Ardvreck Castle, Highlands
26 miles N.E. of Ullapool
Nr IV27 4HL
Lonely Ardvreck Castle at sunset has to be one of the most haunting, atmospheric ruins I have ever explored.
Set against the stunning backdrop of red-brown sandstone mountains 1,000 million years old, perched on a rock promontory jutting into the still icy cold waters of Loch Assynt. This desolate scenery is a fit setting for a stronghold with a history of treachery, betrayal and intrigue with the devil. Throughout its long history it is reputed to have evil associations.
The castle dates back from the latter half of the 15th century and was initially a simple rectangular tower house. It was the 15th century seat of the MacLeod's of Assynt. Almost a century later a tower with vaulted cellars and a vault over the great hall was added. Even after this extension the castle remained small, and so other buildings were built around it to accommodate the kitchens, servants' quarters and stables.
Heading north you can see the castle on the left from the road and is a short easy walk from the car park. Try and explore the castle at sunset if you want to get a real feel for this stunning little castle.
- History -
1490 - The land of Ardvreck comes to the McLeod's of Assynt through marriage with the MacNeil heiress. A stone castle is later built on the edge of the Loch.
1642 - Civil War breaks out in England and Scotland is inevitably drawn into the conflict. Two of the main protagonists in the north are Archibald Campbell, Marquess of Argyll, and James Graham, Marquess of Montrose. Montrose remains loyal to the King, whilst Argyll declares for Parliament.
1646 - Domhnall Ban Macleod successfully holds out against a Royalist attack.
1649 - King Charles I is executed. Montrose flees the country.
1650 - Montrose returns, landing in the north with an army in support of his executed King. He is subsequently defeated in the Battle of Carbisdale and deserted by his foreign mercenaries, becoming a fugitive on the run.
Seeking sanctuary at Ardvreck, he is warmly welcomed and offered protection. However, Neil Macleod is tempted by the reward and sends word to General Leslie where Montrose could be found. Montrose is captured and ignominiously led away, his feet tied under the belly of his horse to ensure his is unable to escape.
Soon after his imprisonment at Edinburgh he is hanged. His body is then quartered and his head fixed on a spike on Edinburgh's tollbooth as a warning to other would be rebellions.
Macleod's reward is £20,000 and 400 bols of meal.
In revenge the loyalist MacKenzie's, the MacDonald's of Glengarry, and the MacLeod's of Skye descend on Ardvreck and the MacLeod's of Assynt to ravage their lands.
1654 - The MacKenzie's return and seize a ship carrying much needed supplies destined for Neil MacLeods clansmen.
1661 - The monarchy is restored and Montrose's arch-rival Argyll is executed.
1672 - Charles II denounces Neil MacLeod and the Earl of Seaforth obtains a commission of Fire and Sword against the MacLeods of Assynt. Following a 14 day siege the castle is burnt and the estates are taken.
1710 - The Macleod's are driven from Ardvreck by the Mackenzie's whom, twenty years earlier, being the chief accusers of Macleod's treachery against Montrose, benefit the most from their demise.
1726 - The Mackenzie's build a modern Calda House from stone taken from Ardvreck Castle.
1737 - The Calda House burns down but before the Mackenzie's are able to rebuild the house, their estates are seized by the Crown for their support of the losing side in the Jacobite uprising.
1758 ~ The MacKenzie forfeited lands are granted to the Earls of Sutherland.
~ The legend of the maiden and the devil ~
Macleod had long envied his relatives of Dunvegan Castle and wanted nothing more than to own a castle at least as grand.
The devil saw his opportunity and offered to provide means to build the castle; but at a price - the soul of Macleod. Macleod was wily enough to hold out for immortality to enjoy his castle. That was too much for the devil and negotiations might have broken off had not Macleod's daughter appeared on the scene. The devil resumed his bargaining, this time offering to build the castle in return for the maiden's hand in marriage. Her father hastily sealed the bargain. The wedding took place. The castle was built. All seemed well, until the young bride learned just who her bridegroom was. In terror she cast herself out of the window onto the rocks beneath, and her ghost wanders the ruins to this day, weeping bitterly.