Column: Enchanting history of the Scottish isles

View from Dunollie Castle
View from Dunollie Castle

I had vowed to return to Dunollie to do the castle tour and so it was on a beautiful autumnal morning we returned from a beach walk on Ganavan Sands to revisit the seat of the MacDougall clan.

I had vowed to return to Dunollie to do the castle tour and so it was on a beautiful autumnal morning we returned from a beach walk on Ganavan Sands to revisit the seat of the MacDougall clan.

On this occasion, we spent time looking around the museum at the family’s history and items lovingly collected by Hope MacDougall, a relative of the chiefs.

She had the most amazing collection gathered over her lifetime, which included many spoons. There were also all manner of things relating to the family from centuries before.

After a warming tea, we were taken in a small group up the very steep path leading to Dunollie Castle, built by the MacDougalls of Lorn, though this ancient site has previous history dating back to the Iron Age.

Our interesting guide led us inside the dark, atmospheric lower parts and told us its history.

We marvelled at the thick walls and heard it had been a fortified site for centuries since the Kingdom of Dal Riata, from around AD400, while the present castle ruins date back several hundred years, one of several clan castles.

After this we were amazed by the view from the castle across to the island of Kerrera, which is also the site of Gylen Castle, another MacDougall stronghold.

From Dunollie Castle you can also see the mountains of Mull in the distance.

Although lost for a time, the MacDougalls regained the territory and built Dunollie House for the clan chief of the time in 1745, taking stone from the ancient castle, which was no longer in use.

The house is still a residence of the current chief’s family.

Looking out at the stunning views, I thought how at one time the clan held most of the Argyll region, so all you can see and way beyond, including the islands of Mull, Jura, Lismore, Tiree, Islay and Coll.

Then looking across to nearby Kerrera you can imagine when it was a busy sea port, alive with activity.

Now it is a beautiful, quiet isle with evocative Gylen Castle just beyond view.

It was wonderful to hear the history on location, a very romantic experience.

So as we headed back down the steep path towards Dunollie House, it felt very special to have shared the experience, thanks to our great hosts.