cliffs on three sides, stands ruined on the north coast of Trotternish, on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, near the hamlet of Duntulm.  We were on our round the ‘Island Road Trip’, a week ago on holiday and I suddenly noticed the ruins, not sure how I missed them in pervious years…..most probably busy looking at the view.  We didn’t have time to stop, as we had a ferry to catch and we still had a long way to go, so the photos were taken out of the car window….. again.

 

A little history…..Duntulm is believed to have been first fortified in the Iron Age, and the site continues to be associated with the name Dùn Dhaibhidh or “David’s Fort”.  Later in life it was fortified by the Norse, and subsequently by their successors, the MacLeods of Skye. It would have been while it was under the MacLeod’s tenure that James V visited the castle in 1540, where he was impressed by its strength and the quality of the hospitality on offer.  In the 17th century it was the seat of the chiefs of Clan MacDonald of Sleat.  The MacDonalds abandoned the castle in about 1730 in favour of nearby Monkstadt House and then Armadale Castle in Sleat.  We did visit Armadale Castle, which has a lovely garden, and I will post about it later.  

 A little haunting for you…. a nursemaid accidentally dropped the baby son of the clan chief from a castle window above the cliffs.  The ghost of the nursemaid, killed in retribution, is still said to wander the ruins. She is apparently kept company by the ghost of Hugh MacDonald, who plotted against the rightful clan chief in the 1600s, and who was starved to death in the dungeon at Duntulm.   

There were quite substantial ruins left in the 1880, a large keep several stories high, which would have looked quite impressive on the cliff top.  But, as with many of theses castle ruins, the stone work was removed for building projects and other parts eroded away, or just fell into the sea.  

May 2017

 

The Royal Castle of Tarbert, Argyll, Scotland

We finally made the climb up to Tarbert Castle, on our visit of May 2016, and it was worth the effort in the hot sunshine.  The views were beautiful, but there isn’t that much left of the castle, and really what you can see is a remains of a Tower House or Keep, built in 1494 by James IV, and I have taken photos of  the notice boards which will tell you about it.  As you walk up to the Tower House or Keep, you walk through the inner and outer baileys, which are just humps in the ground now, and all that is left of the ancient 1292 castle.  When the castle fell into disrepair in 1760, most of the stone disappeared down the hill to the village, and I’m guessing that a lot of those village cottages have Royal Castle walls.  But what I really remember most about the visit, apart from the fantastic views, were the hundreds of bluebells just covering the hillside, really beautiful.  We then had to rush down the hill to catch our ferry to Islay, as we had lingered far too long in the sunshine.

 

Dumbarton Castle, Dumbarton, West of Glasgow, Scotland

Last year May 2016, we stayed over night at Dumbarton in Scotland, on our way back from staying on the Islands of Jura and Islay, two Inner Hebridean Islands off the west coast of Scotland.  Dumbarton, is really just somewhere we pass through on our way to the West Coast, but it does have a castle and we were meeting up with some of our family for the night, at a hotel, so it was a chance to see the castle.  The only snag was……. I had to get up early to visit, well we both did, that was husbands condition for having a look.  So these photos were taken at 7.00 am ….thank goodness it wasn’t raining or foggy.  I had ten minutes to run from the car park, take photos and run back…….we had a long way to drive home.

I had always thought the castle was on an island, seen from the other side of the Clyde, it looks like it could be, but it sits on Dumbarton Rock, a plug of volcano basalt.  Of course it was closed at that time of the morning and also lots of scaffolding, which is always a good sign of maintenance work being carried out.

There is very little remaining of the castle, but there is enough to fire your imagination, from just the location.

A little history ……..This rock was home to a settlement called Alcluith (meaning ‘Clyde Rock’), whose first records appear as early as 450AD. There was likely a simple fortress as part of this settlement, “Dun Breatann” meaning ‘Fortress of the Britons’.

 

Over the next several hundred years, Dumbarton Rock was besieged, fell, was regained and fell again before the settlement was destroyed by Viking raiders.

The second stage begins in the 13th century, when documentation suggests that a medieval castle was built on the the summit by Alexander II of Scotland.

Only the Portcullis Arch (built in the 1300’s) and the Guard House (built in the latter half of the 16th century) remain today.

The third stage of the castles’ development took place between the late 17th and late 18th centuries.  What was left of the existing castle structures were destroyed, and yet another castle was built on this lofty perch.

Artillery fortifications and the ‘French Prison’ are all that’s left today, with very little of the medieval castle (and none of the earlier one) still standing.  

We will return, because the views from the top, on a clear day, must be amazing……thats if I can climb the 547 steps to the remains of the White Tower Crag.   

 

Inverness Castle, Scotland

We visited Inverness, which is on the east coast of Scotland, just before Christmas 2016, and again at the start of  March 2017, unfortunately on each trip, we were unable to stop in the centre of the city….. we had run out of time on both occasion.  I could only managed to get a few photos from the car window.  Also the visits were late in the afternoon and the light was fading.  To top it all, the castle had scaffolding around one of the towers, but then I noticed, very small people looking out over the city.  I want to keep a record of the scaffolding, as we will be visiting again, and although the castle is not open, the castle grounds and gardens are.  I would like to go back in the sunshine and take some more photos.  Inverness is growing at a great rate of knots and soon will become another large Scottish city.  So I would like to try to collect some little bits of Inverness, before they all vanish.

A little history ………The sandstone Inverness Castle, was built in 1836 to plans drawn by architect William Burn.  It was constructed on a mound overlooking the city and the River Ness.  In 1848, a building known as the North Block was added and served as a prison.  But a castle had occupied the site from possibly as far back as the 11th Century.  Over the centuries, the fortification fell under the control of the forces of Edward I, Robert the Bruce and James I, II and IV.  In 1562, it was attacked and damaged by soldiers loyal to Mary, Queen of Scots, before it was almost destroyed by Royalist troops in the 1600s.
Bonnie Prince Charlie’s forces blew the castle up in 1746 to prevent it from falling into the hands of government troops.  It was said that a French sergeant, who had brought his poodle with him to Scotland, set off the explosives.  The soldier was caught in the blast, and his body was blown across to the opposite side of the River Ness, his dog survived.  Today the castle houses Inverness Sheriff Court. The Drum Tower houses an exhibition of castle history and is open daily in the summer season. The castle itself is not open to the public.