Here we go then, the first in my monthly series for 2020, exploring some of my favourite castles. And we’re starting with a good one. Well, they’re all good, or I wouldn’t have included them, but this one really does have it all.
A great history? Check. Gorgeous setting? Check. Needs a ferry ride to get to it? Check!
Let me introduce you to Duart Castle, on the Isle of Mull.
Even before you get to the history of this one, let’s look at the aesthetics. As you sail from Oban to Craignure, Duart Castle nicely guards the route across the water, showing clearly the strength that the lords held when guarding your territory was of prime importance.
And as for those lords… Well. Although the castle was originally built by Clan MacDougall in the 13th century, it is most closely associated with the Clan MacLean, being their clan seat since the 14th century.
Although abandoned in the mid-1700s, in the early 1900s, the castle formed part of a purchase by the 26th chief of the Clan MacLean, and was restored to the glory it holds today, having been ruined for years. It’s open to the public, and it was always a highlight to see it during any crossing to Mull for me, whether I got to visit it or not.
But, onto those stories… My favourite by far is associated with Lady’s Rock, a small rock which is visible out in the middle of the channel from the top level of the castle. You can read the full tale here, but in essence… Terrible husband tries to drown wife by abandoning her on a rock which would be covered at high tide. Friendly fishermen rescue the Lady Catherine, and return her safely to her family. When husband offers to (sadly, of course) bring her coffin to her brother’s home, Inveraray Castle, Lady Catherine is sat quite happily at the head of the table. I’d love to tell you that a great battle ensued, but in truth, the husband was killed in his bed sometime later. Still, revenge is a dish best served cold…
Another rock-based story is that of The Swan, an English, Cromwellian ship, which attacked the Royalist castle during September 1653. She sank on the rocks beneath the castle, with her wreck being found in the 1970s. Again, sometimes when you visit, there are divers heading out to visit the wreck, and I’ve seen a couple of seals hanging around it in calm weather too.
I’ll be honest, I’ve often wondered what ghosts would be wandering Duart’s halls, but I’ve not let them distract me just yet!
On a pop culture note, this was also Sean Connery’s castle, in Entrapment.
Have you been to Duart? Can you guess which other castles are going to be making an appearance in my next eleven posts?
See you next month!