Achanduin Castle

Achanduin Castle, Isle of Lismore, Argyll

~ History ~

1164 ~ Somerled, ruler of the Kingdom of the Isles dies. His son Dougall inherits much of his father's kingdom, including Lismore, and begins a new clan, the MacDougalls. His brother Ranald also inherits large areas of his fathers kingdom and with it later through his son, begins clan Donald, the MacDonalds.

Dougall’s royal descent is acknowledged by the king of Norway, and he styles himself ‘King of the South Isles and Lord of Lorne’.

1263 ~ Following King Haakon IV of Norway's defeat by the Scottish army at the Battle of Largs, the Clan MacDougall attack his fleet. The Norsemen are defeated by the MacDougalls in the sea battle and return to Norway never to return in such force, breaking their hold over the Western Isles.

1290's ~ The MacDougall's build a new stronghold on Lismore, Achanduin Castle.

1293 ~ Alexander MacDougall, head of Clan MacDougall is acknowledged as the most powerful lords of the Isles. Related to King John Balliol through marriage and his nephew the powerful John Comyn, he attains high office as sheriff of Lorn.

He extends his power and influence further at the expense of his kin the MacDonalds and his rivals the Campbells.

1296 ~ The Battle of Red Ford between the growing influence of Clan Campbell and the powerfull Clan MacDougall takes place due to the feud over coastal lands between the two clans. Many lives are lost on both sides at the Battle of Red Ford which see's one of Campbell’s castles on loch Awe seized by the MacDougalls.

The Campbell Chief Cailean Mor Campbell is killed at the battle and his body  carried to the church of St. Peter on Loch Awe and buried there.

The Kingdom of Scotland is at war with King Edward I of England. Clan  MacDougall side with the Scottish patriots.

1306 ~ Robert Bruce murders his potential rival for the throne John Comyn, nephew to Alexander MacDougall. Soon afterwards Bruce seizes the crown, and the MacDougalls and other families allied with the deposed King John Balliol and Comyn, become allies of the English.

Robert Bruce and his army are caught unprepared at the Battle of Methven, west of Perth, by Aymer de Valence, an English commander acting for King Edward I.

What is left of Bruce's army retreat westwards, towards the mountains of Argyll. When they reach Strathfillan they find their path blocked by a large force of MacDougalls, said to have numbered 1000 men, commanded by Alexander's son, John of Lorne. Valence's English army is not far to the east in pursuit of the remains of Bruce's army. Unable to retreat Bruce's remaining men are forced into battle.

Bruce's remaining horses are killed by the MacDougall axemen, who also wound many of his men. Bruce is so heavily involved in action with the rearguard that he finds himself at one point alone and under attack between a hill and the lochside.

He manages to escape to safety with what is left of his army.

Bruce is given temporary refuge in Dunaverty Castle by the MacDonalds, before fleeing into hiding.

1308 ~ Robert the Bruce regroups and returns to take the crown from his rival John Balliol. He leads an army of three thousand men against the MacDougalls.

John MacDougall of Lorne sets an ambush for them but after a savage engagement the MacDougalls are broken and forced to flee. The MacDougalls lose most of their lands and castles in Argyll, including Achanduin Catle on Lismore, which are then passed to the Clan Campbell for their loyalty to the King.

Clan MacLeay are granted lands in Lismore and Kintyre for their service to King Robert Bruce, including Achanduin Castle.

1544 ~ Following a battle between Clan MacDougalls and their bitter rivals Clan Campbell, Clan MacLeay back the losing MacDougalls who are annihilated.

Later a charter signed by both rival clans confirm Clan MacLeay as holders of Lismore.

1557 ~ Highland Clans led by the MacKenzie's of Kintail, including the MacLeay's, join forces to rebel against John MacDonald, Lord of the Isles and Earl of Ross. The rebel leader is captured and imprisoned in Dingwall Castle by MacDonald supporters,

Mackenzie's supporters including the MacLeays, free him and then seize Alexander Ross of Balnagown, chief of Clan Ross, who is a relative of the John MacDonald.

John asks for assistance from the Lord Lovat, chief of Clan Fraser of Lovat and "His Majesty's Lieutenant in the North". Lovat sends 200 men who join the MacDonald's and their supporting clans who massacre MacKenzie's rebel clans, including the MacLeays who are almost wiped out.

1640's ~ The ruler of the Isle of Lismore is James Livingston of Skirling, Keeper of the Privy Purse to King Charles I and member of the powerful lowland family that later become the Earls of Newburgh. The king has granted him the lands and income of the bishoprics of Argyll and the Isles and he lives on the island of Lismore, the seat of the bishopric, in his castle of Achanduin.

1645 ~ The Macleays join the royalist army of Montrose but after a dazzling run of victories, the government army under the Marquess of Argyll win the decisive battle of Philiphaugh and slaughter most of those who surrender.

1647 ~ Three hundred fleeing Highlanders, including women and children, take refuge in Dunaverty Castle on Kintyre. The Marquess of Argyll cuts off the castle's water supply and the garrison agree to surrender on honourable terms.

When they emerge, all are  massacred.


West of Macoll


Track off B8045


PA34 5UH

Achanduin Castle is a 13th century castle built on the top of a ridge in a beautiful location with fantastic views. Unfortunately the day we visited the weather was against us with the views shrouded in mist.

The widing track to the castle eventually disappears and you will be left to head off across country that is full of rolling ridges and low lying boggy ground, making it easy to lose direction, especially in poor weather, so take care and ensure you have good waterproof walking boots for the journey.

Beware of the herd of cows that defend the castle!