Aros Castle (Dournarwyse), Isle of Mull
N.W. of Salen,
Isle of Mull
Off 848, 9 miles S of Tobermory
Nr PA72 6JP
Aros Castle, also known as Dounarwyse, was built in the 13th century as one of a line of castles running down the Sound of Mull in sight of each other. Situated about a mile north of the village of Salen. The Castle was originally built by the MacDougall's. The word aros, in Gaelic translates as abode or dwelling. In Norse river mouth. It occupies a high baltic plateau which forms a promontory, sheltering a natural harbour and commands a clear view of the channel in both directions. The site was one of considerable strategic importance. Of two storeys and a part attic, the hall stands on the north-west angle of a flat-topped promontory, with steep slopes down to the beach. The hall house commands the irregularly shaped walled courtyard and the northern landward approach across the ditch and outer bank, down to a gateway in the west wall. The house is buried by masonry to first floor level and projecting from the north wall, are the remaining walls of a turret. To the west and south, are the overgrown walls of the courtyard, along with turf-covered foundations of an eastern rectangular building and traces of other buildings to the north-west and south-west. 16 miles south-east is Duart Castle.
~ History ~
1200's - The MacDougall's of Lorn build Aros Castle after the death of the King of Argyll Somerled.
1306 ~ Robert the Bruce escapes into hiding from Danaverty Castle with his small band of loyal followers, fleeing from both the English Crown and also rival Scottish clans. These include the MacDougall's of Lorn who take the MacLean's into their service to track down the Bruce and his key ally Angus Og MacDonald, on the promise of being granted lands. MacLean's are despatched to Mull and whilst at Angus Og's Castle of Ardtonish, they are insulted by his steward MacFinnon.
Angus Og 'being that same day to cross the Sound of Mull to Aros Castle', takes a small boat for himself and a handful of men, leaving MacFinnon and his great galley behind. The MacLean's see their chance and stab MacFinnon before taking the galley and giving chase. Upon arriving at Aros Castle Angus thinking it is MacFinnon arriving with the rest of his men, he is taken unawares and captured.
The MacLean's take him to the MacDougall stronghold of Dunstaffnage Castle, where they send word to Angus's arch-rival John MacDougall. Upon hearing the news John MacDougall is overheard saying that whilst he is most pleased with the news, he believed the MacLean's action had been overbold and 'he would through time bridle their forwardness and insolence'. On learning this the MacLean's consult their prisoner and are persuaded to switch sides and flee back to Mull.
Angus later awards lands to Hector MacLean and makes his brother Lachlan Chamberlain of his house. Lachlan later marries Angus's niece and the keeping of Duart Castle, bring both clans together against the MacDougall's.
Aros Castle is later awarded to the MacDonald Lords of the Isles after being declared forfeit, along with all other MacDougall lands and castles by King Robert the Bruce.
1493 - As a result of King James IV suppression of the MacDonald's the castle is granted to the Maclean's of Duart castle.
1600's - Campbell Argyll troops garrison the castle following surrender by the Maclean's.
1608 - Lord Ochiltree, King James VI's lieutenant entertains the principal Island chiefs on board his flag ship harboured below Aros castle. He then announces they are the King's prisoners and sails with them to their imprisonment at Blackness, Dumbarton and Stirling Castles, until their promises to yield to His Majesty's demands.
1674 ~ The Campbell's send 2,000 men to attack and punish the MacLean's of Mull, occupying both Aros and Duart castles. There is much slaughter, but they are eventually successful.
1688 - The castle formerly becomes the possession of Clan Campbell who describe it as 'ruinous, old, useless and never of any strength' and promptly abandon it to decay.