Dunollie Castle stands in a formidable position overlooking Oban Bay on the west coast of Scotland. In the 13th century it was one of the key fortresses of Clan MacDougall, descendants of the Lords of the Isles.
In 1971 a group of boy scouts visited the ruins. While they were looking around the armory, they saw the transparent figure of a piper in full Highland dress pass by outside the window. The boys told the castle’s owner about this and found out that the ghostly piper’s appearance was a regular occurrence at Dunollie Castle.
The original castle was a small fort, built around 1320 by Clan MacDougall who were then Lords of Lorn. Around 1388 the Stewarts took over the Lordship of Lorn, and it is believed that they built the castle in its present form around the 1440s. The Stewart’s relative King James IV of Scotland visited the castle, and a drunken bet around 1620 resulted in the castle passing to Clan Campbell. After changing hands between these clans a couple of times the Campbells finally abandoned the castle in about 1840, when it lost its roof. In 1908 the castle was bought by Charles Stewart of Achara, who carried out basic conservation work. In 1965 Lt. Col. D. R. Stewart Allward acquired the castle and over about ten years fully restored it. Castle Stalker remains in private ownership and is open to the public at selected times during the summer.
This lonely castle is situated on the island of Kerrera at the south of the island as if guarding the approaches to the Lynn of Lorne. This is truly one of the most attractive of Scotland’s castles. It enjoys spectacular viewover the sea towards the mainland and many of the Inner Hebridean Islands. As with so many of the others its history is turbulent and tragic. Situated at the southern tip of the Island of Kerrera, which is only a short ferry hop from the County’s principal town of Oban. Built in the early 1580s, this was another stronghold of the MacDougall clan. Known as the “Castle of Fountains” Gylen was strategically placed to control and survey the southern approaches to Oban by the narrow Sound of Kerrera. The island’s other claim to fame is that Alexander II died in Horseshoe Bay in 1249 whilst attempting to recover the Hebrides from King Haakon IV of Norway. The castle was besieged and burned by Covenanter General Leslie’s in 1647 and was never re-occupied thereafter. The attackers could not breach the castle’s defences but there was no accessible water supply and the castle eventually fell. It was restored with a £300,000 Historic Scotland grant and £200,000 from clan members around the world. The Historic Scotland grant enabled a specialist architectural team to restore elements of the castle, including its oriel window and its vaulted cellar.
As a result, the castle is open to the public freely and, indeed, the Island of Kerrera is well worth exploring.