Duart Castle (Scotland)

Argyll and Bute     See list of castles in Scozia

Perched on a rocky outcrop at the end of a peninsula near the eastern corner of Mull, it stands guard over one of the most important marine crossroads in western Scotland.

From here ships can go to the north-west the Sound of Mull, to the southwest along the Firth of Lorne, to the northeast past Lismore in Loch Linnhe, or east to Oban. But whichever way they go, they do so under the watchful eye and under the guns of Duart Castle.

This superb location naturally defensible was probably fortified since ancient times, and it would certainly be a very convenient place to hold during the Viking raids of the 800s. But the first stone walls to appear here did so in the mid-1200s, when Duart was part of lands owned by the Mackinnon Clan. At that time the castle here included a curtain wall around the top of the rocky outcrop on which the castle is now located.

The Clan Maclean first became associated with Duart in about 1367. That was the year he was granted a papal dispensation to allow the head of the clan, Lubanach Lachlan Maclean, married to Mary MacDonald, the daughter of the Lord of the Isles. Maria's father was less keen on the marriage of Mary herself, but agreed after Lachlan had abducted her. As dowry, Lachlan was given much of the land of Mull previously held by Mackinnons, including Duart.

Around 1390, Lachlan had considerably added the defenses of Duart Castle. In particular, it built the large keep to the north-east of the castle. This was added outside the space previously occupied by the curtain, which thus came to form the basis for the internal wall of the formwork. As well as to expand the space available, this has had the advantage of enclosing the castle well.

Further additions were made to the castle, in the form of new lines in 1500 and 1600, leaving the castle in the general form in which it is today: an empty square, surrounded on three sides by ranges of buildings (one of which is to maintain) , and the fourth from the wall where the narrow main gate is located.

Externally, the land side of the castle was defended by a ditch dug in the rock and exceptionally thick walls. The northeast and northwest sides of the castle were made naturally impregnable by the steep sides of the rocky outcrop on which it was built.

Meanwhile, the Macleans of Duart experienced some extremely busy lives. Hector Odhar, the ninth head of the Maclean clan died along with James IV of Scotland in 1513 at the Battle of Flodden misjudged. The 11th chief has made his mark in history less auspiciously. In about 1520, Lachlan Cattanach took as his second wife Catherine, the sister of the head of the clan Campbell, the Earl of Argyll. But she failed to produce an heir for him, and Lachlan had his stranded on what is now known as Lady Rock, in view of the castle, waiting for the tide, he knew it would cover and suffocate her.

Catherine had disappeared by the following and Lachlan sadly reported his death in the morning to his brother, the Earl of Argyll. When Lachlan subsequently accepted an invitation to a banquet by the Earl of Argyll in his castle in Inveraray she found Catherine sitting next to his brother at the top table. He was saved by a passing fisherman. Nothing was said, and Lachlan was allowed to leave unharmed. E 'was found dead in Edinburgh November 10, 1523, apparently stabbed by another revenge of the brothers Caterina Sir John Campbell of Cawdor.

The head 13, Lachlan Mor was a man even less pleasant. He is best remembered for the raid on the celebrations after the wedding of his widowed mother, killing 18 of the wedding guests, and imprisoning and torturing his new stepfather.

1600 has seen a steady decline in the fortunes of Maclean of Duart. The castle was briefly taken by James VI in 1604, after discovering that the clan had secretly conspired with Queen Elizabeth of England before his death. Then Maclean supported the royalist cause loss during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, which has left them mortgaged to the hilt and lose most of their lands for Campbell. However, they clung to Duart until 1689, when their support for the ill-fated first Jacobite uprising led to their remaining property be canceled.

Fast forward 222 years to 1911. Now the very ruinous Duart Castle was owned by the second Laird Torosay, Murray Guthrie. He sold the fall and part of the peninsula on which is located in Sir Fitzroy Maclean, 26th Chief of the Clan Maclean (not to be confused with the later of Fitzroy Maclean, war hero and politician). Sir Fitzroy then engaged the architect Sir John Burnet and spent a fortune restoring Duart Castle for the glory that you see today. Meanwhile, the home of the Lairds Torosay, which until 1911 had been to know how Duart House, Castle Torosay was renamed to avoid confusion. The August 24, 1912 large gathering of the clan Maclean took place at Duart Castle to celebrate its restoration.

Today the Duart Castle has lost none of the greatness of the past. It also keeps a number of guns as a reminder of that age, though his unfailing presence is now seen as a landmark and not a threat passing seamen. Inside, the castle serves as a home to 28 head of the clan and his family, as well as the ancestral home of the Clan Maclean, anywhere in the world, its members widely scattered now actually live.

From the visitor's point of view a visit to Duart Castle is an essential part of any visit to Mull. Much of the castle is open to the public, including the wall walk around the top of the tower, which offers a magnificent view. And an old barn has been elegantly converted into a tea shop and lounge.

Visitors can reach the Duart Castle by car, or by their own bus service of the castle from the ferry terminal at Craignure, or in direct boat from Oban: details are on the web site of the castle. Duart Castle is to ensure that this small corner of Mull has more to offer visitors than anywhere else on the island or the surrounding area, except, perhaps, Tobermory and Iona.

Images of the castle

Castles in Scotland

Dunure Castle


Midhope Castle

West Lothian

Dunnottar Castle


Balmoral Castle


Duart Castle

Argyll and Bute

Useful infos

Latitude: 56.4561763
Longitude: -5.6551997
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See the images

Map of Duart Castle