The castle was demolished in the late seventeenth century but the natural rock upon which it stood was always the primary defensive element of the structure and has lost nothing of its dramatic setting over the centuries. Good views of the surrounding area and the rock itself can be climbed but extreme care must be taken.
NO OFFICIAL SITE
Drawbridge. The only land access to the rock on which the castle was built is a thin neck of land. The medieval defences sealed off this approach and provided a drawbridge for access.
Dunaverty Castle Site
Notes: The castle is located in Southend. A small lay-by sufficient for a few cars allows access onto the beach with a short walk to the castle.
1. Dunaverty is derived from a Gaelic name which is assumed to have originally been Dun Abhartaigh, the Fort of the Abhairtach tribe.
2. When James IV captured Dunaverty Castle in 1494 he left a small garrison under a loyal Governor. However the site was quickly re-captured by Sir John MacDonald who executed the Governor and hung his body from the ramparts before the King had even left the area.
3. Aside from the devastation caused by their actions, the army of General Leslie also brought the plague to Kintyre which decimated the population. Archibald Campbell seized the opportunity to import lowland settlers more likely to be loyal to him than the former Highlanders.
4. The lifeboat station was built at the base of the site in 1869.
A rocky stronghold that was fortified for over a thousand years, Dunaverty Castle witnessed conflicts with the Norwegians, the English and the Lords of the Isles. However its bloodiest engagement occurred in 1647 when a Covenanter force besieged and massacred the Royalists within.
HISTORY OF DUNAVERTY CASTLE
Situated on a rocky headland that projects into the Sound of Sandra between Dunaverty and Brunerican Bays, a castle existed here in some form as early as the eight century AD for the Annuls of Ulster note that in AD 712 Sealbach, King of Dalriada besieged the site. Thereafter it became the principal stronghold of Gabran and his heirs. It is not known what form this castle took but over the subsequent centuries it evolved into a stone curtain wall that is presumed to have enclosed the summit of the headland. The land access was achieved from the north via a drawbridge.
After the eighth century attack the history of the castle is vague until 1248 when a Walter Bissett seized the castle after a dispute with Alexander II of Scotland. If not the initial capture, his subsequent holding of the castle was supported by the English as records note Henry III granting permission to import stores from Ireland (then an English possession) to fortify the site. However William’s tenure was short for he was dislodged by Allan, son of the Earl of Atholl the same year.
The castle next saw action in 1263 when it was besieged by King Haakon IV of Norway as part of his expedition against Alexander III of Scotland. The castle eventually fell and was gifted to Dugald MacRuairi and later passed into the hands of Alexander MacDonald of Islay. King Haakon's campaign however floundered with an inconclusive engagement at the Battle of Largs and his death at Kirkwall in Orkney whilst his fleet wintered there.
In 1306 Dunaverty briefly hosted Robert the Bruce as he fled English forces after initiating his rebellion against Edward I. The fugitive Scotsman stayed here for several days hosted by the then owner, Angus Og MacDonald of Islay. Robert escaped just in time for on 22 September 1306 the castle came under siege from English forces under the command of Sir Henry Percy.
Dunaverty remained property of the MacDonalds, Lord of the Isles until the late fifteenth century after which their power was permanently broken by James IV of Scotland. In 1494 the King had captured the castle but it was rapidly retaken by Sir John MacDonald. But his victory was brief - MacDonald fled to Ireland where he was betrayed and hanged.
In April 1544 the castle and Lordship of Kintyre was granted to Archibald Campbell, Fifth Earl of Argyll who added artillery to the site. His upgrades proved effective for in 1558 it repulsed an attack by forces of Edward Seymour, Earl of Surrey during the War of the Rough Wooing.
The castles bloodiest, and final, chapter came during the Wars of Three Kingdoms. Following their defeat at the Battle of Rhunahaorine Moss on 24 May 1647, the army of the Royalist-Irish General Alasdair MacColla retreated South along the Kintyre peninsula. The bulk of the force was extracted to Ireland but around 500 sheltered in Dunaverty Castle under then command of Archibald MacDonald of Sanda. There they were besieged by a Covenanter force under General David Leslie. The water supply for the castle either failed or was denied to those within forcing surrender. At the behest of Archibald Campbell, Marquess of Argyll - who had suffered humiliation from MacColla's forces rampaging through his lands in co-operation with those of James Graham, Marquis of Montrose - the garrison was massacred in an action that became known as the Battle of Dunaverty