Dunstaffnage Castle, Dunbeg – Clan MacDougall
Guarding the rugged coastline of the west of Scotland, Dunstaffnage Castle sits atop a rocky outcrop that was once one of the most strategic locations in the whole of the country.
Such was the importance of the site for national defence, is believed a fortification has stood on the site for at least 1500 years as the Kings of Dalriada are said to have built a stronghold there as early as the 600s.
Originally the home of the Stone of Destiny (according to some historians) the fortress would come into the hands of the MacDougalls by the middle of the 13th century after they were appointed keepers of the castle by King Haakon IV. Originally ruled under the Kingdom of Norway, the castle would quickly change hands as it was fought over on a number of occasions over the course of the second half of the 13th century and early 1300s.
The first attempt to take the castle back under Scottish control would be launched in 1249 by Alexander II as he assembled a fleet of ships at Oban before unexpectedly dying on the nearby island of Kerrera before the attack could take place. Therefore, the castle would remain under the control of the Norse-sympathising MacDougalls for another 60 years until another attempt was made by the crown to take the castle in 1309 by Robert the Bruce. This time the attack would be much more successful as Bruce laid siege to the castle walls before successfully capturing it and appointing the MacArthurs as hereditary captains of the stronghold.
Sadly for the MacDougalls, this would be the end of their connection to a castle they had largely constructed as it would eventually pass under the control of the powerful Campbells in 1470. After this passage, it would remain in a relatively stable condition for the next few centuries before burning during an attempted uprising in 1685. Supporting Dutch troops, the Campbell Earl of Argyll would be executed and his castle destroyed by the troops of James VII/II and Dunstaffnage would be left in an almost unusable state. It would, however, be garrisoned one final time during the Jacobite Rising of 1745 as it was used by government forces and as a temporary prison to house to Flora MacDonald, an acquaintance and helper of Bonnie Prince Charlie.
Despite the damage caused by these events, the tower house within the castle would remain in use until the end of the 19th century when it was largely abandoned, it remains under the control of a hereditary captain to this day and is open to the public for visiting during most of the year.