Duart Castle

Duart Castle, home of Sir Lachlan Maclean, Twenty-eighth Chief of the Clan Maclean, stands proudly on a clifftop guarding the Sound of Mull. The ruin of Duart Castle was purchased in 1911 by the current owner’s Great Grandfather, Colonel Sir Fitzroy Maclean. Not only did he spend a fortune restoring the castle to it’s former glory, he restored it as home of the clan, the seat of the Clan Maclean. Today Sir Lachan himself is often at home to welcome clansmen from all over the world.

The following is edited from The Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, 1980, Vol. 3, Mull, Tiree, Coll & Northern Argyll.

Duart Castle seems originally to have comprised a rectangular wall of enceinte enclosing a courtyard measuring 19.7m from NW to SE by 21.5m transversely. The entrance was situated in the SW curtain-wall, while one or more sides of the courtyard were probably occupied by lean-to buildings of stone or timber. Clear indications of date are lacking, but the structure appears to belong to a class of stronghold well represented on the western seaboard and attributable to the 13th century.

The NW extremity of the rock, which is somewhat lower than the remainder of the summit area, lay outside the main wall of enceinte. It is possible, however, that this portion of the site was enclosed to form a small ancilliary court containing a kitchen and other offices, together with the castle well, which alone survives. When it was decided to enlarge the castle towards the end of the 14th century, following its acquisition by the MacLeans, the NW portion of the rock was cleared of any buildings that might then have existed, and the site utilised for the erection of a substantial tower-house. The walls are very solid, those on the outer sides being heavily buttressed, while the inner (SE) wall was built directly against the outer face of the 13th century curtain-wall. The tower comprised a ground-floor cellar and three upper storeys, the first floor being occupied by a hall.

The erection of the tower-house presumably enabled much of the accommodation provided by the original courtyard-buildings to be abandoned or re-allocated, but the first major alteration in this part of the castle that can be traced today appears to have taken place about the middle of the 16th century, when the present SE range was constructed. This was of two main storeys, comprising a vaulted cellarage, a first-floor hall and perhaps a part-garret. At the same time the defences of the original entrance-gateway in the SW curtain-wall were strengthened by the erection of a gatehouse, and the SE section of the adjacent curtain and the S angle were rebuilt. It was probably at this period that the upper-works of the tower-house were remodelled. At this time too, the postern-doorway at the N corner of the castle seems to have gone out of use. Accordingly part of the rock platform directly outside the postern was enclosed to form a small apartment at ground-floor level, possibly a prison, with a gun-platform above. Further alterations were carried out towards the end of the 16th century, the NE range of courtyard buildings apparently being remodelled and equipped with a projecting stair-turret at the rear.

By the middle of the 17th century the NE courtyard-range appears to have been abandoned and perhaps dismantled, but in 1673 it was reconstructed to form a three storied building. Following the acquisition of the castle by the Campbell Earls of Argyll in 1674 a number of repairs were carried out, but although the building continued to be garrisoned from time to time it does not appear to have been put to regular use for residential purposes. The fabric soon deteriorated, and by 1748 the tower-house was roofless and derelict, while the roofs of the remaining buildings were no longer weatherproof.

When Colonel Sir Fitzroy Maclean purchased the castle in 1911 it had become completely ruinous, but during the following year it was partially reconstructed. The Scottish Architect, Sir John Burnet, was employed to restore the castle and on 24th August 1912 a great gathering of the clan took place to celebrate the completion.

The castle tea-room offers home baking and fabulous soup. Open from April – October.

Hire a kite, have a game of boule. Walk through Millenium Wood.

Tel: 01680 812309 Email: guide@duartcastle.com  Web: www.duartcastle.com

 

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