Carrick Castle is a late fourteenth/early fifteenth century Tower House built by the Campbell clan and replaced an earlier fortification that had served as a Royal hunting lodge. It was constructed upon a rocky promontory overlooking the entrance into Loch Goil. The castle was attacked by the Royal Navy during the rebellion of Archibald Campbell in 1685.
Carrick Castle stands upon a rocky promontory that juts out into Loch Goil, a sea loch that provides access (via Loch Long) to the Firth of Clyde. In the pre-industrial era, when the lochs and waterways of Scotland were the main means of movement throughout the region, Loch Goil was well placed to interact with the wider region. Furthermore the deep waters of the loch provided a wealth of natural resources and the adjacent forest of Argyll provided excellent hunting facilities. For all these reasons, there has been some form of high status residence at Carrick since at least the twelfth century. By the mid-thirteenth century this early fortification was in the hands of the Lamont family and was periodically used as a hunting lodge by the Kings of Scotland.
Little is known about the early fortification but by the early fourteenth century it was under English control and occupied by Henry Percy. However, in 1307 it was captured by Robert the Bruce during his rebellion against Edward I. Thereafter it was returned to the Lamonts but they lost control of it to the Campbells in 1368 as that clan sought to cement its control over Argyll. It was the Campbells who built the tower seen today either in the late fourteenth or early fifteenth century.
The castle was built as a four storey, rectangular tower house. The ground floor, which was subdivided into two compartments by an internal wall, was used for storage and incorporated a pit prison. The level above was the Great Hall and the floors above that would have served as high status accommodation. A fore building was added to the eastern side of the tower in the seventeenth century. A courtyard, probably originally enclosed by a barmkin (curtain wall), extended to the east of the tower and would have hosted all the ancillary buildings associated with such a site.
Carrick Castle served as an important outpost for the Campbell clan throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries including hosting a visit by Mary, Queen of Scots in 1563. However, in 1685 it became embroiled in the rebellion of Archibald Campbell, Earl of Argyll. He had become alienated from the Government during the reign of Charles II and had clashed with the King's brother - James, Duke of York - over religion and political influence in Scotland. In 1681 Campbell had been arrested but escaped and fled into exile. When the King died in 1685 and was followed by James (now James VII of Scotland / II of England), Campbell invaded hoping to raise the north against the new King and join a wider rebellion under James Scott, Duke of Monmouth. However, the two uprisings were not synchronised and Campbell's campaign son faltered. Government forces moved against Campbell with HMS Kingfisher being sent to bombard Carrick Castle. The structure was badly damaged in this assault and it was subsequently pillaged then gutted by fire.
The ruined castle passed into the hands of the Earls of Dunmore but they did not restore it to its previous condition. It remained ruinous until the late twentieth century when restoration efforts started to convert the castle into a private residence. Whilst the military role for the castle has ended, Loch Goil itself continues to play an important military function as ships and submarines of the Royal Navy use the noise ranging facilities there.
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Carrick Castle is a late fourteenth/early fifteenth century Tower House. It is privately owned with no internal access but the exterior can be viewed from the surrounding public rights of way. It is well worth taking the time to explore the surrounding hills as these offer superb views of the castle and of Lochs Goil and Long.
Carrick Castle. The castle stands upon a rock jutting out into Loch Goil and it is from this that it takes its name; Carrick is a corruption of Carraig meaning rock.
Tower House. The tower was built in the late fourteenth/early fifteenth century making it one of the earliest examples of this type of fortification. The castle's roof is a modern structure as the original was destroyed during the assault by HMS Kingfisher in 1685.
Fore Building. A fore building was added to the eastern side of the Tower House in the seventeenth century.
Carrick Castle is located in the hamlet of the same name on the shores of Loch Goil. The site is accessed via the A83 and B828. At Lochgoilhead take the (sign-posted) unnamed road to Carrick Castle. The fortification is clearly visible from the road as you approach.