Dun Ara Castle, Isle of Mull
Nr Glengorm Castle, West of Tobermory
Minor road off B8073
The medieval castle of Dun Ara was built on the site of a previous Dun or fort. The castle had a surrounding wall protecting a central keep or building on the main outcrop of rock. The location was valuable as it protected a harbour from which the castle could be reached.
It is situated on a commanding summit of one of several prominent rocky outcrops that lie scattered along the shores of Mishnish in the neighbourhood of Sorne Point.
The castle was fortified by enclosing the entire rock summit with a curtain-wall of stone and lime, which varies from about 4 to 5 feet in thickness. The footings of outer buildings and fragments of a protective dry stone wall enclosing this once important settlement can just about be made out.
Today access to the castle can be made from the Glengorm Castle estates, where you can park next to the coffee shop, cross the bridge for a walk that is signposted until you reach the edge of the estate, then its finding a rough path towards the shoreline. A keen eye is needed as many of the rocky outcrops all look the same, so finding the castle is a bit of a hunt until you find a small wooden sign at the bottom of the castle entrance. If you get a little lost, head to the shoreline, as there are a number of paths that will take you inland away from the castle. If you do take one of the paths inland you will however get to see the fabulous standing stones to the right of the path. Cross through the standing stones toward the shoreline and you will see the castle almost directly infront of you. Good walking boots is a must. Well worth the walk.
~ History ~
1303 ~ Angus Og MacDonald, Lord of the Isles, arrives at Dun Ara Castle with Gillemoir MacLean, chief of the South of Mull.
Here they meet Gillebride, chief of the ancient MacKinnon Clan, masters of the North of Mull. Their purpose is to resolve a dispute over the MacKinnon claim and potential threat to the nearby Isle of Gometra, long held by the MacQuarrie Clan, who are allied to the powerful Clan MacLean.
The authority of the Lord of the Isles is sufficient to eventually resolve the dispute to the satisfaction of all concerned.
1354 ~ Dun Ara Castle, stronghold of the MacKinnon's, is further strengthened in order to protect their lands on Mull.
1587 ~ Following years of the great feud between the clans Maclean and Macdonald, the Mackinnon's support the Maclean's. A temporary settlement is brokered with royal approval to bring this open warfare to and end, following the capture of Sir Lachlan Mor Maclean by Angus Macdonald of Dunnyveg Castle. Macdonald agreed to release Maclean in exchange for a pardon and upon the surrender to him of eight hostages of rank to act as his sureties. Lachlan Mackinnon and his brother Neil of Dun Ara Castle are two of the eight hostages.
Soon after his release, undeterred by any concern for the fate of the hostages, Sir Lachlan Maclean invades Islay during Angus Macdonald's absence in Ireland. Macdonald is “disdained to punish the hostages” and mounts a retaliatory invasion of Mull and Tiree. The Privy Council orders Macdonald to surrender his hostages into royal custody. When Macdonald fails to do so, he himself is outlawed and Maclean is temporarily received back into favour.
1591 ~ A further settlement is imposed following a trial of Macdonald and Maclean.
1600 ~ Lachlan MacKinnon succeeds his father as Chief of Clan MacKinnon, his seat at Dun Ara Castle.
1601 ~ Lachlan enters his clan into a bond of friendship with Archibald Campbell, 7th Earl of Argyll.
1609 ~ Lachlan is one of twelve leading men of the Highlands who submit formally to Andrew Knox, the Bishop of the Isles at Ion. He later enters into a bond to observe the Statutes of Icolmkill, a regulatory reform “of the utmost importance for the improvement of the Isles” to tackle fueding amongst the clans. His eleven co-signatories are Angus Macdonald of Dunnyveg Castle, Hector Og Maclean of Duart Castle, Donald Gorm Macdonald of Sleat, Ruari Macleod of Harris, Donald Macdonald (the Captain of Clanranald), Lachlan Maclean of Coll, Hector Maclaine of Lochbuie, Lachlan and Allan Maclean (the brothers of Duart), Gillespie MacQuarrie of Ulva and Donald Macfie of Colonsay.
1610 ~ Lachlan is one of seven chiefs, the others being Maclean of Duart Castle, Macdonald of Sleat, Macdonald of Dunnyveg Castle, Macleod of Harris, the Captain of Clanranald and Allan Cameron of Lochiel, who all appear in Edinburgh Castle and are required to promise to live together in peace, love and amitie and to assist the Commissioners to quell disturbances, as well as to give large sureties for their reappearance before the Council in May the following year.
1613 ~ Lachlan is knighted and appears again before the Council the following year.
1615 ~ Lachlan is appointed under a commission of fire and sword to act against the Macdonald's of Kintyre and Islay. Two months later he is appointed with Maclean of Duart Castle, Maclaine of Lochbuie and Maclean of Coll to protect the country between Ardnamuchan and Lorne against the Macdonald's. Later the same year the King orders that he should be provided with 200 men for the defence of his castle, which includes Dun Ara Castle, against the threat of the MacDonald's.
1616 ~ Sir Lachlan MacKinnon is ordered to reside at Kilmorie, in Strathordell, away from their ancestral home of Dun Ara Castle. However, both Lachlan and his son John eventually return to Dun Ara.
As clan feuds in the Hebrides again ignite, he enters his clain into a bond of friendship with Ruari Macleod of Harris, Donald, the Captain of Clanranald and Maclean of Coll.
1622 ~ Sir Lachlan is denounced for allegedly ravishing Mary, sister of Donald Macdonald of Sleat and wife of Ronald McConneil of Castle Torrin in Uist. He stands trial the following year but no action is taken against him. before the Council on 23 July 1623
1634 ~ Sir Lachlan dies and is buried at Dun Ara Castle. He is succeeded by his son John, who is unable to speak.
Chief John MacKinnon is known as John Balbhan (the dumb).
1642 ~ John dies is killed by an arrow whilst standing upon the summit of Dun Ara. He is buried alongside his father at the foot of their stronghold. The Castle is later abandoned and falls into ruin.