At the head of Loch Awe stands Kilchurn Castle, a dramatic and imposing fortress that fits into its dramatic surroundings. It’s loch side location, imposing curtain walls and surrounding mountains rise on all sides to make this one of the most photographed castles in Scotland.
Kilchurn was built in 1450 by Sir Colin Campbell, first Lord of Glenorchy. The five storey tower house was defended by an outer curtain wall and became the ancestral seat of the Campbells of Glenorchy. By 1500 an additional range and a hall had been added to the south side of the castle and further buildings were added through the 1600s. Kilchurn was strategically important on an old drovers route from the fertile lands of the western highlands and easily defended with water on all four sides. The only access to the castle was by a causeway.
In fact the land that Kilchurn stands on was actually an island until water levels were lowered by a few feet as a result of works to the loch’s outflow in 1817, long after any risk of attack had subsided.
In 1681 Sir John Campbell of Glenorchy was made first Earl of Breadalbane and inherited the castle. The powerful clan Campbell was aligned to British Military interests. The Earl spent much of the 1690s converting Kilchurn Castle into a barracks for 200 troops. The new barracks still stand and are the oldest surviving barracks on the British mainland.
Kilchurn was used as a Government outpost during the 1715 and 1745 Jacobite Rebellions but by 1740 the clan had left to pursue commercial interests in Perthshire. The Campbells tried to sell the castle to the British Army but after the end of the Jacobite movement in 1746, it was seen to be unimportant strategically given its proximity to Fort William.
The castle lay in decay that was accelerated by a lightning strike and subsequent fire in 1760. The strike was so strong that it blew the top of the castle from its foundations, the upturned tower still rests in the courtyard below.
Kilchurn Castle is in the care of Historic Environment Scotland.