Looking for a different Kildonan? Try Kildonan Dun.
Kildonan Castle was built in the thirteenth century by the MacDonalds as they vied with the Stewarts for control of the former Norse owned territories on Scotland’s West Coast. One of three castles on Arran, Kildonan was abandoned in the sixteenth century and today is a ruin located within a private garden.
Kildonan Castle is found on the southern coast of the Isle of Arran and was one of three fortifications built on the island (the other two were Brodick and Lochranza). The castle was built during the thirteenth century during a time when ownership of the island was contested between the Norsemen and the expanding Kingdom of Scotland. The defeat of the former, at the Battle of Largs (1263), led to the Treaty of Perth (1266) where Magnus IV abandoned his claim in exchange for a substantial payment. The island then fell under the influence of the Stewart family but they vied for control with the MacDonalds (later Lords of the Isles) and it was the latter who built Kildonan Castle.
The castle was built on top of a rocky plateau overlooking one of the few sandy beaches on Arran; a feature that would have offered superb landing facilities for the small ships that were once the main means of communication and trade across the area. At least a four storey structure, both the ground and first floors consisted of vaulted chambers. The castle was protected by cliffs on the east side and by a deep ravine on the north whilst gun loops, clearly added later in the castle's life, were installed on the ground floor. A survey of 1887 reported that the entrance was on the ground floor with a staircase built within the thickness of the wall but evidence of both has now been lost as the structure deteriorated during the subsequent century. The castle's name (which is shared by Kildonan dun on the mainland), derives from the Irish monk St Donan who lived on the island in the sixth century AD.
Kildonan Castle passed into Royal ownership no later than 1406 and was granted by Robert III to John Stewart of Ardgowan. Its primary use seems to have been as a hunting lodge. In 1544 it became the property of James Hamilton, Earl of Arran. With more substantial properties elsewhere, including Brodick Castle, Kildonan was allowed to drift into ruin.
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Kildonan Castle exists as an unstable ruin located within a private garden. There is no public access although the remains can be seen from the adjacent path (where there is also an information panel) and, at a distance, from the beach. In good weather there are excellent views of the Ayrshire coast and the islands of Ailsa Craig and Pladda.
Kildonan Castle is found off the coastal road to the east of the village. Kildonan village is sign-posted from the A841 and there is an (unpaved) car park nearby. Please note that what looks like lay-bys on either side of the road are actually bus stops and not intended for cars! Please park on the grass.
Car Parking Option