MHG454 - Mingary Castle - Kilchoan, Ardnamurchan


A C13 great enclosure castle on the Ardnamurchan coast at Kilchoan Bay. It was surrounded by water on three sides and associated with the MacIan family.

Type and Period (1)

  • CASTLE (Medieval to 19th Century - 1058 AD to 1900 AD)

Protected Status

Full Description

Mingary Castle, Kilchoan.

The castle was Scheduled in 1955.

The castle was listed at Category A in 1971.

Mingary Castle occupies a strategically important site on a sea-girt promontory of rock about 2km SE of Kilchoan. It comprises a curtain-wall of irregular hexagon plan enclosing a courtyard which measures about 19.7m from N to S by 17.9m transversely. Within the curtain-wall there stand three ranges of buildings, occupying the N, W and SE sides of the courtyard respectively, while entrance- doorways pierce the NW and S sections of the curtain at ground-floor level. A stone forestair rises within the NW corner of the courtyard to give access to a battlemented parapet-walk. On its three landward sides the curtain-wall has a width of 2.7m and a height of 14.0m, but on the remaining sides it has a width of only 1.8m and a height of about 8.5m. The main body of the curtain-wall can be ascribed to the 13th century. The NW entrance-doorway, although subsequently altered, evidently belongs to the same period, while there is also evidence for the former existence of a contemporary range of domestic buildings occupying the N side of the courtyard. There is nothing to suggest that any major alteration was made to the castle during the medieval period, but towards the end of the 16th century the upper part of the curtain-wall was remodelled, and a sea-gate was constructed, or reconstructed, in the S curtain-wall. During the 17th century, further modifications were made to the NNW and W sections of the parapet-walk, and probably also to the NW entrance-doorway. There is no evidence to indicate what alterations, if any, were made to the courtyard buildings before about 1700. At some time during the early 18th century, however, new buildings were erected on the N and W sides of the courtyard, the N range being a substantial four-storeyed block, while the W range took the form of a lean-to structure of two main storeys, possibly incorporating a kitchen. At a somewhat later date within the 18th century another single- storeyed lean-to building was constructed on the SE side of the courtyard, and a number of minor alterations were carried out to the early 18th-century N range. The landward side of the promontory on which the castle is situated is crossed by a formidable barrier in the shape of an artificial rock-cut ditch some 7.5m in width and 3.0m in depth.
(The RCAHMS give a full architectural description and history of the castle.)
RCAHMS 1980, visited 1971.

As described and planned.
Visited by OS (N K B) 8 June 1970.

NMRS - 1 newspaper cutting, missing at time of upgrade 1.10.1996.

LOC Local Plan, Feb. 1991: P55/5.2.26. Visitor Facilities. The Council will consider the provision of improved parking, interpretation and walks at this site.
J Aitken : 05/06/01.

The castle was visited and photographed by a member of the Highland Regional Council in June 1990. <1> <2> <3> <4> <5> <6> <7> <8> <9> <10>

The castle was visited and photographed by Andrew Taylor in October 2007. <11> <12>

"Mingary Castle, from the 13th century. One of the great castles of enclosure on the Western Seaboard, built by a descendant of Somerled and, from the 14th century, stronghold of the MacIans of Ardnamurchan. Commanding the entrance to the Sound of Mull and Loch Sunart, Mingary stands atop a rocky outcrop, the shape of which dictates its irregular, hexagonal plan. Surrounded by sea on three sides, the castle is approached (originally by drawbridge, now via a late 18th-century stone causeway) across a rock-cut ditch, and entered through a much altered doorway on its north-west side. The curtain wall, which bears close resemblance to the of Tioram, was heightened and thickened on the northern (landward) side and the parapet defences remodelled when the castle was refortified in the late 16th century. The seagate postern also probably dates from this period. In the early 18th century, a three-storey and attic range reminiscient of Highland barracks like Bernera was constructed across the north side of the courtyard, replacing the earlier hall. Early pointed windows, garderobes, a mural chamber and stair were blocked and remodelled. Another Georgian range, probably incorporating a kitchen, was erected against the courtyard's west wall. Opposite this, a single storey lean-to building was put up in the later 18th century. Inaccesible owing to stuctural instability.

James IV came to Mingary castle twice in the 1490s, to receive the West Highland chiefs whose power he had suppressed. During the 16th and 17th centuries, Mingary was besieged and captured several times (notably in 1519 and 1644), the scene of many blood feuds between the Macdonalds, Macleans and Campbells as the MacIans' power waned. By 1626 the castle and the lands of Ardnamurchan were firmly in Campbell hands. Mingary was granted to Alexander Campbell of Lochnell in 1696, so it was presumably he or his son who carried out the early 18th century remodelling of the castle." <13>

An analytical and historical assessment of the ruins of the castle was carried out by Addyman Archaeology in 2012 in relation to on-going development to repair Mingary castle, and to rebuild the internal area to be used as for modern accommodation. <14>

A reconstruction drawing of Mingary Castle was drawn and submitted by A Spratt to the Highland HER in December 2012. <15>

Recent documentary investigations undertaken during recent restoration works note that its building has been attributed to various kin-groups by different scholars, the most recent and fullest analysis making a firm case for the MacDougalls. Scott Petrie reviewed what evidence there is and concluded that there can be no absolute certainty on the matter. <16>

Following restoration of the former ruined castle into a habitable building, it was descheduled by Historic Environment Scotland in 2016. <17>

The building was re-assessed by Historic Environment Scotland in 2016 and it was proposed to retain the category A listing but to amend the statutory list address. <18>

The statutory address was amended by Historic Environment Scotland in 2017. <19>

Sources/Archives (21)



Grid reference Centred NM 5027 6311 (23m by 26m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NM56SW
Geographical Area LOCHABER

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