Constructed upon a spit, Lochranza Castle was originally a hall house built by the MacSweens of Knapdale and later taken over by the Stewarts. They held it for almost two hundred years before James II granted it to the Montgomerie family who converted it into an L-plan Tower House. It remained occupied until the late eighteenth century.
Lochranza Castle is one of three fortifications on the Isle of Arran (the other two are Brodick and Kildonan) and is located on the north end of the island upon a gravel spit jutting out into Loch Ranza. The castle was built during the thirteenth century most probably by Dougall MacSween, Lord of Knapdale. He was the son of Suibhne (Sven) ‘the Red’ and thus directly descended from the Norsemen who claimed overlordship of parts of western Scotland and the isles at this time. The castle originally took the form of a two storey hall house and would have been similar in style to contemporary MacSween strongholds at Skipness and Sween. The entrance was originally on the first floor providing direct access into the Great Hall and the Lordly accommodation. The ground floor consisted of storage.
The thirteenth century saw ownership of Arran, like much of the Western seaboard, in dispute between the expanding Kingdom of Scotland and the Norwegians. In 1262 Alexander III granted Lochranza to Walter Stewart, Earl of Menteith hoping this magnate and his family would secure the area against Norsemen. It proved to be so. When a large Norwegian force entered the Clyde the following year, it was defeated by the Stewarts at the Battle of Largs (1263). In the subsequent Treaty of Perth (1266) the Norse abandoned their claims in exchange for a substantial payment.
The castle was still owned by the Stewarts in 1371. The then owner, Robert Stewart, was the only child of Walter Stewart and King Robert I's daughter Marjorie Bruce and, upon the death of David II in 1371, he succeeded to the throne as Robert II. Lochranza seems to have been used as a hunting lodge at this time and it remained in Royal hands until the 1450s when it was granted to the Montgomerie family. Nevertheless it was used as a base by James IV in his campaigns against the Lords of the Isles in the 1490s.
Lochranza was substantially rebuilt in the sixteenth century in the form of a L-plan Tower House probably by the Montgomerie family, Earls of Eglinton. The entrance was moved to the ground floor on the landward side. An additional storey (plus attic) was built to provide additional accommodation with the renovations prioritising comfort over defence. The castle was seized by James VI in 1614 and Oliver Cromwell during the 1650s.
By the early eighteenth century Lochranza had been acquired by the Hamilton family who owned vast swathes of land elsewhere on Arran including Brodick Castle. Lochranza was neglected and later sold to the Blackwood-Davidson family who used it as their primary residence until the late eighteenth century. Thereafter the castle was abandoned and allowed to drift into ruin.
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Lochranza Castle is a sixteenth century L-plan Tower House built around an earlier hall house.
Spit. The castle is located upon a spit jutting out into Loch Ranza.
Lochranza Castle. At first glance the castle appears to be a typical L-plan Tower House. However, it was built around a former Hall House and is a rare surviving example of that type of fortification.
Machicolation. A machicolation is directly above the entrance to the castle.