Lochranza, Isle of Arran
~ History ~
1200's ~ The powerful MacSween's build themselves a stronghold at Lochranza in addition to their stronghold of Skipness on the other side of the Isle of Arran. The MacSween's are are descendants of Sven 'the Red', a Norse Lord supporter of King Hakon IV of Norway.
1262 ~ In the build of to the definative Battle of Largs between King Alexander III of Scotland and the MacSween's overlord King Hakon of Norway in control of the Highlands and Islands, Lochranza castle is captured and is granted to King Alexander's loyal supporter Walter Stewart, Earl of Menteith.
1263 ~ King Håkon anchors his fleet of over 120 ships, with a force of around 15,000 men, by the Isle of Arran in the Firth of Clyde where he opened peace talks with the Scottish King. These drag on until broken off by King Håkon who sends the Kings Magnus and Dougal with 40 ships up Loch Long and into Loch Lomond to loot and plunder. Later the main body of the fleet move between the island of Cumbrae and Largs, where they are surprised by stormy weather. Five longships are driven ashore at Largs where they are attacked by a small number of Scots.
The next day, King Håkon goes ashore with some of his men to stave off further attacks until the stranded ships can be brought free. During the day, a Scottish army approach which includes 500 knights in armour on horseback and a large body of foot soldiers. The Scottish army numbered about 8,000 men compared with around 800 Norwegian troops onshore.
King Håkon is transported to safety on board his ship while his forces on the beach start to scramble to get into their boats to get back to their ships, several boats sink as a result of overcrowding. However, the Norwegians manage to restore order in their ranks and make a stand on the beach. King Håkon is unable to send large reinforcements on land because of the storm, but one ship from the main fleet manages to reach the shore. When the ship arrives, the Scots withdraw to the hill behind Largs. There a lengthy long-distance battle ensues, with bows and stone-throwing, but the Scottish force ultimately retreat, whereupon the Norwegians immediately board their boats and withdrew to the main fleet.
The Norwegians return the following day to retrieve their dead and burn the stranded longships. Within a few days, the Norwegian fleet leave the Firth of Clyde with King Håkon sailing North to Orkney for the winter but most of his fleet sail back to Norway. King Håkon falls ill while staying in the Bishop's Palace in Kirkwall and later dies.
1264 ~ The following year, King Alexander successfully invaded the Hebrides. The MacSween's are overrun and driven out.
1265 ~ Negotiations between Scottish envoys and Håkon's successor, King Magnus VI, lead to an agreement that sovereignty over the Hebrides and the Isle of Man pass to the Scottish King, in return for a lump sum of 4,000 marks and subsequently 100 marks annually in perpetuity.
1266 ~ The Treaty of Perth is signed. Norway retains control over the Orkney Isles, the Scottish crown the remainder of the Highlands and Islands.
1306 ~ On return from Ireland to claim the Scottish throe Robert the Bruce lands at Lochranza.
1371 ~ The castle is in the hands of King Robert II who uses it primarily as a royal hunting lodge.
1490's ~ King James IV uses the castle in his campaign against the Lord of the Isles and Clan MacDonald.
1614 ~ The castle is occupied King James VI
1650 ~ The the Civil War the castle is held and used by Oliver Cromwell.
1705 ~ Lochranza Castle is now the property of the Hamilton family, after it was purchased by the Duchess of Hamilton. The Hamilton's also own other estates on the Isle of Arran so eventually sell it to the Blackwood-Davidson family who use it as their principal seat. The castle falls into disuse and is abandoned.
Lochranza, Isle of Arran
The ruined castle, which sits upon a grassy promontory on one side of Lochranza bay with the backdrop of the mountains that frame it, make this one of the most spectacular settings on Arran.
Access to the castle is free with a short walk from where you can park your car.
A really beautiful tower house set in fabulous landscape.
Aboard the nearby ferry as you head back to the mainland and Kintyre, the castle and its mountain backdrop are your last sight of Arran.