Amazing Castles in Argyll, Scotland by Vonda Sinclair, author of HIGHLANDER ENTANGLED.
My Scottish historical romance stories, set in the early 1600s, most often take place in castles where the hero is the laird and chief. I’ve found that exploring Scottish castles and other sites greatly enhances my stories and settings. I love being able to bring the reader into the time period and place so they can experience what it’s like to be one of the characters in historic Scotland…
5 Amazing Castles in Argyll, Scotland
My Scottish historical romance stories, set in the early 1600s, most often take place in castles where the hero is the laird and chief. I’ve found that exploring Scottish castles and other sites greatly enhances my stories and settings. I love being able to bring the reader into the time period and place so they can experience what it’s like to be one of the characters in historic Scotland.
I’ve visited castles in various parts of the country and Argyll has some of the most impressive. Plus, Argyll is a beautiful part of the Highlands, very green in summer with many deer and other wildlife. You don’t have to travel far to see the next castle.
Some of the castles in Argyll are elegant and nicely furnished, while others are crumbling ruins. I haven’t visited all of them, but here are five I absolutely loved visiting, exploring and/or photographing.
Inveraray Castle is one of the most elegant. It’s still the home of the Duke of Argyll and Chief of Clan Campbell, but it’s also open to the public. The gardens around it are stunningly beautiful. The original castle on this spot had been there since the 1400s. At the time, the village of Inveraray was a collection of cottages very close to the castle. The third duke had the old castle demolished and the village moved a short distance away. The current Inveraray Castle dates back to 1744. This castle isn’t a true castle in the traditional sense (used for defense), but a Georgian mansion house in a Gothic style. It took about 40 years to complete. After a fire in 1877, a third floor was added along with the conical roofs on the corner towers.
Kilchurn Castle sits in a beautiful location at the head of scenic Loch Awe. It was built by Sir Colin Campbell, 1st laird of Glenorchy between 1440 and 1460. Some say his wife oversaw the building of the original tower house while he was away at war. Since the tower house was so small, between 1475 and 1575, Sir Colin’s son, Sir Duncan Campbell, built a more spacious hall. In 1681 Sir John Campbell of Glenorchy was made the First Earl of Breadalbane and in the 1690s converted the castle into a barracks capable of housing up to 200 troops. When Kilchurn was built, it was on an island barely larger than itself. This information was discovered on a map from the 1500s. Later, the level of the loch was lowered making the island a bit larger. During the 1715 and 1745 Jacobite Rebellions the castle was a government garrison. The Campbell family had left the castle many years earlier and moved to their estate in Perthshire. In 1760, lightning damaged the castle and it was abandoned.
Dunstaffnage Castle sits on a rocky promontory where Loch Etive meets the Firth of Lorn in Argyll, not too far from Oban. The name Dunstaffnage comes from the Gaelic dun or ‘fort’ and two Norse words, stafr ‘staff’ and nes ‘promontory’. Staff may refer to an office-bearer or official. This castle guarded the approach from the sea to the Pass of Brander which leads to the heart of Scotland. Dunstaffnage was built around the year 1220, probably by Duncan MacDougall, grandson of the famous and powerful Somerled. The castle has a long and violent history. It served as a key locale during the 14th century Wars of Independence. Later it served as a stronghold of the Campbells, earls of Argyll. Dunstaffnage is one of the oldest stone castles in Scotland and it served as residence for lords for over five hundred years. It was only abandoned in 1810.
Castle Stalker (Caisteal an Stalcaire) is the only one of these castles featured here that I haven’t been inside. Tours are limited to a few days in summer. This castle is privately owned and has been restored. It sits in one of the most dramatic and beautiful settings in Scotland, on a small island (or islet) known as Cormant’s Rock in Loch Laich, just off Loch Linnhe in Port Appin, Argyll, Scotland. Castle Stalker as seen today is original from the 1400s. But before Castle Stalker, the MacDougall Clan, Lords of Lorn, held a small fort on the islet, which is great for defense, in the early 1300s. The MacDougalls lost this title because they were defeated by King Robert the Bruce at the Battle of the Pass of Brander in 1308. They regained the title and lands after 1328 and held it until around 1388 when the Lordship of Lorn passed to the Stewarts along with the site where Castle Stalker sits. Most sources state that Castle Stalker as seen today was built by Sir John Stewart, Lord of Lorn, in the 1440s. The castle was built by expert stone masons who constructed parts of the walls nine feet thick.
Duart Castle sits on Isle of Mull which is considered a part of Argyll. From the mid-1200s, a timber structure stood on the site. But experts believe a castle existed here long before then because it is such a strategic position on a high cliff on the end of a peninsula which juts into the Sound of Mull. The first stone keep or tower house was built by Lachlan Lubanach MacLean, the 5th Chief of the Macleans, in 1360. Duart comes from the Gaelic Dubh Ard, meaning ‘Black Point’. This location allowed the Macleans to control the Sound of Mull, which runs between Mull and the mainland of Scotland, and also the entrances to Loch Linne and Loch Etive and also part of the Firth of Lorn. This site would’ve been of vital importance during Viking and Norse invasions. Later, the Lord of the Isles ruled this area and the Macleans were supporters. There were eight castles on each side of the Sound of Mull which could communicate with one another via a beacon. Although they were originally allies, the Macleans had a long and bloody history of conflict with the Campbells. The Jacobite uprisings eventually led to the partial destruction of Duart Castle by the Campbells. The Maclean estates were forfeited. Part of the castle served as a government garrison until 1751 when it was finally abandoned and fell into ruin. In 1911, Colonel Sir Fitzroy Maclean, Bt.,KCB, Twenty-sixth Chief of Clan Maclean bought back the ruined Duart Castle and a portion of the peninsula. He hired the Scottish architect Sir John Burnet to restore the castle and make it a comfortable place to live.
I hope you enjoyed these brief visits to five important castles in Argyll. Please check out my website at www.vondasinclair.com for further information, photos and blog posts about Scottish castles.
If you would like a free ebook copy of my novella, My Captive Highlander, all you need to do is sign up for my newsletter by providing your email address. https://dl.bookfunnel.com/m9gd3h3pzn Then simply download the book in your preferred format.
My Captive Highlander takes place in Lochaber, the part of Scotland just north of Argyll, but Inveraray is mentioned at the beginning because the hero has just traveled from there on a galley before he is captured and held hostage.
By Vonda Sinclair
Lady Kristina MacQueen suffered devastating injuries at the hands of a ruthless Highland chief, Blackburn MacCromar. Two years later, he kidnaps her for a journey across the chilly, windblown Scottish Highlands to flush out her sister, Anna—the woman Blackburn forced to wed him. Red Holme, Blackburn’s second-in-command, is equally brutal and determined to possess Kristina.
A Highland warrior and future chief, Colin Cameron has no intention of becoming entangled in the whims of another highborn lady. However, upon witnessing Lady Kristina being held hostage by the enemy, a knife to her throat, he resolves to rescue her and bring her to safety. When Red Holme sees Colin Cameron, he recognizes his enemy from a decade earlier and craves revenge even more than he lusts for the lady. But he is determined to have both.
Colin is the most charismatic and heroic man Kristina has ever met, and he awakens her woman’s instincts. He might be her only chance to experience a brief moment of passion. Even so, she holds no illusions about marriage, for no worthy man will find her blindness and scars appealing, or see them as beneficial traits in a wife. But she can’t see how he looks at her. Though Colin has sworn to never fall in love again, he cannot defend his heart against the strong, spirited and lovely lass who is like none other he has ever met.
Excerpt from Highlander Entangled:
Kristina listened to the fearsome wind blowing outside the mouth of the cave, the pine limbs thrashing together, and the rain pouring down for a long while.
She wondered where Ralston was. Had he survived the battle? She hoped her sister was still safe inside the castle.
She snuggled down into Colin’s plaid, his enticing masculine scent surrounding her. ‘Twas both comforting and exciting.
The men’s voices rumbled quietly in conversation within the cave. They were discussing who would head toward the castle after the storm, scouting to see if the enemies were gone. If ’twas still unsafe, a couple of them would take first watch. Ethan would go in search of more food once the wind and rain ceased.
A chilly mist blew into the cave and she once again felt cold, despite the plaid. ‘Twas much cooler now than before the gale. Though it was October, it felt like winter.
After the winds quieted, some of the men exited the cave and all grew quiet. Footsteps moved toward her, leather boots against the packed earth, grit crunching.
“Are you still cold?” Colin’s voice murmured right beside her. He must be crouching close.
Good heavens, she could drown in his deep voice. “Not terribly.” But she couldn’t stop the shiver that coursed through her at that moment.
“Aye, you are. Lie down.”
His words surprised her, confused her, and she frowned. “Where?”
“Right where you are.”
“I’ll show you, if you but trust me.”
Strangely, she did trust him, though she’d only known him for a few hours. He had saved her life and seemed an honest, forthright man. When she lay back on the hard floor, he stretched out beside her and spread the plaid over them both, shocking her. She gasped. “What are you—?”
“I don’t mean any disrespect, but I have to get you warm now, lest you catch an ague. Turn toward me,” he murmured.
Good heavens. His words were both commanding and caring, which gave her a warm tingle. When she faced him, he drew her against the hard wall of his chest and tucked her head beneath his chin. Though she was stunned speechless for a moment, his body was deliciously warm. She couldn’t help but press herself tighter against him.
“Feels good,” she whispered, basking in his heat. “You’re like an oven.”
“Aye.” His deep voice now sounded gruffer. With his large hand on her back, he pulled her closer. “And you feel chilled to the bone.”
“I get cold easily.”
“I wish you had told me sooner.”
Their murmured conversation seemed profoundly intimate and comforting to her. “I didn’t want to bother you.”
“You’re not bothering me,” he chided. “In addition to the cold, the past few days have been very demanding for you. Being taken hostage. Not enough food. Being attacked by a madman.”
No man had ever held her like this and expressed concern for her well-being. His sentiments made the warm tenderness she felt toward him expand. He near overwhelmed her, both mentally and physically. She was amazed at how hard his body was. Her own was a mere soft feather in comparison. He felt like stone beneath her fingertips.
Colin blew out a breath. “What are you doing?”
Pausing, she realized she’d been stroking her fingers over the muscles of his back and exploring. “I was but…” She couldn’t say feeling of you. “‘Tis simply that you feel so hard, like a rock. I’ve never felt anything like it.”
He gave a brief, rough chuckle.
Her head lay on his muscular upper arm, and her nose was pressed against his chest. He smelled so manly in a very appealing way. ‘Twas all she could do to keep herself from humming out her enjoyment.
She drew in a deep breath through her nose for another whiff.
“What’s wrong? Your breathing sounds odd,” he said.
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Vonda Sinclair is the USA Today bestselling author of award-winning Scottish historical romance novels and novellas. Her favorite pastime is exploring Scotland and taking photos along the way. She especially loves ancient castle ruins! She also enjoys writing about hot Highland heroes, unconventional ladies and the healing power of love. Her series are the Highland Adventure Series and the Scottish Treasure Series. Her books have won the National Readers’ Choice Award, the CRW Award of Excellence, the Winter Rose Award of Excellence in Published Romantic Fiction–1st Place Historical, and an EPIC Award. She lives in the mountains of North Carolina where she is crafting another adventurous, wildly romantic Scottish story.
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