Fascinating history of Dunollie Castle

The exterior and main tower of Dunollie Castle will benefit from a £141,000 restoration grant. NO_T07_Dunollie01
The exterior and main tower of Dunollie Castle will benefit from a £141,000 restoration grant.

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Just outside Oban, on a promontory, sit the ruins of Dunollie Castle.

It is unknown how it came by this name, but it is possible it comes from the Gaelic Dun Dhughallaich meaning MacDougall’s Fort.

The castle is thought to have been built in the 12th century, although parts possibly date to the seventh.

Somerled granted the lands to his son Dougall, who founded the MacDougalls, and the Stewarts of Appin. It is recorded that Dunollie was either attacked or burned on at least three occasions between 686 and 701 but was rebuilt in 714 by the king of Dalriada, Selbach mac Ferchair.

Abandoned in the 10th century, further building took place in the 13th century, but the remains today date mainly from the 15th . They consist of a tower house standing at four stories, a barrel-vaulted cellar and a courtyard. The wall on the vulnerable north-east flank is thickest, measuring over six feet.

During the Civil War in the mid-17th century, Cromwellian troops lay siege to the castle in 1647 under General Montgomery but he was forced to retreat, and it was restored to the family in 1661.

The MacDougalls were strong Stuart supporters and at the Battle of Sheriffmuir fought against the Hanoverian troops. The battle was a draw but nonetheless the MacDougalls, like so many others, were forced to forfeit their lands in retribution.

In 1746, MacDougalls were present at the Battle of Culloden, again to try to restore the Stuart monarchy. That same year the castle was abandoned, and the family moved into the mansion built close by.  Mary MacDougall was the last baby born at the castle in 1741.

In 1814 Sir Walter Scott visited Dunollie and wrote a note to his poem Lord of the Isles that nothing ‘was more wildly beautiful than the situation of Dunolly’.