Duart Castle, Isle of Mull, Scotland

Approaching Duart from the Sound of Mull
 Today's post is a continuation of our tour of Duart Castle on Isle of Mull in Scotland. In last week's post, I covered some of the history up to the 1400s. Photography was not allowed inside the castle, but I found some pics online for you to see. After clicking on the photo link, remember to click the back button to return here.

The kitchen was designed in 1912 during the reconstruction of the castle. The coal range here was used until 1960. There is a cook's kitchen table and a dry store through the doorway. The vegetables were prepared in the scullery, which is a separate room with two sinks.

The dungeons hold officers who were captured after their Spanish galleon showed up in Tobermory Bay in 1588. (No, they're not real officers. :))

Next we went up a turnpike stair which was built into one of the earliest walls of the castle. The pantry is at the top of the stairs. The food from the kitchen arrived here on a dumb waiter. China is also kept here.

The Sea Room was probably my favorite room because it has amazing views out over the Sound of Mull and Loch Linnhe. This room was added in 1912 to provide covered passage from the rooms on the north side of the courtyard into the keep. On a clear day, you can see Ben Nevis from here. The room contains many interesting artifacts, including a small Spanish cannon dredged up from the mud of Tobermory Bay, where the galleon from the Armada sank.

The Great Hall or banqueting hall is one of the most fascinating rooms because of all the history it contains. The wall here is ten to twenty-three feet thick, and where the keep joins the original courtyard wall on the west it is sixteen feet thick. The portraits here show Macleans spanning three hundred years. The coat of arms of the 26th chief is on the fireplace. We left the room via another turnpike stair built into the thickness of the wall. These types of stairs turn clockwise so that castle defenders could easily fight with their swords in their right hands.

The Dressing Room and State Bedroom is on the next floor. The four-poster bed and matching furnishings were made for the wartime honeymoon of Lord Maclean and his bride. This floor also contains a large collections of family photographs from the mid-19th century to present day. Also on display are many examples of historical clothing from the Maclean family including a dress from 1750. On the top floor of the keep is a large display area that tells the history of the clan. The walls were removed between three bedrooms and a bathroom to create this exhibition area. Next we went onto the wall walk on the roof of the castle, which I showed you last time. After this we left the castle and passed through the courtyard again.

The Courtyard
 Hector Odhar Maclean of Duart was among the clan chiefs who fought with James IV at Flodden in 1513 against the English and were also killed with him. The MacLeans and Campbells were allies during this time and this tie was strengthened by marriage. But one disastrous and infamous incident destroyed this alliance. Lachlan Maclean of Duart married a Campbell's sister, Catherine (the daughter of the 2nd Earl of Argyll). One story says she tried to kill him twice and another story says she failed to produce an heir for him… in any case, he tied her to a rock in the sea at low tide and left her to drown once the tide came in. Fishermen passing in a boat saw her and rescued her, taking her back to her brother. Not knowing she had been rescued, Maclean reported her death to her brother. Revenge ensued. In 1523 Lachlan was 'dirked in bed' while in Edinburgh. One source says he was killed by Sir John Campbell of Calder. The rock where Catherine was tied is now known as The Lady Rock and can be seen from Duart at low tide.

The entry/ exit
 The Macleans were at their most powerful in the late 1500s, but the Campbells also held a lot of power within the Stuart Court. Since they were now enemies of the Macleans, the Campbells took every opportunity to humble the Macleans and Macdonalds. These clans were already weakened by the many years of clan warfare and by the deaths of their chiefs. James VI disapproved of Sir Lachlan Maclean's dealings with Elizabeth I and this led to the sequestration of Duart in 1604 to the King's Commissioners.

Four years later, Lord Ochiltree was sent to Mull by the king as viceroy in an attempt to further subdue the troublesome chiefs of the islands. He invited all the chiefs to a social get-together on board his ship at anchor. As they awaited the toast, he told them they were all under arrest. They were taken to Edinburgh and forced to agree to the terms of the Statutes of Iona under which they lost most of their sovereignty over the islands.

The Macleans were allowed to return to Duart. The next few years were peaceful for the Macleans and they enlarged the castle and made it more comfortable. Despite what King James VI had done, they remained loyal to the crown during the Cromwell era. The chief at the time, Sir Hector Ruadh Maclean was killed at Inverkeithing in 1651. Eight of his foster brothers were killed by Cromwell's troops as they fought to rescue their chief, and 750 clansmen died with them.

After leaving the castle, we had lunch at the Duart Castle Cafe. I enjoyed the parsnip soup and sandwich. Then we walked down toward the shore. The wind was becoming stronger by the moment. Because I was sick with a bad cold, I was bundled up like winter with my thick scarf and several layers of jackets and a rain coat.


 In 1653 five naval ships were sent by Cromwell to capture the 10 year old chief. Three of these ships sank during a massive storm just below the castle, and one, The Swan, is still being investigated and analyzed by academics. It is still under the water.

 After the Civil War, the Macleans found themselves deeply in debt because they'd mortgaged most of their lands to fight for the king. The Campbells bought up these debts and eventually owned most of the Maclean's lands. The chief at the time was a child and his tutor gathered a small army, trying to fight the force of the Earl of Argyll. But the earl obtained letters of Fire and Sword in 1674 and launched into a full scale assault. After much fighting, the Macleans had to surrender the island.

In 1681, the land was returned to them when the Earl of Argyll fell from grace. But in 1688, Argyll was back in favor and Duart was once again besieged from the sea by English warships. The chief, Sir John Maclean was, at that time, fighting with his clan at Killiecrankie for the Jacobites. But they were defeated and this enabled the Campbells to return to Mull. With a force of 2500 men, the Campbells destroyed Duart Castle. The chief held out with the Jacobites on the Treshnish Islands, but they were finally defeated in 1691. The Maclean estates were forfeited. The castle, though mostly ruined, still held a government garrison until 1751. After this the castle was abandoned and became in worse condition.

 The Macleans would not hold Duart for the next 160 years but they remained strong in the military and the many of them lived on the island of Inchkenneth.

Colonel Sir Fitzroy Maclean, Bt.,KCB, Twenty-sixth Chief of Clan Maclean bought back the ruined Duart Castle and a portion of the peninsula around it in 1911. He hired the Scottish architect Sir John Burnet to restore the castle and make it a comfortable place to live.

Underneath the castle
 As you can tell, the sky is getting darker and there are some raindrops on my lens, causing blurs. The wind was also blowing harsher. But I thought it was the neatest thing to walk around underneath the castle where it sat on that cliff.

 We talked to the current chief, Sir Lachlan Maclean, although we didn't know who he was until later. He has two adorable dogs. He works on the mainland but spends a lot of time at Duart. In 2000 he planted the Millennium Wood, a collection of trees and shrubs indigenous to Argyll. He has also had extensive work done on the castle.

Even though it was a few minutes until the bus would leave, we hurried back because of the worsening weather. I took this picture of Duart through the bus window. We were glad we returned to the bus early when the driver left before the scheduled time. It might not be such a bad thing to be stranded on Isle of Mull for one night, but I wasn't sure the chief would let us stay at the castle. :)

Hope you enjoyed this tour of Duart Castle!

P.S. I got a great new review from Night Owl Reviews
4.50 / 5 - Reviewer Top Pick

 My Daring Highlander is historical romance at its best. Ms. Sinclair gives us another magical story in her Highland Adventure series. My Daring Highlander brings Scotland to life and sweeps you into a world where love isn't always enough but maybe hope is.
Keegan and Seona face almost insurmountable odds. They do so with dignity and honor. The attraction between them simmers until it explodes. Their love story is truly an amazing one and I was so caught up in their lives that I read this book in one sitting. I love this series and I love the characters. I wish I could think of a sexier description for them but what the couples are in these books are grown-ups. They face their lives with courage and truth.  Start at the beginning with this fantastic series. The author weaves a spell-binding tale of love, honor, family and friendship.
Keegan MacKay loves Seona Murray but can never have her. She is above his station and will be given to another. Seona is entranced by the man she's come to know. When he escorts her back home their passion explodes, even as danger tracks them.


Pat McDermott said...

It's astounding to me how that castle could sit on that outcrop for centuries without snapping off the rocks. It's a tribute to the skill of the castle's builders. Another delightful virtual tour, Vonda. Thanks, and congrats on the great review!

Angelyn said...

more lovely photos--a little vacay for me today.

Vonda Sinclair said...

Thanks, Pat!! Standing at the bottom of the cliff looking up at the castle was amazing. They had to be great builders to get it to stay there in the lashing wind.

Angelyn, thanks! I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

Tamara Hunter said...


Beautiful photos as always. The banquet hall is my favorite.

You really must do a photo book.

Vonda Sinclair said...

Thanks, Tamara! Aye, the banquet hall was so interesting. So much history.

Julie Robinson said...

Interesting tidbit about why the circular stairways were built the way they were. In enjoyed being able to click on each room to see it. Catherine Campbell's story gave me chills. Can you imagine being tied to that rock and watching the tide come in?! The architectural technology of the people at this time is amazing. I love your snapshots of the entire building on the cliff, especially the two before and after the paragraph in which you talk about the sky getting darker. Very Gothic-story inspiring! :-)

Congratulations on your great review. And now to visit Part I, which I apparently missed.

Vonda Sinclair said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it, Julie. I love those circular stairways. Most every Scottish castle I've been in has those. I'm sure Catherine Campbell must have been terrified. How lucky that she was rescued in time. I agree, it has a very Gothic atmosphere, especially during a storm.

Vanessa Holland said...

Wow, that place has seen a lot of action. How wonderful it was restored. Also, how cool you met the current chief! Great pictures, Vonda

Amy Jarecki said...

Thanks for sharing, Vonda! It sounds like you had a fantastic time. We went past Duart on our way to Iona. Unfortunately it wasn't on our stop. Monday I blogged about Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness.



Gerri Bowen said...

Wonderful, Vonda. Thank you for posting these photos and sharing your information.

Barbara Bettis said...

Fantastic post, Vonda. Wonderful photos, of course :0 and links to the other sites. Sounds like you had great visit. --Barb Bettis

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

WOW Vonda, this is one of my favorites - especially the beautiful purple flowers. Thanks for sharing and, of course, breaking my heart because I am not there seeing it in person STILL. ;) So appreciate the photos and stories behind them.

Vonda Sinclair said...

Vanessa, thanks! I'm glad it was restored too. It sort of brings history back to life. I wish we had known who the chief was when we talked to him. He's one of the few chiefs I've talked to. Can't remember if I've met any at Highland games.

Amy, thanks for checking it out. I hope to go to Iona next time.

Vonda Sinclair said...

Gerri, thank you! I'm glad you liked it!

Barbara, yes, it was a great visit. We enjoyed it a huge amount. I'm glad you like the pics. Thanks!

Paisley, thanks! I'm so sorry it breaks your heart. I know how you feel though. Wish we could visit Scotland anytime we want. :)