Castle Sween

Castle Sween is located on the eastern shore of Loch Sween, in Knapdale, on the west coast of Argyll, Scotland. It is thought to be one of the earliest stone castles built in Scotland, having been built sometime in the late XII century. The castle’s towers were later additions to wooden structures which have now since vanished.

Castle Sween takes its name from Suibhne, who is thought to have built the castle. Suibhne is believed to have been a grandson of Hugh “the Splendid” O’Neill who died in 1047.

In the XIII century the Clan MacSween, or descendants of Suibhne, governed lands extending as far north as Loch Awe and as far south as Skipness Castle on Loch Fyne. In the later half of the XIII the MacSween lands of Knapdale passed into the hands of the Stewart Earls of Menteith.

By the time of the Wars of Scottish Independence the MacSweens took the wrong side, and when Robert the Bruce became King of Scots, he displaced the MacSweens from their lands. After Robert the Bruce had defeated MacDougall Lord of Lorne in 1308, he then laid siege to Alasdair Og MacDonald in Castle Sween. Alastair gave himself up and was disinherited by Robert Bruce who then granted Islay to Alasdair’s younger brother, Angus Og, the king’s loyal supporter, who also received the Castle Sween in Kintyre from the King.

In 1310, Edward II of England granted John MacSween and his brothers their family’s ancestral lands of Knapdale (though by then Castle Sween was held by Sir John Menteith). It is possible that this could be the “tryst of a fleet against Castle Sween,” recorded in the Book of the Dean of Lismore, which tells of the attack of John Mac Sween on Castle Sween.

In 1323, after the death of Sir John Menteith, the Lordship of Arran and Knapdale passed to his son and grandson. In 1376, half of Knapdale, which included Castle Sween, passed into possession of the MacDonald Lords of the Isles, by grant of Robert II of Scotland to his son-in-law John I, Lord of the Isles.

During the MacDonald’s century and a half of holding the castle, the castellans were first MacNeils and later MacMillans.

Castle Sween from the loch.

In 1490 Castle Sween was granted to Colin Campbell, 1st Earl of Argyll, by James IV of Scotland.

In 1647, during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, Castle Sween was attacked and burnt by Alasdair MacColla and his Irish Confederate followers.

Skipness Castle

Skipness Castle stands on the east side of the Kintyre Peninsula in Scotland near the village of Skipness.

The main structure of the castle was built in the early XIII century by the Clan MacSween with later fortifications and other additions made to the castle through the XIII, XIV, and XVI centuries.

The castle was garrisoned with royal troops in 1494 during King James IV of Scotland’s suppression of the Lordship of the Isles. Archibald Campbell, 2nd Earl of Argyll, granted Skipness to his younger son Archibald Campbell in 1511.

During the Wars of the Three Kingdoms in 1646, the castle was besieged by forces under the command of Alasdair Mac Colla. During the siege, Alasdair’s brother, Gilleasbuig Mac Colla, was killed in August 1646.

The castle was abandoned in the XVII century.

Tarbert Castle

Tarbert Castle is located on the southern shore of Tarbert Bay, at Tarbert, Argyll, Scotland, at the north end of Kintyre. Tarbert Castle was a strategic royal stronghold during the Middle Ages and one of three castles at Tarbert. The castle overlooks the harbour and although pre XIV century in construction, the tower dates back to 1494 and the visit of James IV to the Western Highlands.

In 712, Tarbert was burned by King Selbach mac Ferchair of Cenél Loairn and of Dál Riata and in 731 by his son, Dúngal mac Selbaig, the latter event being recorded in the Annals of Ulster:

The burning of Tairpert Boitir by Dúngal.

Annals of Ulster, U731.4.

King Edward II of England transferred control of the castle to the Scottish King John II de Balliol in 1292. A fortified structure was built in Tarbert during the XIII century. It was reinforced with the addition of an outer bailey and towers in the 1320s by Robert the Bruce, to protect it against the Lords of the Isles. A towerhouse was added in the XVI century, which is the most noticeable part of the remains. The castle occupies high land above Loch Fyne, providing views up East Loch Tarbert and beyond to the Firth of Clyde. This castle was captured from John MacDonald of Islay, Lord of the Isles by James IV of Scotland as part of his campaign to destroy the power of the Lords of the Isles in 1494. In 1687 the castle was involved in another skirmish when Walter Campbell of Skipness Castle seized it as a stronghold for Archibald Campbell, 9th Earl of Argyll as part of actions in support of the Monmouth Rebellion in England.