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Mull, Duart Castle

Castle (14th Century)

Site Name Mull, Duart Castle

Classification Castle (14th Century)

Canmore ID 22662

Site Number NM73NW 1

NGR NM 74893 35325

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
© Copyright and database right 2016.

Digital Images

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Administrative Areas

  • Council Argyll And Bute
  • Parish Torosay
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Argyll And Bute
  • Former County Argyll

Archaeology Notes

NM73NW 1.00 74893 35325

NM73NW 1.01 centred NM 74952 35261 Burial-ground

For nearby (associated) shipwreck (Swan: warship), see NM73NW 8005.

(NM 7487 3531) Duart Castle (NR) (restored)

OS 1:10,000, (1977)

Duart Castle, the residence of the present chief of the MacLeans, is as described.

Earthworks surveyed at 1:2500.

Visited by OS (RD) 17 May 1972.

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. This has walls of great solidity, 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.

No doubt the erection of the tower-house 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 storeyed 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. By the time it was re-acquired by the MacLeans in 1911 the castle had become completely ruinous, but during the following year it was restored and partially reconstructed. (A full architectural description of the castle is given.)

RCAHMS 1980, visited June 1972.

Architecture Notes

Mull, Duart Castle.

ARCHITECT: Sir J J Burnet - restoration c.1906.

Mull, Duart Castle.

National Library of Scotland: Board of Ordnance drawings: no. Z.3/28, Lewis Petit 1741 & 1748.

Mull, Duart and Aros Castle.

In the National Library of Scotland, vol 8, nos 24 and 25 of watercolour sketches by Thomas Brown, advocate, are a view of Duart Castle or house and view of Aros Castle or House. Ref: 'Adv. MSS 34-8.1-3'.


Aerial Photography (3 May 2007)


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