Scottish Castles Association

Preserving the Past for the Future

Ardencaple Castle (Dumbarton) - Past and Present

Ardencaple is situated about one mile from the seaside town of Helensburgh. Today all that remains is a solitary tower perched on the edge of a rocky plateau which overlooks the Firth of Clyde. The castle was demolished in 1957 apart from this tower, which owed its survival to its use as a coastal beacon.

ardencaple beacons plaque
Ardencaple Castle (present) LEFT: The remaining tower showing twin beacons
RIGHT: Clan MacAulay plaque above first window

Like so many Scottish castles Ardencaple was a multi-period site, each addition obscuring the previous until nothing of the original castle appeared to survive - but appearances can be deceptive, for hidden within its walls were those of a 16th century tower house.

The site is strong and there are suggestions that a castle stood there in the 13th century. The lands belonged to Clan MacAulay whose tower house is recorded in the 1580s.

ardencaple sea defensive
Ardencaple Castle (past) TOP: Side facing the sea
BOTTOM: On a high, rocky defensive site

In the 17th century the MacAulays were forced to sell the land and castle which became a roofless ruin until restored by the Duke of Argyll.

A housing scheme now encroaches upon the site but the clan connection is commemorated by a wall plaque.

Article by SCA member Brian McGarrigle.

Added: 31 Oct 2015 Updated: 24 Jan 2018
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