Eilean Dearg Castle, Argyll
Near Fearnoch, Kyle of Bute
B Road off A886
Nr PA22 3AR
Eilean Dearg is a small island in Loch Riddon, in Gaelic Red Island. One explanation as to the origin of this name is from a 11th century battle that took place at the head of the Loch between the Norse and Scots. The battle being so fierce that the waters turned blood red.
You can see the island from the roadside and will spend time searching for sight of its ruined towers and walls. You will be disappointed to discover that an enormous explosion by the Royal Navy to put down a rebellion caused the total destruction of the castle, as you will read from the history below.
Difficult to say what is actually left of the castle without having the means to land on the island, but certainly its history is far more interesting than whatever stones that may be left.
~ History ~
1100 ~ A Norse fleet is beached at the head of Loch Riddon so as their raiding forces can attack the unsuspecting Scots. However, the Scots are lying in wait and slaughter the Norse warriors once they are all ashore. The slain Norse warriors are thrown into the loch
1200's ~ A charter acknowledges the Castle belonging to the Stewarts.
1685 ~ The 9th Duke of Argyll, Chief of Clan Campbell, uses Eilean Dearg as his base for a major uprising with the Duke of Monmouth, illegitimate son of King Charles II. The plan was for Argyll to land his forces in the West of Scotland whilst the Duke of Monmouth the South-West of England, and force the Governments army in two and create confusion with a two pronged attack.
However, Argyll lands his forces too early and the Duke too late. Furthermore, the Government spies also knew their plans all too well so were waiting for their forces.
The Earl of Atholl, Argyll's fiercest enemy, is made Lord Lieutenant and sheriff of Argyll, taking up residence in Campbell's seat at Inveraray. Other anti-Campbell Clans take the opportunity to settle old scores.
Meanwhile Argyll has been busy with the purchase of three ships from Holland with guns and 300 men aboard set sail from Amsterdam. The Government place Scotland on a war footing and imprison Argyll's wife.
The small fleet sail round the top of Scotland to the Isle of Mull mustering support, but this is found wanting amongst the Highland Clans. Only 1,800 men join Argyll, significantly short of what he was expecting.
The 3 ships finally arrive and take anchorage at Eilean Dearg, after raising Rothesay Castle to the ground with extensive looting in order to feed is rebel army. Eilean Dearg is used as his base from which to strike north with his army, with two successful campaigns.
Argyll is then informed of the news that the Royal Navy had discovered his base in Loch Riddon. With the navy sailing towards him from the south and the Governments army from the north, Argyll orders his fleet to make a break from Eilean Dearg. His army low on ammunition, food and morale, starts to see large numbers of Highlands desert.
Argyll leaves Eilean Dearg under the command of Robert Elphinston with fifty men, with orders to blow up the castle and all its stores and ammunitions rather than let the navy take it. Argyll's forces head west and make for Loch Long.
One morning the garrison are awoken by the sight and sound of two large man of war naval ships bearing down on them in the loch, firing at the castle. In complete panic they flee the castle, leaving all the stores and ammunition they were commanded to protect or blow up to avoid capture. In turn the castle and all its goods were captured, with the rebels making to shore hiding in the woods. All the goods were removed with the exception of 400 barrels of gun powder, which were used to blow up the castle, so no stone stood standing on the island.
Argyll on hearing the news that his base and all its arms and ammunitions was destroyed, with the navy now heading towards him and Government forces cutting off any chance of heading north of west, he decides to head south towards Glasgow, hoping for support from lowland clans.
The remnants of his force start to melt away before battle can take place and Argyll himself is captured as he attempts to cross a river with his close companions. He is taken to Edinburgh where he is tried and executed for treason, as his father had done before him.
Monmouth lands in the South far too late to help and is defeated at the Battle of Sedgemore, and also tried for treason and executed.
The rebellion is over. Eilean Dearg Castle is no more than a pile of stones scattered across a scorched island.