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Dunstaffnage Castle, Argyll and Bute

Location: PA37 1PZ (map and directions)

Dunstaffnage Castle sits 3 miles northeast of Oban at the southwest entrance to Loch Etive, surrounded on three sides by sea. This partially ruined castle dates back to the 13th century. Built before 1275 on a huge rock overlooking the Firth of Lorn, Dunstaffnage Castle is one of Scotlandís oldest stone castles, along with Castle Sween and Castle Tioram. Its curtain wall of stone sheltered residential and service buildings with very few openings. The castle has three towers and the Great Hall in the courtyard partially survives today.

Dunstaffnage Castle, Argyll & Bute copyright J Thomas
Dunstaffnage Castle © J Thomas

History of Dunstaffnage Castle

The MacDougall lords of Lorn built the mighty Dunstaffnage, though it has been held since the 15th century by Clan Campbell. In 1309 Robert the Bruce captured the castle and it was transferred to royal possession and in 1470 custody was passed to the 1st Earl of Argyll, Colin Campbell. He passed ownership to his cousin in 1502, and at this point a unique tradition was started at Dunstaffnage Castle: the cousin became the Captain of Dunstaffnage, a hereditary title for the family who retains as private property the 16th century castle gatehouse, though the captains no longer reside on the property.

During the Jacobite uprising in 1685, Dunstaffnage was used by government forces and served as the temporary prison (3 days) for Flora MacDonald in 1746 who was arrested for assisting Bonnie Prince Charlie, though after a year-long imprisonment at the Tower of London, was released.

Map and directions

Today Dunstaffnage Castle is maintained by Historic Scotland and is open to the public year round.


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Other castles in Argyll & Bute

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