Sunday, November 16, 2014

Day 9 - The Isle of Mull, Castles, Castles, Castles

When we finish breakfast and head outside the Corran House, we see the formation of the Sunday Remembrance Day Parade. They marched to the War Memorial to lay the wreaths.

The Commander then joined us at Mackie Dans for Guinness, a wee dram and lots of stories. He was a Royal Marine Sargeant, his friend was a Royal Navy Petty Officer, both retired, in uniform. We are soon joined by Roddy McCuish, Ward 4 (Oban South and the Isles) Councillor for the Argyll - Bute Council (

After the fun and emotion of the visit with the Commander and Roddy McCuish we move over to the North Pier to meet Cameron Smith and his boat, part of he and his brother Struan's company, ( We have booked a tour of the Isle of Mull.

Cameron is the one on the left, no, the right, no, the left, oh hell one of them.

The Isle of Mull (Scottish Gaelic An t-Eilean Muileach, pronounced ['mul?]) — or simply Mull — is the second largest island of the Inner Hebrides (after Skye), off the west coast of Scotland in the council area of Argyll and Bute.

With an area of 875.35 square kilometres (337.97 sq mi) Mull is the fourth largest Scottish island and the fourth largest island surrounding Great Britain. In the 2011 census the usual resident population of Mull was 2,800; in the summer this is supplemented by many tourists. Much of the population lives in Tobermory, the only burgh on the island until 1973, and its capital.

Tobermory is also home to Mull's only single malt Scotch whisky distillery, Tobermory (formerly Ledaig).

It is widely understood that Mull was inhabited shortly after the end of the last Ice Age, from around 6000 BC. Bronze Age inhabitants built menhirs, brochs and a stone circle with examples of burial cairns, cists, standing stones, stone circles, pottery and knife blades providing compelling evidence.

Between 600 BC to 400 AD Iron Age inhabitants were building protective forts, duns and crannogs.

The early Christian period began in the 6th Century, with 563AD being a pivotal point as it is believed that Christianity was brought to this part of northern Britain by St. Columba, when he arrived from Ireland to set up a monastery on the Island of Iona just off the south-west point of Mull.

In the 14th century Mull became part of the Lordship of the Isles. After the collapse of the Lordship in 1493 the island was taken over by the clan MacLean, and in 1681 by the clan Campbell.

Legend has it that the wreck of a Spanish galleon, laden with gold, lies somewhere in the mud at the bottom of Tobermory Bay — although the ship's true identity, and cargo, are in dispute. By some accounts, the Florencia (or Florida, or San Francisco), a member of the defeated Spanish Armada fleeing the English fleet in 1588, anchored in Tobermory to take on provisions. Following a dispute over payment, the ship caught fire and the gunpowder magazine exploded, sinking the vessel. In her hold, reputedly, was £300,000 in gold bullion. Other sources claim the vessel was the San Juan de Sicilia (or San Juan de Baptista), which, records indicate, carried troops, not treasure. According to that account, the island's chief, Lachlan Mor Maclean, struck a deal with the Spanish commander to reprovision and refit the ship in return for military intervention on the side of the MacLeans in their feud with enemies on nearby islands. Whatever the true story, numerous searches for the wreck, and its rumored treasure, took place from the mid-17th century to the end of the 20th century. No significant treasure has ever been recovered in Tobermory Bay.

In 1773 the island was visited by Samuel Johnson and James Boswell during their famous Tour of the Western Islands.

During the Highland Clearances ( in the 18th and 19th centuries, the population fell from 10,000 to less than 3,000.

The whole island became a Restricted Area during World War II. The bay at Tobermory became a naval base commanded from HMS Western Isles. The base and the Restricted Area were under Commodore (later Vice Admiral) Sir Gilbert Stephenson, whose strict discipline and ferocious temper earned him the nickname "The Terror of Tobermory". The base was used to train Escort Groups in anti-submarine warfare. 911 ships passed through the base between 1940 and 1945.

Mull boasts such historic buildings as Duart Castle and Torosay Castle, both open to the public.

The mausoleum of Lachlan Macquarie, Governor of New South Wales from 1809 to 1822, and known as "The Father of Australia", may be found near his old patrimonial estate in the village of Gruline. Macquarie had been born on the nearby island of Ulva, ancient seat of clan MacQuarrie.

A notable 17th-century poetess Mary Macleod (Mairi Nighean Alasdair Ruaidh) was said to have been banished here.

This major light at the entrance to the Sound of Mull is not on Lismore as the name suggests, but on Eilean Musdile separated from the main island by a small channel.  It was designed by Robert Stevenson and built by James Smith of Inverness.  The Commissioners of the Northern Lighthouse Board had purchased the small island for £500 in 1830.

The lighthouse, a 26-metre tower with its lantern on top, took about three years to build at a cost of £4,250.  The first light, established in 1833, was a fixed white light, but this was soon changed to a flashing one.  The tower is painted white and stands out from the background, so that by day and night it guides shipping in the Sound of Mull and the Firth of Lorne.  Lismore was one of the few manned lighthouses in the area until automated in 1965.

Duart Castle or Caisteal Dhubhairt in Scottish Gaelic is a castle on the Isle of Mull, off the west coast of Scotland, within the council area of Argyll and Bute. The castle dates back to the 13th century and is the seat of Clan MacLean.

In 1350 Lachlan Lubanach Maclean of Duart, the 5th Clan Chief, married Mary, daughter of John of Islay, Lord of the Isles and she was given Duart as her dowry.

In 1647, Duart Castle was attacked and laid siege to by the Argyll government troops of Clan Campbell, but they were defeated and driven off by the Royalist troops of Clan MacLean.

In September 1653, a Cromwellian task force of six ships anchored off the castle, but the Macleans had already fled to Tiree. A storm blew up on the 13 September and three ships were lost, including HMS Swan.

In 1678, Archibald Campbell, 9th Earl of Argyll, son of the Marquess of Argyll, successfully invaded the Clan MacLean lands on the Isle of Mull and Sir John Maclean, 4th Baronet fled the castle and withdrew to Cairnbulg Castle, and afterward to Kintail under the protection of the Earl of Seaforth.

In 1691 Duart Castle was surrendered by Sir John Maclean, 4th Baronet to Archibald Campbell, 1st Duke of Argyll. The Campbell clan demolished the castle, and the stones from the walls were scattered (Prompting the saying, "never owe money to a Campbell"). Donald Maclean, 5th Laird of Torloisk used some of the stones to build a cottage for his family close to the site of the castle.

By 1751 the remains of the castle were abandoned.

Descendants of Archibald Campbell, 1st Duke of Argyll sold the castle in 1801, to MacQuarrie, who then sold it to Carter-Campbell of Possil who kept it as a ruin within the grounds of his own estate to the north, Torosay Castle. He later sold his Torosay Estate which now included the ruins of Castle Duart to A. C. Guthriein 1865. On 11 September 1911, the ruin was separated from the rest of the Torosay Estate and was bought by Sir Fitzroy Donald Maclean, the 26th Chief of the Clan MacLean and restored.

The castle was used as a location in the 1999 film Entrapment (, starring Sean Connery (who has MacLean ancestry on his mother's side) and Catherine Zeta-Jones. The castle also features prominently in the 1971 film When Eight Bells Toll (, starring Anthony Hopkins.

It is the setting for the base of Buffy Summers in the first half of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight (

Torosay Castle is a large house situated 1½ miles south of Craignure on the Isle of Mull, in the Scottish Inner Hebrides.

John Campbell of Possil, son of Colonel Alexander Campbell of Possil, commissioned David Bryce to build Torosay Castle for the Campbell of Possil family.

It was designed by architect David Bryce for John Campbell of Possil (see Carter-Campbell of Possil) in the Scottish Baronial style, and completed in 1858. Torosay is surrounded by 12 acres (4.9 ha) of spectacular gardens including formal terraces laid out at the turn of the 20th century and attributed to Sir Robert Lorimer. The castle and gardens used to be open to the public, being linked to the Craignure ferry terminal by the Isle of Mull Railway.

The garden's Statue Walk is made up of 19 statues in the style of Italian sculptor Antonio Bonazza. The statues were acquired by then-owner Walter Murray Guthrie from a derelict garden near Milan and shipped to Scotland for next to nothing as ballast in a cargo ship.

John Campbell of Possil sold the castle and the estate to Arburthnot Charles Guthrie, a wealthy London businessman, in 1865. It served as his "getaway" and must have been ideal for that purpose, as the castle has over 60 rooms and is surrounded by an estate of over 12 acres (0.049 km2). The current owner is now the sixth generation of the Guthrie family to live in the castle. Following the sale of Guthrie Castle out of the Guthrie family, Torosay is now generally acknowledged as the seat for Clan Guthrie. Torosay was sold in 2012 to the McLean Fund and closed for renovations. Opening December of 2013 with a private family. Christopher Guthrie-James, former Laird of the Estate said "it was with a sense of relief, rather than regret, that we sold the family home at Torosay." Kenneth Donald McLean sixth Laird has spent more than £1 million renovating the castle and gardens. The castle and its gardens were closed to the public in the summer.

The novelist Angela du Maurier, older sister of Dame Daphne du Maurier, is said to have spent some time residing at Torosay with her close companion Olive Guthrie (Great Grandmother of the present owner). Angela dedicated her book Weep No More (1940) to "Olive Guthrie of Torosay." Other visitors during the 1930s included Winston Churchill (Olive Guthrie was his aunt by marriage) and King George of Greece.

The Isle of Mull has a large deer population and some of the largest sea eagles we have ever seen. We also saw porpoises and loads of seals.

Leaving Mull, we head back to Oban, a great trip, highly recommended to all.

In Oban, we walk up to Dunollie Castle.

Dunollie Castle (Scottish Gaelic: Dùn Ollaigh) is a small ruined castle located on a hill north of the town of Oban, on the west coast of Scotland in Argyll. The site enjoys views over towards the island of Kerrera and a view of the town, harbour, and outlying isles. The castle is open to the public as part of the Dunollie Museum, Castle and Grounds.

On the way to Dunollie castle we see the Dog Stone.

Clach-nan-con or The Dog Stone, is on Dunollie Avenue on the way to Dunollie Castle.

Celtic folk lore has it that the giant, Finn the Fingal of MacPherson, also known as Ossian, used to tie his legendary dog Bran to the stone - hence the name. The groove at the base is where the rope has rubbed away the stone.

At some time in the past when sea levels were higher the water would have been right up to the rockface and in common with many iconic landscapes around the west coast, the Dog Stone is the result of volcanic activity, a seastack composed of comglemorate rock.

We've been told that it was most likely at some point attached by an arch to the rockface behind. We're no geologists but if you look closely at the rocks on the hill then you can visualise them as part of that arch.

But Celtic warrior giants, fircesome giant dogs, much better!

There was a fortification on this high promontory in the Early Middle Ages, when Dunollie was the royal centre of the Cenél Loairn within the kingdom of Dál Riata. The Irish annals record that "Dun Ollaigh" was attacked or burned down three times, in 686, 698, and in 701. It was subsequently rebuilt in 714 by Selbach mac Ferchair (died 730), the King of Dál Riata credited with destroying the site in 701. Excavations in the 1970s suggest that this early fortification was abandoned some time in the 10th century.

The area around Dunollie subsequently became part of the semi-independent Kingdom of the Isles, ruled over by Somerled in the 12th century. On his death the MacDougalls became Lords of Lorne. Dougall, Somerled’s son, held most of Argyll and also the islands of Mull, Lismore, Jura, Tiree, Coll and many others in the 12th century.

Excavations show that Dunollie was refortified with an earthwork castle in the 13th century or potentially the late 12th century. The builder may have been Dougall, or his son Duncan. Ewan MacDougall, great-grandson of Somerled and the third chief of the MacDougalls, switched the clan's allegiance in the mid 13th century: initially allied with Haakon IV of Norway, from the 1250s Ewan remained loyal to the kings of Scotland.

In the 14th century Ewan's grandson John MacDougall, along with his kinsmen the Comyns, sided with the Balliols against the interests of Robert the Bruce. John MacDougall's army defeated the Bruce at the Battle of Dalrigh in 1306, but Bruce returned in 1308 and crushed the MacDougalls at the Battle of the Pass of Brander. The MacDougall lands of Lorne were subsequently forfeit and were given to the Campbells, though Dunollie and other estates were regained later in the 14th century.

The existing castle ruins date largely from the 15th century.

The Marquis of Argyll captured the castle in 1644, but it was returned to the MacDougalls in 1661. In 1746, the MacDougalls abandoned Dunollie Castle and built Dunollie House just downhill from the castle ruins.

In recent years, descendants and members of Clan MacDougall have been encouraged by clan leadership to support local tourism and pay visits to Dunollie, as an ancestral site and important cultural location. Remains of a historical herb garden have recently been discovered in the castle grounds.

Back to Mackie Dans to discuss our day with the locals.

1 comment:

  1. Very cool! Sounds like your having a great time Donn. :)
    Cheers, Susanne