Lochranza Castle, Arran
LOCHRANZA CASTLE Location - OS map 69 (NR 933-507)
Isle of Arran. About 10 miles north and east of Brodick on the northern end of the isle of Arran on minor roads just north of the A841, on the south shore of Loch Ranza.
Lochranza was originally a hall-house built by either Alexander the High Steward (or his successors in the 13th century) or by a kinsman John of Menteith, created Lord of Arran and Knapdale around 1315. The hall-house was used as a hunting lodge by the Kings of Scots but from 1315 was a property of the Campbells who built the first castle. Robert the Steward, later Robert II, took these lands back in the 1360's giving compensation to the heiress of John of Menteith's grandson. In the 15th C the Lord of the Isles claimed Arran and encouraged the MacDonalds of Kintyre and the MacAlisters of SW Knapdale to raid the island. James II responded in 1452 by handing the castle and lands as a military holding to Alexander, Lord Montgomery. This failed to prevent the devastating raid by Donald Balloch in 1455. James IV used it as a base to attack the MacDonald Lords of the Isles. The castle was probably damaged during the many raids and invasions of the late 15th C and the early/mid 16th century, as it was eventually remodelled and a new wing added. In 1614 royal forces mustered here for an expedition against the rebel island chiefs. In the mid 17thcenturythe Montgomeries at Lochranza supported the Covenant and found themselves isolated among royalist families. No attack is recorded but there was consternation among the islanders when Alister "Colkitto" MacDonald ran amok on Arran in 1647. Cromwell garrisoned the castle in the 1650's. In 1705 on the foreclosure of a mortgage the property passed to Anne Duchess of Hamilton, but was abandoned by the end of the 18th century.
Lochranza is a ruined 16th century, L-plan tower house, much of it dates from the 14th century The present external details and internal layout are entirely of 1575-90 but it is clear that much survives of the shell of the original hall-house. The main block is of three storeys and an attic, while the wing is two storeys higher and was capped by a watch tower. A bartizan crowns one corner, and there is a machicolated projection, over the entrance, at parapet level.
The original entrance was in the east end wall and stairs from it rose in the NE corner. The later entrance is on the south side and leads to a turnpike stair which climbed to all floors, as did a smaller stair in the thickness of the walls. The basement of the main block was vaulted and contained the kitchen and a cellar, but the other parts are not vaulted. A small stair, in the thickness of the wall, climbed to the hall but has been sealed up. The hall had a raised dias.
SKIPNESS CASTLE Location - OS map 62 (NR 907-577)
Kintyre, east coast. About 7 miles south of Tarbert, on minor road east of the end of the B8001 at Skipness, just north of the sea at Skipness Bay.
The first castle was probably built by the MacSweens, around 1247. It was strengthened against the Vikings about 1262. It was held by the MacDonald Lords of the Isles until 1493, when they were forfeited. The castle was then granted to the Forresters, but in 1499 it was acquired by the Campbell Earl of Argyll. It was besieged unsuccessfully by Alistair "Colkitto" MacDonald in the 1640's but was abandoned at the end of the 17th century It was used as a farm steading with the demolishing of the original courtyard buildings. In 1898 the farm was removed and the ruins consolidated. There are the ruins of a chapel, dedicated to St Brendan, south east of the castle.
Skipness is a 13thcenturycastle of enclosure, consisting of a courtyard within a curtain wall. The well built curtain wall surrounds a later towerhouse and contained ranges of buildings. The curtain wall is pierced by a series of arrow slits to accommodate the use of longbow or crossbow. The main entrance was from the sea, and was defended by a gatetower, with a portcullis and machicolation. A further entrance was cut through the opposite wall in the 19th century. The 16thcenturytowerhouse rises to four storeys and a garret and incorporates the late 13thC keep or earlier hall-house. The parapet of the tower house has open rounds at three corners with a gabled caphouse at the other.
The basement is vaulted and has no access to the floors above. The first floor hall is reached by a stone external stair. A mural stair climbs to the second floor.
AIRDS CASTLE Location - OS map 68 (NR 802-383)
Kintyre, east coast. Just south of Carradale, on minor roads and on foot south of the B879 in Carradale, on a protruding rocky platform south of Carradale harbour in Port Righ Bay, by the sea at Airds. Currently adjacent to the 4th tee of the golf course.
Airds is a very ruined and overgrown castle of enclosure of the MacDonalds which was passed to Sir Adam Reid in 1498 by James IV, after the Lord of the Isles was forfeited.
Only the footings and lower courses of sections of walling remain visible. Airds was a castle of enclosure with walls up to 1.7 m thick. The walls followed the natural profile of the rock on which it stands. It formed a pentagonal courtyard some 67m long and 24m wide with an entrance at the west side. A natural or man made cutting provided the approach to the entrance. The courtyard appears as a natural overgrown depression on top of the rocky mound.
TORRISDALE Location - OS map 68 (NR 793-361)
Kintyre. About 2 miles south-west of Carradale on minor roads west of the B842, south of Torrisdale Water, at Torrisdale Castle.
Torrisdale Castle is a 19thcenturystructure of three main stages of building all of the 19th century A map of 1804 is said to show evidence of the site being used previously.
SADDELL Location - OS map 68 (NR 789-316)
Kintyre, east coast. About 8 miles north of Campbelltown on minor road east of the B842 south of Saddell, at the shore of Saddell bay, west of Kilbrannon Sound
The castle stands close to the ruins of, and on the lands of, Saddell Abbey, which was founded by Reginald the son of Somerled. Angus Og MacDonald is said to have sheltered Robert the Bruce here in 1306. The lands passed to David Hamilton, the Bishop of the Isles, in 1507. He built the present castle. It was held for the Bishops by the Mac Donalds but later passed to the Campbell Earl of Argyll. In 1559 the Earl of Sussex sacked the castle. At the end of the 17th C, after the building of the nearby Saddell House, the castle was used as servants quarters. The castle was restored in the 19thcenturyand was again re-roofed prior to WWII. The castle is in a good state of repair and is in the care of the Landmark Trust.
Saddell is an altered 15th century keep of four storeys and a garrett, with a range of 18thcenturyoutbuildings which replaced the original courtyard. It may incorporate older work from an earlier stronghold. The keep has a corbelled out parapet. There are open rounds at the corners. A semi-circular round with machicolations in the middle of the wall that contains the entrance, was probably designed to defend the entrance. The open rounds are carried on corbels larger than those of the parapet. The entrance is seen to be at ground level with the vaulted basement one level below. Examination of the opposite side of the structure shows that the ground level drops away to the beach by one storey suggesting that the ground on the entrance side of the tower has been raised. The position of the entrance is not directly below the defensive machicolations of the parapet semi-circular round as would be expected. The present entrance and its date stone showing the date 1508 look fresh and new. It may be new or have been repositioned.
The entrance opens into a lobby, which leads to the main turnpike stair to all floors. Just inside the entrance is the trap door to a pit-prison. The large vaulted basement is reached down a flight of stairs. It appears to lie below ground level at the inland side but is level with the beach on the other side. The basement contains two vaulted cellars, large corbels with carved human heads suggest that the vault has had a mezzanine floor. The hall on first floor, had one end screened off to contain the kitchen fireplace with its oven and an additional semi-mural chamber. The screening arrangement may have been altered to create a larger kitchen / dining area with the hall now reduced to withdrawing room or sitting room proportions. The upper floors contain private chambers.
Brodick Castle, Arran
BRODICK CASTLE Location - OS map 69 (NS 016-378)
On the Isle of Arran. About 2 miles north of Brodick on minor road west of the A841, on the north side of Brodick Bay, at Brodick Castle.
The Stewarts built the original castle. It was held by the English during the Wars of Independence. It was recaptured by the Scots in 1307. The castle was damaged by English ships in 1406 and by the Lord of the Isles in 1455. The first Hamilton Earl of Arran rebuilt the castle about 1510. It was damaged in a raid in 1528, and again in 1544 by the Earl of Lennox for Henry VIII of England. It was extended and remodelled by the Regent Arran in the 1550's but was captured by the Campbells in 1639 to be retaken by the Hamiltons. In the 1650's the castle was occupied by Cromwell's troops. Extensive additions were made in 1844 by James Gillespie Graham and in 1958 Brodick was taken over by the National Trust for Scotland. It houses fine collections of furniture, porcelain, pictures and silver. There are fine gardens and a country park.
Brodick was much altered in the 19th century It incorporates a 15th century keep the lower part of which may date from the 13th century The old part rises to three storeys and an attic within a corbelled-out crenellated parapet. There are two stair towers, one with the parapet continuing around it and the other crowned by a caphouse. An artillery battery was built in the 1650s.
The basement of the old part is vaulted, and contained the original kitchen. A small barrel vaulted room has been called Bruce's room and is made out as a prison cell. It is accessed through a vaulted corridor which has remnants of rib vaulting The tower has been much altered inside, but turnpike stairs still lead to the upper floors.
Kildonan Castle, Arran
KILDONAN CASTLE Location - OS map 69 (NS 037-210)
About 10 miles south of Brodick on south-east of the Isle of Arran on minor roads south of A841, north of the Sound of Pladda, in the garden of a house at Kildonan.
Kildonan was a property of the MacDonald Lord of the Isles, but in 1406 Robert III "granted parts of southern Arran including Kildonan and its castle" to his illegitimate son John Stewart of Ardgowan. Dean Munro refers to James Stewart holding Kildonan castle by inheritance from his father Ninian, Sheriff of Bute, but then in the same year he was dispossessed by the Hamiltons in retribution for an attack on Brodick in 1544. The tower and its outbuildings were probably burnt by the Earl of Sussex during his raids of 1588 as it is not heard of again. Legend has it that Robert the Bruce sheltered here while awaiting the start of his offensive against the English forces and others opposed to his Kingship. A fire beacon on the distant Carrick coast was to signal the opportunity for his landing there. A heath fire was mistakenly read as the signal, and the landing was undertaken. The campaign ultimately culminated in the Bruce success at Bannockburn in 1314.
Not much remains of the overgrown 13th century keep. It had a Vaulted basement with a loop at each end plus a doorway with a drawbar slot. The broken down east corner, beside the entrance, contained the spiral stair. The remaining walls of the hall above show it to have been vaulted with a pointed vault. The fireplace remains in the south west end and there, probably, were windows in the side walls. Little remains of the top storey other than a few large corbels. These have supported the beams for the top floor. The very large latrine outlet at the south corner shows evidence of both the hall and the top floors having had latrines. The tower stands by a cliff and had a tiny court between it and the hollow to the south. It may have been built on the site of an earlier stronghold.
THANKS TO OUR HOSTS
Details here are extracted from:
Nigel Tranter – The Fortified House in Scotland – Volume 3 – South-West & Volume V North & West Scotland
Martin Coventry – The Castles of Scotland - 2nd and 3rd Editions
Mike Salter - The Castles of Western and Northern Scotland