Invergarry Castle was an L-plan Tower built in the early seventeenth century to serve as the seat of Clan MacDonell of Glengarry. The castle was badly damaged by Commonwealth forces in 1654 but was later rebuilt. However, after the overthrow of James VII, its owners supported the Jacobite cause resulting in the castle being attacked during the 1715 and 1745 rebellions.
Invergarry Castle overlooks Loch Oich in the Great Glen near its confluence with the River Garry. It commanded a strategic pass that provided access into the central west highlands and onwards to the Isle of Skye. The structure seen today was built between 1610 and 1640 by Donald Mac Angus. He was the eighth chief of Clan MacDonell of Glengarry and was descended from John of Islay, Lord of the Isles. The clan had received the lands of Glengarry in a Royal Charter dated 9 March 1539 although this was inevitably formalising a situation that had existed long before. The MacDonnell’s also received parts of Loch Alsh, Lochcarron, Loch Broom and Morar. The clan seat was established at Strome Castle but this was destroyed by Kenneth Mackenzie, chief of the Clan Mackenzie in 1602. Invergarry Castle was built as its replacement.
Glengarry Castle took the form of a five storey, L-plan Tower House and was clearly constructed for a defensive purpose as evidenced by the thickness of the outer wall. The main block was occupied by storerooms, kitchen, Great Hall and high status accommodation on the floors above. A grand circular stair tower extended from the north-east corner of the block and provided access to all levels. The 'L' configuration was created by a (now demolished) West Wing although this may have been a later addition to the structure.
The castle was attacked by Covenanter forces in 1644 during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms but was clearly not badly damaged as it sheltered James Graham, Marquis of Montrose the following year after his defeat at the Battle of Philphaugh. However, the castle was burnt by the forces of General Monck in 1654 as the Commonwealth troops secured the Great Glen which included establishing the fortress citadels at Fort William and Inverness. Invergarry Castle remained a burnt out ruin until the late 1660s when Robert Nicholson, mason and architect, was commissioned to restore the structure.
Clan MacDonell of Glengarry supported the Jacobite cause during the rebellions. In 1689 the then clan chief, Alasdair Dubh, fought at the Battle of Killiecrankie and this prompted the Government to occupy Invergarry Castle and garrison it with troops. A petition made to the Government in 1704 for the return of the castle was rejected. Accordingly Alasdair supported the 1715 rebellion including fighting at the Battle of Sheriffmuir. He managed to secure Invergarry Castle at this time but it was retaken by Government troops and subsequently burnt. The ruined structure was repaired in 1727 by Thomas Rawlinson. He used it as his residence until 1731 when he was ejected by the then clan chief, Iain Mac Alasdair Dubh. The castle remained with Iain until he supported the 1745 Jacobite rebellion including fighting at the Battle of Prestonpans and hosting Prince Charles Stuart at Invergarry Castle before and after his defeat at the Battle of Culloden. In 1750 Glengarry Castle was destroyed by the forces of Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland and was never rebuilt.
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Invergarry Castle is a ruined sixteenth century L-plan Tower House. The West Wing has been demolished but the gutted main block survives and the exterior can be viewed. At time of writing (July 2017) the structure was unstable with no interior access although a campaign (see link) is underway to fund restoration efforts.
Invergarry Castle. The castle stands upon the banks of Loch Oich. The rectangular block was augmented by a circular stair tower built into the north-east corner.
Slighted. Invergarry Castle was slighted by the forces of Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland after the owner's involvement in the 1745 Jacobite rebellion.
Interior. Unusually none of the interior compartments were vaulted.
L-plan. The castle was originally an L-plan but the West Wing has been demolished leaving the rectangular block standing alone.
Clan MacDonell of Glengarry. The clan owned territory from Loch Alsh in the west to the Great Glen in the west. The original clan seat was at Strome Castle (right) which was in proximity to the lands of their kinsmen, Clan MacDonald. However, by the seventeenth century they were loyal servants of the Stewart (Stuart) Kings and, after Strome Castle was destroyed in 1602, they built a new family seat on Loch Oich which was more centrally placed and allowed access to the important Royal borough at Inverness.
Invergarry Castle is found just off the A82. The turning is sign-posted to the 'Glengarry Castle Hotel' and there is a small lay-by sufficient for a few cars. Note that, despite the name, the castle is NOT located in the modern village of Invergarry!