Castle Stalker, Argyll and Bute
Appin, 25 miles North of Oban
Standing on a tiny island in Loch Laich, this small tower house has always only been accessible by boat as no causeway has ever been built. However, at low tide it is possible to wade across the shallow waters of the loch.
The castle itself is a rectangular tower, about 45 feet by 36 feet at its base, and was built in the 15th century. The fact that its walls are nine feet thick, coupled with the inaccessibility of its site, meant that it was fairly well protected against would-be invaders. It's Gaelic name Caisteal Stalcair translates literally as 'Castle of the Hunter'. The rocky islet on which it sits is known as the Rock of the Cormorants which is also the battle cry of the Stewarts of Appin. The ground storey contained a pit prison.
The castle can be viewed from a cafe and gift shop beside the main road where there is plenty of parking. There is a path that takes you to some good viewing points of the castle and sea loch.
~ History ~
1320 - A small, fortified building is built on the site by the MacDougall's, Lords of Lorn.
1388 - The Lordship of Lorn passes to the Stewarts, including Castle Stalker.
1446 - Sir John Stewart builds Castle Stalker.
1463 - Sir John, keen to legitimise his son Dugald, by marrying his Mother, a MacLaren, is murdered outside the church by Alan MacCoul, a renegade MacDougall, although he survives long enough to achieve his aim.
1468 - The Stewarts gain revenge on MacCoul at the Battle of Stalc, opposite the castle, when the joint forces of Stewarts and MacLarens defeat the MacDougall's, and Alan MacCoul is Killed by Dugald himself.
1497 - The Stewarts and MacLarens carry out a combined raid against MacDonald of Keppoch as a reprisal for cattle rustling, but Dugald is killed. He is succeeded by his son Duncan.
King James IV of Scotland, a cousin of Duncan Stewart, is a frequent visitor to the castle, using it as a base for hunting and hawking. Further improvements are made to the castle during this period.
1512 - Duncan is murdered by the McLeans at Duart Castle.
1513 - Alan Stewart, Duncan's younger brother and heir to Castle Stalker, supports King James IV at the Battle of Flodden Field. The battle is a disaster for the King who is killed, but the Stewart Chief and his five sons all survive.
1520 - Sir Alexander Stewart is fishing off the small islands next to Castle Stalker when he is surprised and murdered by a party of Campbells. On hearing the commotion, the nurse to Alexander's baby son Donald, hides the baby. After the Campbells leave the nurse returns and finds the baby still alive. They flee and take refuge in Morven.
1544 - Young Donald, known as "Donald of the Hammers" for his ability to wield a blacksmith's hammer in each hand with ease, raises a Stewart army and marches on Dunstaffnage where they kill nine Campbells in revenge for the murder of his father.
1547 - Donald again leads the Stewarts at the Battle of Pinkie.
1607 - Donald dies and is buried on Lismore where his faithful henchman, a Carmichael, also lies buried.
1620 - The castle passes into the hands of the Campbells as a result of a drunken wager in exchange for an eight-oared wherry.
1689 - The Stewarts under Stewart of Ardsheal, regain the castle when they side with King James VII against King William. After defeat at the battle of Dunkeld the castle is again forfeited to the Campbells. The Stewarts refuse to hand over the castle when it is besieged by the Campbells for several months until Ardsheal is granted an honourable surrender in 1690.
1745 - During the Jacobite Rising the castle is garrisoned with 59 Government troops. Although the Stewarts are solidly behind 'Bonny' Prince Charles and raise an army of 300 men, their own Castle is too strong for them to re-take and their 2lb cannonballs merely bounce off the walls.
1746 - After the Battle of Culloden the castle is used by Government forces as a local centre where the clansmen have to surrender their arms. Six prisoners are recorded as being held in the prisoners' Hole for about a fortnight before being taken to Edinburgh for trial.
1775 - The last Campbell is born in the castle.
1800 - The Campbell's move to a new house built on the mainland at Airds and use the Castle merely as a storehouse.
1840 - The part ruined roof of the castle is removed to avoid roof-tax and the castle is abandoned.
1908 - The Castle is regained from the Campbells by Charles Stewart who purchases it and carries out basic preservation work to stem its decay.