The ruins of a Scottish castle which was struck by lightning and completely abandoned

Kilchurn Castle, located on a tiny island in Loch Awe in Scotland, was made up of constructions dating from the 15th to the 17th centuries.

Kilchurn, like many other castles, has a rich and vivid history, a few hidden and spooky legends, and an amazing environment that surrounds iton all sides.

The castle was first mentioned in a charter dated March 1449, named “apud Castrum de Glenurquhay,” which translates to “at the castle of Glenurquhay.” The structure was modeled after the ancient mansion of the Campbells of Glen Orchy, who eventually became Earls of Breadalbane (the Breadalbane family line of the Clan Campbell).

The ruins of the Kilchurn Castle as seen from above. Author: Kilchurn Castle   CC BY 2.0

The original architectural configuration included a courtyard and a five-story tower residence with a hall, private chamber, cellar, and, of course, a jail. Sir Colin Campbell, the first Lord of Glenorchy, commenced the construction of the tower in the 1400s. He also strengthened the fortifications by surrounding the courtyard with an outside wall.

The island was connected to the shore only in the 1800s when water levels of Loch Awe lowered.     Author: Kilchurn Castle   CC BY 2.0

Colin, Duncan Campbell’s second son, was awarded Glenorchy near the north end of Loch Awe in 1432. This was done to secure Colin’s devotion after his elder brother, Gillespic, died unexpectedly. Colin’s son Duncan, the 2nd Lord, afterward erected the “Laich hall” (looks out into Loch Awe). He erected the courtyard hall before dying in the Battle of Flodden in 1513.

A five-story tower added to the original structure of the castle dating from the 15th century.  Author: Kilchurn Castle   CC BY 2.0

In 1689, Sir John Campbell of Glenorchy, 1st Earl of Breadalbane, withdrew to his ancestral seat and arranged for the castle to be converted into a military fortress. At this point, the tower house was converted to house officers, and a barracks with a capacity of 200 soldiers was built on the north side of the courtyard. According to Historic Environment Scotland, the barracks block is still remarkably intact and is the oldest remaining barracks on the British mainland.

During the Jacobite uprisings of 1715 and 1745, the fortress was taken and seized by a government force. Nonetheless, it saw limited use as an outpost. By 1740, the Campbells had moved to their new house at Taymouth Castle, and they sought but failed to sell Kilchurn to the government.

Aside from its rich history, there are some ghost stories related to Kilchurn Castle. Author: Kilchurn Castle   CC BY 2.0

One of the most intriguing episodes in the castle’s history occurred in 1760 when Kilchurn was hit by lightning and severely damaged before being abandoned. The turret from atop the tower, which is now upside-down in the midst of the courtyard, bears witness to the dramatic occurrence in 1760.

After the fatal lightning strike, the castle was never repaired, and it swiftly began to crumble. The castle’s roof collapsed throughout the years, and the remains eventually provided a source of free construction materials for other surrounding landowners.

A slightly eerie view of the abandoned Scottish site.  Author: Kilchurn Castle   CC BY 2.0

As the water level of Loch Awe plummeted in the early nineteenth century, the island became connected to the shore, making the castle accessible on land for the first time in history. The castle is still standing on the lengthy peninsula today. MacGibbon and Ross, two renowned Scottish architects of the nineteenth century, investigated the complex in about 1887, following which restoration work was initiated, which appears to have changed some of the castle’s original qualities.

An astounding view of Kilchurn Castle standing alone on the long peninsula and surrounded by the wilderness.   Author: Kilchurn Castle   CC BY 2.0

The ruin is presently in the care of Historic Scotland and is open to the public throughout the summer. Kilchurn Castle is a nationally significant site as well as a scheduled monument in the United Kingdom.

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