Ghost of Kilchurn Castle

The romantic ruins of Kilchurn Castle are among the most photographed in Scotland. Built by the Campbells in the mid-1400s and enhanced in the 17th century to include a barrack block for government troops, the castle projected strength. Still, it was ultimately defeated by a lightning strike, which began its decline into ruin.

Kilchurn Castle


The castle still seems to be home to one restless spirit.

As Richard tells the story ...

Kilchurn Castle dates from the late 1440s, and was built by Sir Colin Campbell on what was then a tiny rock island in Loch Awe. Legend holds that it was Sir Colin's wife, Margaret, who oversaw the construction of the castle, as he was away on his travels during the seven or so years it took to build it. Although Sir Colin wrote to his wife regularly throughout his absence, she never actually received his letters, as they were intercepted by an Argyllshire chieftain by the name of M'Corquodale, who had designs on Margaret. As time passed, the treacherous chieftain managed to convince Margaret that, since she hadn't heard from her husband for so long, he must be dead.

Believing his lies, the grief-stricken Margaret accepted M'Corquodale's proposal for marriage, and arrangements were made for their wedding. Fortunately, Sir Colin arrived back from his travels just in the nick of time and was able to prevent the marriage and reclaim his wife. M'Corquodale was allowed to depart, and the reunited couple then settled down in their island fortress, which remained the residence of subsequent generations of the family until it was abandoned entirely in the early 18th century.

During the Campbell's tenure, Kilchurn Castle was extended and modified, the last major alterations made by Sir John Campbell, Earl of Breadalbane, towards the end of the 17th century. In addition to heightening the castle walls, he also added a large barrack block, the first purpose-built barracks in Scotland. The castle was subsequently garrisoned by government troops during the Jacobite uprisings of 1715 and 1745. However, the Campbells were spending less and less time at their island fortress and when, in 1769, the castle was struck by lightning, they abandoned it altogether, leaving it to fall into decay. Weed and bracken crept over its once proud walls, and the local populace carted away some of its slates and timbers to incorporate into buildings elsewhere. In the 19th century, the water level of Loch Awe was lowered and, as a result, Kilchurn Castle was, for the first time in its history, accessible by land. Even so, its descent into ruin continued. At one stage, a homeless woman nicknamed the Witch of Kilchurn took refuge in the castle and became something of a local character, often making her way to Loch Awe stores to purchase her pipe tobacco.

Thankfully, the decay was halted by Historic Scotland, which restored it in the 1950s. Today, visitors can approach the castle either over land or, in the summer months, via a little steamer that takes them over the loch on what is a truly picturesque approach.

Many visitors to the castle have heard a pitiful ghostly voice crying out for help as they explore the stunning site. Tradition holds that the cries are those of a child who was locked away in a room high in the castle at some stage in its long history. Quite why, or what fate befell the unfortunate child to cause its ghostly pleadings to echo down the centuries, is not recorded.

- Richard Jones