6 Castles in Oban, Lorn & Isles you can’t risk missing out on!
The ancient region of Oban, Lorn & the Isles is steeped in history. Along its glorious coastline, you’ll find ruined castles and tower houses in wonderfully romantic locations. Visit these fascinating fortifications, see some of Argyll’s most stunning scenery and get closer to Scotland’s past. Here are six castles in Oban and Lorn that should be top of your list.
Dunollie Castle is superbly situated, standing guard over Oban Bay. For more than 1,000 years, the Clan Chiefs and Lords of Lorn ruled large areas of Argyll and the Isles from Dunollie. Today it remains the seat and ancestral home of Clan MacDougall. The museum, castle and grounds are great fun to explore. Don’t miss the wonderful Willow Hall. There's also a café selling delicious homemade soup, sandwiches and cakes and locally made gifts.
Kilchurn Castle sits on the shores of Loch Awe near Oban. It’s a striking tower house built in the mid-15th century. Kilchurn’s dramatic situation – at the head of the loch with the peak of Ben Cruachan visible behind – makes it one of the most photographed castles in Scotland. Kilchurn was one of many castles erected by the powerful Campbells of Glenorchy, who controlled much of western Scotland in the late medieval period. Stand on the tower house’s battlements and gaze out over Loch Awe, the original powerbase of Clan Campbell.
You might recognize Castle Stalker as Castle Aaaaaaargh from Monty Python's cult classic The Holy Grail! This four-storey tower house is incredibly picturesque, set on a tidal islet on Loch Laich a few miles beyond Appin north of Oban. It also has a fascinating history. The original castle was a small fort, built around 1320 by Clan MacDougall who were then Lords of Lorn. It’s thought that the Stewarts built the castle in its present form around 1440. In 1620, the castle passed into the hands of the Campbells as the result of a drunken bet by the 7th Stewart Chief in exchange for an eight-oared wherry (a boat). It was finally abandoned around 1840. The castle is now privately owned but they do run a very limited number of tours each year. If you fancy a bite to eat, Castle Stalker View Café is well worth a visit. As well as fabulous home-baking and tasty lunches, you can enjoy wonderful views of Castle Stalker, Loch Linnhe and the islands beyond.
Dunstaffnage Castle sits on an immense rock overlooking the Firth of Lorn near Oban. Built around 1220 by Duncan MacDougall, it was the former stronghold of the ‘Kings of the Isles’. It was once besieged by Robert the Bruce during the Wars of Independence and Flora MacDonald was held here in 1746 before being sent to the Tower of London for aiding Bonnie Prince Charlie’s escape. Stand and gaze in awe at the formidable curtain wall, one of the oldest standing castles remains in Scotland. It’s well worth climbing up to the battlements to appreciate the castle’s superb strategic position (and to enjoy the views!).
Gylen Castle sits on the southern part of the island of Kerrera. It juts dramatically into the sky on the tip of a promontory overlooking the Firth of Lorne. The ferry journey from Oban to Kerrera takes just a few minutes. It’s possible to leave your car behind and walk to Gylen from the ferry terminal on Kerrera. The castle is a MacDougall stronghold, built by Duncan MacDougall of Dunollie and completed in 1582. Though roofless, it's wonderfully preserved. The carvings on the Oriel window above the entrance are some of the finest surviving from the period.
You don’t get much more romantic than Castle Coeffin on the island of Lismore. This handsome ruin stands on a promontory on the northwest coast of the island looking out across Loch Linnhe to distant Achandun Castle. It was built in the 13th century by Clan MacDougall. Look out for the tidal fish trap, of unknown age, located in the small bay to the southeast of the castle. You'll also find Bronze Age cairns, Iron Age duns and Pictish brochs on Lismore, as well as an excellent heritage centre. The ferry journey from Oban to Lismore takes around an hour.