In this third installment about our visit to beloved Mull, we take a look at one of the prominent features of the isle, which is seen upon approaching it on the ferry from Oban to Craignure.
Duart Castle sits high atop the hill with a great vantage across the Sound of Mull toward Loch Linnhe; it is rather imposing from any angle of approach, as even from the landward side, there is a bit of a rise to climb, while approaching the castle. Duart Castle was probably built by Clan MacDougall in the 13th century, and appears to have come into the hands of Clan MacLean in the following century.
In 1350 Lachlan Lubanach Maclean of Duart, the 5th Clan Chief, married Mary, daughter of John of Islay, Lord of the Isles and Duart was part of her dowry. In 1647, Duart Castle was attacked and laid siege to by the Argyll government troops of Clan Campbell, but they were defeated and driven off by the Royalist troops of Clan MacLean.
There was quite a bit of to and fro over Duart castle between various factions until it was abandoned in 1751. Descendants of Archibald Campbell, 1st Duke of Argyll sold the castle in 1801, to MacQuarrie, who then sold it to Carter-Campbell of Possil who kept it as a ruin within the grounds of his own estate to the north, Torosay Castle. He later sold his Torosay Estate which now included the ruins of Castle Duart to A. C. Guthrie in 1865. On 11 September 1911, the ruin was separated from the rest of the Torosay Estate and was bought by Sir Fitzroy Donald Maclean, the 26th Chief of the Clan MacLean and restored.
In 2012, the centenary of the 1912 restoration, the Chief of Clan Maclean announced that his family could no longer afford the upkeep of the castle in light of the expense of major repairs. When we visited during the Spring of 2013, we noticed the Chief of Clan MacLean working on the upkeep of the castle himself; he was even nice enough to provide us some directions.
Unfortunately, in the winter of 2013-14 the castle lost four ceilings, which were brought down by water penetration through the chimneys. In July 2014, a Restoration Appeal was launched.
I certainly hope that the restoration will bring the castle to its former glory, to the delight of many visitors!
Factoid: Sean Connery is a MacLean through his mother’s side of the family.