Accessibility

Font Size

100% 150% 200%

Background Colour

Default Contrast
Close Reset

Carnassarie Castle

Tower House (Medieval)

Site Name Carnassarie Castle

Classification Tower House (Medieval)

Alternative Name(s) Carnasserie Castle, Carnassery Castle

Canmore ID 22835

Site Number NM80SW 2

NGR NM 83908 00848

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/22835

Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2018.

Digital Images

Administrative Areas

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

Archaeology Notes

NM80SW 2 83908 00848.

(NM 8390 0086) Carnasserie Castle (NR) (In Ruins)

OS 6" map, Argyllshire, 2nd ed., (1900)

Carnasserie Castle, though apparently an early square keep with a hall-house attached to the W was in fact built all at the one time, in the 1560s by John Carswell, first protestant Bishop of the Isles, on the site of an older castle. The 5' - 6' thick walls of the roofless keep, provided with small gun-ports, rise 5 storeys high, with the wing one storey lower. A courtyard extended to the W and S, the walls and outbuildings of which have almost entirely disappeared, only a small portion of the wall next the SW angle of the house, and a gateway, dated 1681, remaining.

N Tranter 1962-70; D MacGibbon and T Ross 1887-92; DoE TS, undated

The remains of Carnasserie Castle are generally as described. Name confirmed.

Visited by OS (RD) 12 October 1971.

NM 8390 0084 Excavations were undertaken in January 1998. The castle is a late 16th-century tower house with contemporary wing, situated above the main road from Oban to Lochgilphead, and was built by John Carsewell, first Protestant Bishop of the Isles.

The excavations were designed to allow drainage work to be carried out in the first-floor chamber at the E end of the castle. Two small trenches were excavated by hand at the N end of this room, in order to characterise the deposits therein, which appeared to be contemporary with the building of the castle. A small trench was excavated outside the castle, against the wall, at the base of a latrine shaft leading from an alcove off the first-floor chamber. The trench contained the construction trench for the castle wall or the cut for a drain.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

D Murray 1998

NM 839 008 Site included in a field survey carried out by GUARD in 2003.

H F James, 2003 (RCAHMS MS 2371, no. 22)

Architecture Notes

This site has only been partially upgraded for SCRAN. For full details, please consult the Architecture Catalogues for Argyll and Bute District.

March 1998

Activities

Publication Account (1985)

This impressive tower-house rises from a ridge that dominates the upper part of the Kilmartin Valley. The tower was built on the site of an earlier castle, and there may even be the remains of a small dun on the now grass-covered knoll immediately to the north-east. One of the latest of the tower-houses, it was built by a famous churchman John Carswelli he was superintendent of Argyll and the Isles in the Reformed Church from 1562 and was granted the bishopric of the Isles in 1567. Carswell was an influential figure in spreading the ideals of the Reformed religion in Argyll in the middle of the 16th century, and he published a Gaelic translation of the Book of Common Order or Knox's Liturgy in 1567i the first book to be printed in Gaelic, it contained the doctrines of the Presbyterian faith. The castle was built in the later 1560s under the patronage of the Earl of Argyll. The main hall was in the western wing of the castle, above the kitchen and storerooms, and the withdrawing room was on the same level on the first floor of the tower. This en suite arrangement is of some importance as it is thought to be transitional between castles and later mansionhouses, with the various rooms laid out in a horizontal rather than a vertical manner as in a traditional towerhouse. The main part of the tower is on five storeys with basal cellaragei the first-floor withdrawing room has a magnificent fireplace with finely carved surround and similar crisp detail round the doorways. The upper floors do not survive, but it is worth climbing to the upper parapet because there is a superb view down the valley. Only the shell of the western portion of the castle survives, but attractive outer string-mouldings still remain, as well as a rich provision of gun-loops and shot-holes.

The inscribed panel above the doorway reads in Gaelic Dia le ua nduibhne translated as 'God be with o Duibhne'; O Duibhne is one of the styles of the chief of the Campbells, though one that was not current in the 1560s, and its use here suggests a conscious antiquarianism on Carswell's part. The heraldic panel is a combination of those of Campbell of Argyll and the royal arms of Scotland, probably indicating the marriage of Archibald 5th Earl of Argyll and Jean, a daughter of James V; the panel thus underlines Carswell's allegiance to the earl.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: Argyll and the Western Isles’, (1985).

Excavation (14 January 1998 - 16 January 1998)

Kirkdale Archaeology were asked to undertake two small excavations at Carnasserie castle to assist Historic Scotland in remedial work at this site. The castle is a late sixteenth-century tower house with contemporary wing, situated above the main road from Oban to Lochgilphead built by John Carsewell, first protestant bishop of the Isles.

The excavations were designed to allow drainage work to be carried out in the first floor chamber at the E end of the castle. Two small trenches were excavated by hand at the N end of this room, in order to characterise the deposits therein. A small trench was excavated outside the castle, against the wall, at the base of a latrine shaft that leads from an alcove off the first floor chamber.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

D Murray 1998

Kirkdale Archaeology

Watching Brief (11 May 1998)

Kirkdale Archaeology maintained a watching brief during the excavation of a track for a drain running from the base of the latrine shaft on the S side of this sixteenth century tower house (NM 839 008), on the 11/5/98. This led to a soakaway which was excavated by the hedge at the Southern limit of the site, a total distance of some 15 m. The drain itself averaged 30 cm wide, and was 25-30 cm deep, while the soakaway was 110 cm E-W, by 80 cm N-S, and 40 cm deep.

All excavated deposits appeared to be disturbed, with fragments of ceramic drainpipe being noted throughout, and a plastic water pipe was encountered running across the trench, evidently heading for the SE corner of the castle. The whole trench was dug through a fine, light brown silt, with much stone (mostly schist/slate, with some larger rounded stones) throughout. Stonier patches were noted, but no structure could be seen to these. No finds were retained

Kirkdale Archaeology, 1998

Watching Brief (19 March 2014)

A watching brief was maintained during the removal of an old information board and the installation of a new one. The site of the present sign lay within an eroded, crudely walled enclosure on the summit of a natural,

rocky, grass covered area of high ground to the SE of the castle. The hole left after removal of the sign footing plates measured 1m x 0.6m (N/S x E/W) and was up to 0.15m deep. The work necessitated the

removal of only turf and topsoil. There were no finds or features of archaeological significance.

Information from Gordon Ewart (Kirkdale Archaeology) May 2014.

OASIS ID: kirkdale1-196089

Geophysical Survey (1 March 2017 - 5 March 2017)

NM 83908 00848 (NM80SW 2) A programme of geophysical survey was undertaken, 1–5 March 2017, over available areas of Carnasserie Castle. This tower-house was built by John Carswell. As the bishop of the Isles, he was an influential figure in spreading the ideals of the Reformed religion in

Argyll in the middle of the 16th century, and published a Gaelic translation of the Book of Common Order or Knox’s Liturgy in 1567, the first book to be printed in Gaelic. The tower was built on the site of an earlier castle, and there may be the remains of a small dun on the grassy knoll immediately to the NE of the tower-house.

The survey area lies within the PIC boundary and forms part of a wider investigation (see below). Unfortunately, significant areas were not suitable for survey due to steep slopes in the E and extremely rough terrain in the W. The area investigated covered c0.5ha. Gradiometer survey at 0.25m by 1m intervals and resistance survey was at 0.5m by 0.5m intervals were carried out over all suitable areas. Three areas, covering a total area of c0.25ha, were targeted with ground penetrating radar (GPR).

The gradiometer data was dominated by an igneous intrusion running through the centre of the survey area. The resistance and GPR results suggest possible remnants of potential structural remains immediately to the S of the castle. However, given modern consolidation of the site, a more recent origin cannot be dismissed. GPR survey also identified linear anomalies to the S of the castle, which are thought to be due to drainage features, or possibly earlier layouts of the area. Survey to the W and N of the castle detected an intermittent curving anomaly suggesting remains of a possible enclosure. Additional anomalies immediately to the N of the castle may indicate earlier layouts of the area, although some may be due to more recent landscaping.

Survey over the adjacent postulated dun does not appear to have detected any significant anomalies due to strong responses from the underlying geology.

Archive: Rose Geophysical Consultants

Funder: Kirkdale Archaeology on behalf of Historic Environment Scotland

Susan Ovenden - Rose Geophysical Consultants

(Source: DES, Volume 18)

References

MyCanmore Image Contributions


Contribute an Image

MyCanmore Text Contributions