History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: Scene of an infamous 17th century massacre
HistoryThe first record of a fort at Dunaverty comes from the 8th century, when it was owned by Gabran, the grandson of Fergus of Dalriada.
The history of Dunaverty is a bewildering mix of alliances made and broken. In 1248 Walte Bissett seized the castle, and fortified it against the crown. Bissett was aided by Henry III of England, who was furious that Alexander II of Scotland was giving aide to English pirates. However, Bissett's rebellion did not last and Dunaverty was captured that same year by Allan, son of the Earl of Atholl.
Robert Bruce is said to have sheltered at Dunaverty while fleeing his enemies. Bruce soon fled further west to Ireland, but Edward I ordered Sir Henry de Percy to besiege the castle, which soon surrendered.
In 1493 James IV seized the castle and installed a royal garrison. While the king was marching away Sir John MacDonald recaptured the castle and had the castle governor hung over the parapets while the royal army was still within sight. MacDonald's act of defiance was in vain; he was captured and hanged at Edinburgh.
The Dunaverty MassacreNow comes the darkest hour in Dunaverty's long history. In 1647 the Royalist garrison of Dunaverty was besieged by a Covenanter force led by General David Leslie. Most of Leslie's army was made up of Campbells, traditional enemies of the MacDonalds. The castle garrison was led by Sir Alexander MacDonald and including a large number of MacDougalls. MacDonald's infant son Ranald was smuggled out of the besieged castle, wrapped in a Campbell tartan.
Accounts of the massacre differ. Most say that the Royalists were promised quarter and received assurances that they would be safe if they laid down their arms. If true, they were cruelly deceived. After leaving the safety of the castle the unarmed garrison and all their followers were slaughtered. As many as 300 women and children were amongst the slain. Only 4 people, including the infant Ranald MacDonald, are known to have survived or been spared. One account says that the garrison were thrown over the cliffs into the sea.
The CastleThe fort was built on a naturally strong position, with steep cliffs on 3 sides. The only way to reach the castle headland is from the north, where the land dips down to a narrow path and then rises up again to the castle itself. Historical records show that the castle could only be accessed over a drawbridge.
The summit of the headland is quite small, so the defences would have been very cramped. From the summit a rough stair was cut in the solid rock to give access to the north west platform. At the eastern end of the summit is a smal chamber, partly cut into the underlying rock. No other traces of the castle can found on the summit.
In truth, the remains of Dunaverty Castle are paltry, and would not ordinarily be worth a visit were it not for the history of the site. The massacre on 1647 gives the ruinous site a macabre interest. It is a fabulous location, and it is easy to imagine how dramatic a fortress perched on the rocky headland would have appeared.
About Dunaverty Castle
Address: Southend, Kintyre, Argyll and Bute, Scotland, PA28 6RX
Attraction Type: Castle
Location: On a footpath from Dunaverty golf club, off the B842 at Southend
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
St Columba's Chapel, Holy Well, & Footprints - 1.1 miles (Historic Church)
Mull of Kintyre - 6.2 miles (Countryside)
Kilkivan Chapel and Graveyard - 8 miles (Historic Church)
Campbeltown Cross - 8.3 miles (Historic Building)
Davaar Island and Crucifixion Painting - 8.9 miles (Countryside)
Kildonan Dun, Kintyre - 13.8 miles (Prehistoric Site)
Saddell Abbey - 16.3 miles (Abbey)
Torr a'Chaisteal Fort - 17.5 miles (Prehistoric Site)
Nearest Accommodation to Dunaverty Castle:
Nearby accommodation is calculated 'as the crow flies' from Dunaverty Castle. 'Nearest' may involve a long drive up and down glens or, if you are near the coast, may include a ferry ride! Please check the property map to make sure the location is right for you.
Nearest Self Catering Cottages
Nearest Bed and Breakfasts
Tourist Information Centre
Argyll and Bute
Tel: 01586 552 056