“It’s a far cry to Loch Awe,” states one Gaelic proverb. This ruined 15th century castle, standing at the farthest end of the famous Scottish loch of Loch Awe, seems almost ghostly in its isolation from the world.
Kilchurn Castle is set against the backdrop of the mountains of Tyndrum. When the waters of the loch are high, Kilchurn is cut off from the land on its own marshy island scarcely wider than the castle itself. Built around 1450 by Lord Colin Campbell, it was originally the home base of the powerful Campbell clan. Over the next two centuries, additional defenses and buildings were added. Contemporary maps of the area reveal that the water level rendered it permanently cut off from the mainland, and it was probably primarily accessible by a tunnel under the loch.
Castle Kilchurn was subject to the changing political climate of early modern British politics. It was fortified by Sir John Campbell during the English Restoration and acted as a government garrison during the Jacobite rebellions of the early 18th century. The Glenorchy-Campbell family continued to own the castle until around 1760. It was abandoned after being permanently damaged by a devastating lightning strike. It then remained largely undisturbed, as it fell apart due to decades of neglect. It was the subject of William Wordsworth’s elegiac 1803 poem, Address to Kilchurn Castle, upon Loch Awe.
Today, Kilchurn stands open to the elements. However, several wooden staircases and walkways built into its fabric allow visitors to climb the original five-story tower and other parapets. The tower offers staggering views of the hills to the north, and of the distant abandoned viaduct. Looking back down the loch, a panoramic display offers views of the final resting place of the medieval Dukes of Argyll, and the small chapels built on the loch’s many islands.
The castle can be accessed by the A85, but is probably best viewed from the loch itself. Small boats can be rented from nearby Dalmally and taken right up to the castle, where a jetty has been built on the eastern side.
Know Before You Go
The A85 can flood in the winter causing the castle to close, so check before you travel.