Written by: ML
Edited by: Grave Reviews Staff
Kilchurn Castle is an abandoned ruin on a rocky island and is considered the most photographed old castles in Scotland. It was built in the 1400s and was abandoned by the end of the 1700s.
Kilchurn Castle was built by Sir Colin Campbell around the year 1440 as the first lord of Glenorchy. It served as the 5-storey tower house of the Campbells for 150 years. Sir Colin was succeeded by his son, Duncan, who continued to add more structures. He was succeeded by John Campbell. In 1689, it was turned into a garrison stronghold. It contains the oldest surviving barracks on the British mainland that housed 200 troops. The addition to the area was a 3-storey L-shaped block on the north side. By 1715, it was used as a government garrison until 1745. Kilchurn Castle was used as an outpost for soldiers during the Jacobite rebellions.
Structure and Location
Kilchurn Castle was built as a 5-storey tower house with a courtyard surrounded by an outer wall for defense. On the ground level, there was a cellar and a prison. There was a hall on the first floor and private chambers in the higher floors. As the years go by, additional areas and spaces were added. More buildings were constructed as it evolved its purpose in the 1600s.
The location is actually perfect in terms of being a fortress. It is situated on a small rocky island in Loch Awe which is just slightly larger than the castle itself. In some stories, historians believe that it has an underwater access due to the water levels changing. Due to its very strategic location on a remote island, the Campbells of Glenorchy enjoyed a peaceful life in Kilchurn Castle with only one siege recorded during its glory days as a residence. At the front door, there is an inscription dated 1693 acknowledging John Earl Breadalbane and his wife, Countess Mary Campbell.
Reason for Abandonment and the Ruins Today
In 1740, the Campbells relocated to a different place. Kilchurn Castle was supposed to be sold to the government but had been unsuccessful. This was the reason why the castle was neglected. It slowly deteriorated and fell to ruins when a lightning struck the castle in 1769, destroying a huge part of the roof. For a time, it became a quarry for local builders. They took whatever they can from the ruins. What once was an island became connected to the mainland due to the lowering of the water levels. This started in 1817 when drainage works were done in Loch Awe.
Today, Kilchurn Castle is considered one of the most scenic ruins in Scotland and is now managed by the government under the care of Historic Environment Scotland. It has become a tourist attraction and opens to the public during summer around April to September. People can visit the castle by boat via the Loch Awe pier or on foot from the A85 road near Dalmally. However, visits are restricted when the water levels get high around the island.
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