Dunyvaig Castle, Islay
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: Scene of dramatic sieges in the 16th-17th centuries
The MacDonald Lords of the Isles used Lagavulin Bay as an anchorage for their ships from the 11th century and probably built the castle to guard their fleet at anchor. Somerled, the 'King of the Isles' used Lagavulin as a safe anchorage for his galleys and needed a strong fortification to make the anchorage safe from attack.
The castle ruins are a confusing jumble, half hidden by foliage and seemingly fused to the rock of the promontory. The headland is small, encompassing an area of only about 200 square metres.
A section of a 13th century tower still stands with a courtyard of the same period, with the crumbling walls of a 15th century keep. Much of what remains dates from the 16th century and consists of an inner and outer court within a curtain wall, reached through a barbican. On the seaward side is a huge sea gate measuring 17 feet across.
At least, that was the theory, but in practice the leader of the MacDonalds, Angus MacDonald, 8th of Dunnyveg, refused to cooperate with the crown. In 1608 Angus MacDonald finally surrendered to a crown force led by Andrew Stuart, Lord Ochiltree. Stuart and Andrew Knox, Bishop of the Isles, were named constables. From 1610 the bishop was granted Dunyvaig as a life-rental if he supplied a garrison of 24 men under a captain.
Ranald could not hold what he took, for shortly after he took control a new force of men under Angus Og MacDonald appeared. Ranald and his men held out for just 6 days before they fled in a small boat.
A force of Covenanters under Sir David Leslie seized Dunyvaig in 1647, and Leslie had the MacDonald leader, Alasdair 'Old' Colkitto MacDonald, hanged from the castle walls. The castle was finally granted to Campbells of Cawdor, and served as the principle Campbell residence on Islay.
When I visited the castle site was fenced off due to danger from crumbling masonry, but you can still get incredible views of the castle from the rocky shore. East of the castle, hugging the shoreline, is Lagavulin Distillery, home to one of Islay's most popular whisky brands.
There are trails from the nearby road to the castle promontory, which is easily accessible at any time, but please do take care, for the cliffs are quite steep.
Dunyvaig is also known as Dunyveg Castle and as Dun Naomhaig in Gaelic.
Because Islay is an island the 'nearest accommodation' properties listed below may not be on Islay itself but on the Scottish mainland. The best source we have found for accommodation on the island is Isle of Islay.com, a dedicated local website offering a wonderful mix of local information, history, activities, and accommodation information.
About Dunyvaig Castle
Address: Lagavulin, Argyll and Bute, Scotland, PA42 7DX
Attraction Type: Castle
Location: On the shore at Lagavulin, off the A846 east of Port Ellen. Open access site.
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Kilbride Standing Stone - 1.4 miles (Prehistoric Site)
Carraig Fhada Lighthouse - 3.6 miles (Historic Building)
Kildalton Cross - 4.6 miles (Historic Church)
Cragabus Chambered Cairn - 4.8 miles (Prehistoric Site)
Claggain Bay Standing Stone - 5.8 miles (Prehistoric Site)
American Monument - 8.8 miles (Historic Building)
Dun Nosebridge - 9.3 miles (Prehistoric Site)
Bowmore Round Church - 10.6 miles (Historic Church)
Nearest Accommodation to Dunyvaig Castle:
Nearby accommodation is calculated 'as the crow flies' from Dunyvaig 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
Bowmore (Isle of Islay)
Tourist Information Centre
Isle of Islay
Argyll and Bute
Tel: 01496 810 254