MHG5606 - Coroghon Castle, Canna


A rare surviving example of a late medieval Hebridean stronghold, which provided inspiration for Sir Walter Scott in his poem "The Lord of the Isles".

Type and Period (5)

  • CASTLE (Built, 16th Century to 17th Century - 1501 AD to 1700 AD)
  • DEFENCE WORK (Built, 16th Century to 17th Century - 1501 AD to 1700 AD)
  • FORTIFICATION (Built, 16th Century to 17th Century - 1501 AD to 1700 AD)
  • CULTURAL ASSOCIATION (19th Century - 1815 AD to 1815 AD)
  • PRISON? (In use, 17th Century - 1650 AD to 1700 AD)

Protected Status

Full Description

NG20NE 4 2796 0552.

(NG 2796 0552) A 'castle' built on a stack (Coroghon Mor) rising 70-80ft sheer above the sea on three sides and linked to the land by a narrow neck, where ascent of the stack is possible by a track which leads upwards to a roughly rectangular forework of at least two storeys.
The crag was mentioned as a 'refuge' in 1577-95, but no building was referred to, so it may be assumed that the building is post-16th century (W G Collingwood 1906). Appears to be a gatehouse added to a dun (OS 6"map, annotated A L F Rivet 20 June 1961).
D Monro 1884; W Collingwood 1906; RCAHMS 1928. <1>-<3>

A small stronghold rather than a castle, built against the N-facing crag of Coroghon Mor. The building is an entity in itself and there is no trace of a dun as suggested by Rivet, nor of any other work.
With walls generally 0.7m thick, the building is constructed of random masonry and utilises the rock face as part of its S and E walls. The high curving N wall is pierced near its E end by a doorway 0.6m wide at the head of a steep path up the crag.
The main room occupies the W half of the castle and measures internally 3.0m N-S by 2.0m with a doorway 0.6m wide towards the S end of its E wall. Under it is a cellar of similar dimensions.
The 'basin' shown on Collingwood's plan is an apparently rock-cut hollow 3.5m x 2.0m by 0.3m deep, of uncertain purpose. The 'pit' is a natural hollow.
Campbell (Mr J L Campbell, Canna House) states that undecorated hand-made pottery sherds in his possession were found at the foot of the crag below the castle.
Visited by OS (A A) 1 June 1972.

On the top of a rock stack, reached by a very steep path. Rubbly remains of a roughly rectangular small tower, probably of the 17th century.
J Gifford 1992. <4>

The fabric of this monument has been deteriorating. Large sections of the facing stones along the base of the outer walls are missing and a deep crack has opened up in one of the walls. As a first step towards its consolidation the National Trust for Scotland has commissioned a series of reports on its current condition. These include a detailed analytical survey and conservation plan. The conservation plan by Andrew P K Wright provides detailed guidance on the necessary repair and consolidation works and makes a number of recommendations for further investigation. These include a recommendation for dendrochronological and thermo-luminescence dating, and archaeological investigation of the area below the western range. <5><6>

Local tradition asserts that the castle was built as a prison by Donald, the 13th chief of Clanranald, to confine an adulterous wife. The legend was first documented by Thomas Pennant in 1772 and was embellished by many later writers. The site and the associated legend caught the attention of Sir Walter Scott and inspired a whole verse of his epic poem "The Lord of the Isles", first published in 1815.
The monument is a rare example of a 16th or 17th-century Hebridean stronghold or refuge. It was certainly not built as a prison but it could conceivably have been used as such for a short period of time. It is one of very few surviving late medieval structures in the Small Isles and represents the only tangible remains of Clanranald investment in Canna over several centuries of interest and ownership. <6>

Sources/Archives (7)



Grid reference Centred NG 27972 05537 (36m by 27m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NG20NE
Civil Parish SMALL ISLES
Geographical Area LOCHABER

Finds (1)

  • VESSEL (Undated)

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Investigations/Events (2)

External Links (2)

Comments and Feedback

Do you have any more information about this record? Please feel free to comment with information and photographs, or ask any questions, using the "Disqus" tool below. Comments are moderated, and we aim to respond/publish as soon as possible.