En route to the west coast of the Highlands, we have often made an early stop at Kilchurn Castle. We pull into an unremarkable dirt parking lot, and walk under an old railroad bridge. Some of the plants and flowers and grasses are interesting as we walk along a path through a meadow.
Turning the corner of the path, we see a long straight path ahead of us through the grasses, and if you pay attention, you’ll catch a glimpse of the jagged ruins of a castle in the distance.
As we approach, the ruin looms before us much more clearly.
Finally, we reach the castle, and examine the stonework and the turret.
There is a doorway with a lintel marked 1693 from an addition to the castle made that year. The castle was first built in the 1400s.
Once inside, you see the extent of the ruins. By 1760, the castle had been abandoned. That year a terrible storm was recorded in which lightning struck the tower of the castle. You can still see the remnants of that tower in the courtyard. It’s like the tower was broken off halfway up and dashed to the ground. By 1770, there was no longer a roof to the structure, and everything else decayed after that.
Here’s a picture of the courtyard and beyond it, you can see Loch Awe. It’s a nice spot for a picnic!
The castle was constructed by the Campbells of Glenorchy, and the proximity to the loch gave them control of the area. The tower collapsed by lightning can be glimpsed in the foreground at the left. If you go up the stairs showing at the back there, you’ll come to another tower, with a room that has my favorite view, from a keyhole window:
At the right of the courtyard as shown in the photo above is a high wall, and behind that is a giant dining room/ballroom. Below is a picture showing one of its fireplaces and part of a wall separating this room from the main dining hall. Higher on the wall you can see rows of rectangular holes which is where wooden joists or beams used to be placed to support an upper floor.
Another area, between the courtyard and the entrance, allows you to walk up to higher levels. One larger room there was marked as a place often used for performances by poets and musicians. From there you can view some of the beautiful surrounding scenery, including the path we had used to approach the castle.
We didn’t stop at Kilchurn on every trip to the Highlands, but it was often a convenient stop whether on the way to Glencoe (for the Gow Trip to the Highlands and Skye) or to Oban (for our tour of the Outer Hebrides). Usually the weather was beautiful but on occasion we had rain, or as Dorothy called it, liquid sunshine, which never kept us from enjoying the views.
For the musicians on our trips, I created a booklet of tunes connected to the places and people we would visit. These booklets had little descriptions of the tunes and how they fit into our tours, and in conjunction with recordings of the tunes, were of interest to the nonmusicians who joined us as well.
I also encouraged our travelers to write their own tunes, inspired by our guest musicians or by sights we experienced. Here’s a tune I wrote many years ago that, when we published our family tunebook last year, I decide to name for the dramatic mood of Kilchurn Castle:
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