Aros Castle
Aros Castle

Aros Castle, also known as Dounarwyse Castle, is a ruined 13th-century stronghold on the rocky estuary of the Aros River, looking across the Sound of Mull to the Scottish mainland.

The castle was built by Clan MacDougall but later passed to the MacDonald Lords of the Isles. After the Lordship of the Isles diminished in importance Aros Castle passed to the MacLeans of Duart and eventually ended up in the hands of Clan Campbell.

The ruins consist of a roofless hall house perched on a rocky headland and defended on the landward side by a ditch and stone wall.

Aros Castle across the river estuary
Aros Castle across the river estuary

History

We don't know who built Aros Castle, or when it was built. We do know that it was begun in the 13th century by one of the MacDougalls of Lorn. The first written record of the castle isn't until the 14th century.

The MacDougalls backed John Balliol in his struggle for the throne with Robert Bruce. When Bruce emerged victorious and took the Crown of Scotland he seized the MacDougall estates and transferred Aros Castle to the MacDonalds.

The Lords of the Isles were virtual kings in western Scotland, but in 1493 King James IV of Scotland launched a major offensive to break the MacDonalds' power and wrest control of Argyll from them. The king seized MacDonald lands and gave Aros to the MacLeans, whose seat of power was further south at Duart Castle.

In 1674 Archibald Campbell, the 9th Earl of Argyll, briefly garrisoned Aros Castle as part of his bitter dispute with the MacLeans. Whether Argyll's men damaged the castle or it had been simply allowed to decay, it was recorded as ruinous in 1688.

The Campbells eventually broke the power of the MacLeans and Aros passed into Campbell hands, though it seems that they never repaired the castle and the lands were rented to a succession of tacksman farmers.

The castle ruins
The castle ruins

The Castle

Despite its name, Aros Castle is not a castle as most people would think of the term, but a fortified hall house. The house stands on a rocky promontory on the north bank of the River Aros where it empties into the Sound of Mull. It is defended on the landward side by a ditch and bank.

The house stands within a curtain wall enclosure that forms a roughly square bailey, with a causewayed entrance across the northern section of the ditch. The house itself is built on an oblong plan on a north-south axis, and measures 25.3m x 12.5m. The walls vary in thickness from 1.7m to 3m. The house stood two storeys high, with an attic, though the walls now only reach 10m in places.

Only short sections of the curtain wall remain, and you can see the remains of several smaller stone buildings inside the bailey.

There are no facilities at Aros Castle, but the castle and grounds are open to explore. Just take care amid the ruins.

Getting There

Aros Castle is immediately east of the A848 at Aros Mains, just north of Salen. The easiest way to see the castle is from a gravelled parking area on the A848 about 1km north of Salen. From there you get a wonderful view of the castle across the River Aros estuary.

To access the castle, you need to follow the A848 north in the direction of Tobermory until you see a sign for Aros Mains to the right. Follow the single-lane road until you see a gravelled parking area on your right, signposted 'Park Here for Aros Castle'. From the parking area it is a stone's throw to the castle, which is visible through the trees.

Most photos are available for licensing, please contact Britain Express image library.

About Aros Castle, Mull
Address: Aros Mains, Salen, Isle of Mull, Argyll and Bute, Scotland
Attraction Type: Castle
Location: At Aros Mains, off the A848 just north of Salen.
Website: Aros Castle, Mull
Location map
OS: NM563449
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


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