Kilchurn Castle

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Kilchurn Castle, a ruined stronghold in Glenorchy parish, Argyllshire, on a rocky elevation, alternately peniusula and island, at the influx of the confluent Orchy and Strae to Loch Awe, 2 ½ miles W by N of Dalmally. Its site, once occupied by a stronghold of the Macgregors, passed first to Sir Duncan Campbell of Lochow, ancestor of the Dukes of Argyll, and next to his younger son, Sir Colin Campbell, a knight of Rhodes, who founded the noble family of Breadalbane. The five-storied keep was built by Sir Colin in 1440, or, according to an Odysseyan legend, by his lady, whilst he himself was absent on a crusade to Palestine. Crusade there was none for more than a hundred years earlier, so that one may take for what it is worth the further assertion that she levied a tax of seven years' rent upon her tenants to defray the cost of erection. Anyhow, the S side of the castle is assigned to the beginning of the 16th century; and the N side, the largest and the most elegant portion, was erected in 1615 by the first Earl of Breadalbane. The entire pile forms an oblong quadrangle, with one corner truncated, and each of the other towers flanked by round hanging turrets; was inhabited by the Breadalbane family till the year 1740; and five years later was garrisoned by Hanoverian troops. Now a roofless ruin, but carefully preserved from the erosions of time and weather, it ranks as the grandest of the baronial ruins of the Western Highlands, and figures most picturesquely amid the magnificent scenery of the foot of Loch Awe, immediately overhung by the stupendous masses of Ben Cruachan. Wordsworth, who passed by here on 31 Aug. 1803, addressed some noble lines to Kilchurn Castle, -

'Child of loud-throated War! the mountain stream
Roars in thy hearing; but thy hour of rest
Is come. and thou are silent in thy age..
. . . shade of departed power,
Skeleton of unfleshed humanity.,
The chronicle were welcome that should call
Into the compass of distinct regard
The toils and struggles of thy infant years!
Yon foaming flood seems motionless as ice;
Its dizzy turbulence eludes the eye.
Frozen by distance; so, majestic pile,
To the perception of this Age appear
Thy fierce beginnings, softened and subdued,
And quieted in character - the strife,
The pride. the fury uncontrollabie
Lost on the aerial heights of the Crusades!'

See pp. 138-142 of Dorothy Wordsworth's Tour in Scotland (1874); chap. ii. of Alex. Smith's Summer in Skye (1865); pp. 215-219 of P. G. Hamerton's Painter's Camp in the Highlands (1862); and pp. 38-41 of R. Buchanan's Hebrid Isles (1883).—Ord. Sur., sh. 45, 1876.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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