Duart Castle sits at the junction of Firth of Lorne, Loch Linnhe and the Sound of Mull. Its important strategic location allowed it to control the lucrative sea trade between Scotland and Ireland. It also formed part of a communication system that stretched from Oban to Mingary.
The site of Duart Castle has probably been fortified since ancient times. By the 13th Century there was a shell keep on the site and it became a Clan MacLean stronghold in 1350.
Lachlan MacLean, the 5th Chief, built the first stone keep sometime after 1370. The keep was a tower house on the curtain wall and a well was enclosed with it. The keep was quite defensible standing on top of a crag at the end of a peninsula.
The rising power of Clan Campbell brought them into conflict with the MacLeans. In an attempt to ease tensions several marriages were arranged between them.
The plan backfired badly when Lachlan MacLean, the 11th Chief, married Catherine Campbell, daughter of the 2nd Earl of Argyll. The marriage was not happy one. She tried to poison him and he stranded her on a rock and left her to drown. She was rescued by fishermen and returned to her clan. The Campbells took their revenge by murdering Lachlan.
In the early 16th Century James VI of Scotland started reigning in the power of the chiefs of the Western Isles and the Borders. The MacLean Chief, Hector Mor MacLean, was kidnapped after a dinner with the King's Lord Lieutenant in 1608. To gain his freedom he had to destroy his warships and swear an oath of fealty to the king. This started the downfall of the MacLeans.
Hector also undertook construction work at Duart. He added the gatehouse to the castle and strengthened some of the buildings in the courtyard.
His brother, Lachlan the 17th Chief was made a baronet by Charles I.
Lachlan held Duart Castle for the Royalist cause during the Civil War. He joined the Marquess of Montrose's Highland Army. In 1647 General Leslie attacked Duart and took the castle.
The MacLeans supported the Royalists until the very end and accrued heavy debts as a result.
The buildings in the north-east range were remodelled in 1673, but the castle was besieged and taken in 1674 by the Earl of Argyll. He was pursuing debt repayments. They got Duart back when the Earl fell out with the King, but were besieged and lost it again in 1691 when the Earl came back into favour.
When the Campbells left they demolished parts of the castle and scattered the stones.
In 1745 the castle was briefly used to garrison troops and they burned it when they left in 1751. The castle was subsequently abandoned.
Sir Fitzroy MacLean bought the ruin in 1911. He spent over 20 years and a considerable sum restoring the castle and constructing an Edwardian house.
The castle is run as a tourist attraction and heritage site. Visitors can tour the castle from the dungeons to the battlements on top of the keep. The castle welcomes various performers and events throughout the summer months and it also has a licence to be used as a wedding venue.
Other facilities available at the castle include a tearoom, toilets and gift shop.
Duart Castle has also appeared on film a couple of times. It was used as a location in the 1971 film "When Eight Bells Toll" and in 1999 for "Entrapment".
Status: Visitor Attraction / Wedding Venue / Event Venue
Owner: Sir MacLean, 12th Baronet of Duart and Morven, 28th Chief of Clan MacLean
Tel: +44 (0)1680 812 309
Opening Times: 1st May to mid-October Daily 10.30am-5pm
Duart Castle sitting atop a crag
Duart Castle viewed from across the bay