Kilchurn is another fifteenth century 'castle', set on a small rocky outcrop at the north-east end of Loch Awe.  The fortress controls an important routeway, additionally defended by several older castles along the loch shore: viz Innis Chonnell (NM 976119) towards the south end of the loch and Fincharn (NM 898043) right towards the southern end.  The site may have begun life as a prehistoric fort as excavations in the 1970s found traces of a building north-west of the keep which was demolished before the 1690s building work.  Fire reddened vitrified masonry reused in the keep basement also suggested that there was an earlier structure here, possibly a vitrified fort, or a burned earlier castle.

Traditionally Kilchurn began life as a tower house built in the mid fifteenth century by Sir Colin Campbell of Glenorchy (d.1475).  Then in the last years of the seventeenth century Earl John of Breadalbane added the corner towers with ranges of barracks between them.  The castle was abandoned after being struck by lightning in the 1760s.  By 1770 the castle was unroofed and deteriorated rapidly, although it was extensively consolidated after 1887.

The castle stands on a low peninsula, bounded on the landward side by an artificial ditch about 15' wide, but now only 2' deep.  When completed this would have made the peninsula into an island.  The first masonry work on the site was the tower house in the east corner.  This is of five storeys, the lowest of which is a vaulted cellar, with a prison on its south-east side.  The main apartment was the first floor hall.  Separate staircases to the upper floors are within the angles of the walls, while a rustic one leads up from the basement. 

West of the tower was a small courtyard surrounded by buildings and a curtain wall with round towers at the vulnerable apexes, the west tower of which is almost gone, the other two being reasonably well preserved.  Within this bailey was the 'laich hall', built by Sir Duncan Campbell (1475-1513).  This probably stood against the inner face of the south curtain, where the foundations of a substantial stone building can still be made out.  Sir Colin Campbell (1550-83) reconstructed the upper storey of the tower-house, and built the 'north chalmeris' which stood on the north-west side of the courtyard and was swept away by the building of the barracks.

In 1614 the laich hall with a kitchen which was probably in the south corner of the ward, was rebuilt and raised to a height of 2 storeys.  The laich hall and tower were repaired in 1643 and, between about 1690 and 1698, much of the castle was remodelled and enlarged.  This work included the three round towers and the barrack blocks and one of the firesplaces carries the date 1693 and the initials E.I.B and C.MC.

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


Copyright©2019 Paul Martin Remfry