Kilchurn Castle – Island Fortress

There has been a castle at Kilchurn for about 550 years, built on a small island in Loch Awe that is not much bigger than the castle itself. It was probably built by Sir Colin Campbell, first Lord of Glenorchy in about 1450, on the earlier site of a holding of McGregor of Glenstrae. Historically, the main approach to the castle from land has been from Dalmally to the east.

The original structure was a five storey tower house with a courtyard that was protected by an outer wall. As was common in those days, an additional range and a hall was added in1500 to the south side of the Kilchurn castle. More additions were made in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Sir John Campbell of Glenorchy who became the first Earl of Breadalbane in 1681 decided to fortify the castle for his personal ambitions in the prevalent political situation. Much of 1690s was spent in converting Kilchurn Castle into modern barracks that could house 200 troops. A three storey L-shaped block was added along the north side of the castle. As a result the castle looks very different from different angles, with the barracks in stark contrast to the medieval the tower on the south.

However, during the 1715 and 1745 Jacobite Rebellions the Castle became a Government garrison though it was still owned by the Campbells. In 1740, the Campbells moved to Taymouth Castle in eastern Scotland. Kilchurn was completely abandoned in 1760 when it was struck and damaged by lightning.

Though it stands on an island it has been always accessed by land. The level of Loch Awe was slightly lowered in 1817 for constructing a road by clearance of the outflow. This provided direct access by road to the Kilchurn castle.

Unfortunately, the Network Rail in 2003 locked the level crossing gates, including the old metal swing gate meant to allow free pedestrian access to the castle. Since then it has been possible to access the castle only in the summer by boat from Loch Awe. Recently the pedestrian swing gate near the rail tracks has been reopened to allow visitors to walk to Kilchurn castle.

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