Also known as Caisteal Dhubhairt, this magnificent building is located on a rocky outcrop on the Isle of Mull overlooking the Sound of Mull and Loch Linnhe. Situated at the tip of a small peninsular, Duart Castle is effectively surrounded by the sea on three sides and is clearly visible to passengers travelling on the Oban to Craignure ferry. The original castle dates back to the 13th century although this was largely destroyed in 1691 as a consequence of the land war between Clan Campbell and Clan MacLean. It was restored and rebuilt in 1910 by Sir Fitzroy Donald Maclean. It is one of several castles that once formed a defensive chain along the eastern coast of the island. The Castle was acquired along with its lands by the MacLeans in 1367 from the Mac Donald lords as part of a wedding dowry for a kidnapped bride. Over the following centuries the MacLean clan of Duart were involved in some questionable activities that saw their fortunes fail. In particular, around 1522 Lachlan Maclean of Duart Castle tried to murder his wife Catherine Campbell by stranding her on a rock in the sea. She was rescued by a fisherman and survived but shortly after that Lachlan was himself murdered by Sir John Campbell of Cawdor, Catherine’s brother. A blood feud between the Campbells and the MacLeans was well and truly underway.
When war broke out between the English Parliament and King Charles I, the Scottish clans were divided with some such as Clan Mclean supporting the King while others such as Clan Campbell came out in support of Oliver Cromwell and the Parliament. In 1647 the soldiers of Clan Campbell laid siege to the castle but were driven off when the royalist troops of Clan MacLean arrived and engaged them in battle.
The royalist forces of King Charles were eventually defeated at the battle of Preston where Cromwell defeated an army of pro-royalist scots that had invaded the north of England. The King himself was executed in 1649. This was a difficult time for Clan Maclean as it was very clear they had supported the losing side. The war was officially over but in September of 1653, a Cromwellian task force of six ships anchored off the castle with the intention of attacking the Macleans. This proved pointless as they had already withdrawn. On the 13th of September, while at anchor below the castle, the ships were caught in a violent storm that sank three vessels including the HMS Swan. The area where the ships sank has been designated a site of archaeological importance by Historic Scotland.
The clashes between Clan Campbell and Clan Maclean simmered on over the next two decades and exploded into full confrontation when in1678, Archibald Campbell, 9th Earl of Argyll invaded the Clan MacLean lands on the Isle of Mull thus driving out the 4th Baronet, Sir John Maclean. The castle was formally relinquished to Archibald Campbell, 1st Duke of Argyll, in 1691 who ordered that it be destroyed. Still, for some time it was used as a garrison for Campbell soldiers. By 1751 the remains of the castle were completely abandoned.
When, in 1910, Sir Fitzroy Donald Maclean, the 26th Chief of the Clan MacLean, had the opportunity to buy the castle he did so and organised its remarkable restoration and reconstruction. Historians agree that the restoration was carried out as faithfully as possible but admit that many features may have been lost. It is open to the public.
The castle has been used as a film location for the 1999 film Entrapment, starring Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones as well as the 1971 film When Eight Bells Toll, starring Anthony Hopkins. It was also used in the eight season of the imensley successful ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ TV series.
Legend has it that during the Civil War a parliamentarian horseman was captured after the siege of the castle in 1647 and executed by having his head sawn off – slowly. His head was then thrown into the sea. The story tells that if a Maclean dies with in the walls of Duart Castle the last thing he will see is the wraith of the headless horseman waiting for him. Others say that the horseman appears to any member of Clan MacLean who is soon to die.
Camping and Caravanning Club Site
A828 (Rd), Barcaldine by Connel
Argyll, Scotland, PA37 1SG
+44 (0)1603 620 060
- Address: Isle of Mull, Argyll, Scotland, UK, PA64 6AP
- GPS: 56.45605278,-5.6551
- Phone: 0044 (0)1680 812 309
- Part of UK: Scotland
- Sat Nav Postcode: PA64 6AP
- Entrance Fees: Yes
- Disabled Access: Limited for the mobility impaired / multiple steps
- Visibility from Road: Excellent
- Image Credits: Header Image: Targn Pleiades