Castle Stalker

Castle Stalker was built as a 4 storey towerhouse, set on a tidal islet called Cormant's Rock within Loch Laich, itself an inlet of Loch Linnhe.  The name Stalker is said to come from the Gaelic Stalcaire, meaning either hunter or falconer.  The castle starred in the film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

It is stated as fact on Wikipedia that the original castle was a small fort built around 1320 by the Clan MacDougall, lords of Lorn.  As noted under Dunstaffnage, the MacDougalls were in exile at this time.  The real history of the castle probably begins around 1388 when the Stewarts acquired the lordship.  Probably the castle was built at this time or slightly later.  Certainly there was a John Stewart of Castle Stalker by 1463.  In that year he thought to legitimize his only son, an illegitimate child, by marrying the mother after his own wife had died.  As he was also captain of Dunstaffnage he sought to make his marriage vows at the chapel outside the castle.  However he was wounded outside the church by a party led by a MacDougall, Alan MacCoul, and although he survived long enough to marry he died the same day.  His son, Dougal, consequently became the first chief of Appin.  The Stewarts and MacLarens had their revenge on the MacDougalls at the battle of Stalc in 1468, where MacCoul was killed by Dougal himself.

Around 1620 Castle Stalker passed into the hands of the Campbells of Airds as the result of a drunken wager by the seventh chief, Duncan.  In 1689 the Stewarts of Appin briefly regained Stalker when they sided with King James VII (1633-1701) against King William III (1650-1702), but were defeated at the battle of Dunkeld.  The castle was besieged for several months in 1690, until the Stewart garrison surrendered.  Castle Stalker under the Campbells housed a garrison of 59 Government troops against the Jacobite Rising of 1745, while a regiment of 300 Stewarts of Appin, fighting for Prince Charles (1720-88), besieged the castle, but their 2lb cannon balls merely bounced off the walls.  Following the battle of Culloden in 1746, Stalker was used as a weapon surrender centre and briefly as a prison.  The last Campbell left Stalker in 1800 and from then till 1840 the castle was just a storehouse, until the roof either fell in or was removed to avoid taxes.  In 1965 Lt. Col. D.R. Stewart Allward acquired the castle and over the next ten years restored it.

Other than the tower there are few traces of fortification on the island although there is a rampart with elongated entrance to the west.  Access to the island has always been by small boat and from the landing place, a much damaged, roughly constructed staircase ascended to the ward or barmkin.  This, except on the north-west side, seems to have enclosed the tower.  Traces of a postern doorway adjacent to the
west corner of the tower are still visible.  Little of the curtain wall remains, but a 10' long section of foundations survive immediately south-west of the doorway.  There are also some scanty remains at the north corner of the tower.  This shows the wall was about 5' thick and 13' high.  A rock-cut pool just below the postern doorway appears to have constituted the only source of water for the castle other than rainwater off the roof of the tower.

The towerhouse is rectangular, measuring 48' north-east to south-west by 38' with walls 9' thick.  It consists of a basement, two upper storeys and a garret.  The ground floor entrance - possibly a later insertion - is situated near the centre of the south-east wall and has provision for two doors of which the inner, probably an iron yett, was secured by a drawbar.  This entrance is also protected by machicolations at parapet level above.  The ground floor comprises 3 cellars and a prison pit, all of which are barrel-vaulted.  In the north corner is a spiral stair, which rises to the full height of the building.

The principal entrance is in the north-east wall at first floor level, probably originally reached by a timbered stairway, but this arrangement was later replaced by a drawbridge which, in turn was replaced by the current stone steps.  The first and second floors each consist of a single large apartment, while above an enclosed parapet walk surrounds the garret chamber.

Why not join me at Castle Stalker and other Great Scottish Castles this Spring?  Information on tours at Scholarly Sojourns.


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