Guarding the Sound of Mull - Duart Castle
Duart Castle, the ancient Maclean stronghold on Mull, is situated where the Sound of Mull meets with the Firth of Lorn and Loch Linnhe. It sits atop a crag, in view of Dunstaffnage and Dunollie castles, and is part of a chain of eight castles that protected Mull and the mainland. Today, you can reach it by ferry from Oban and a short bus trip.
Back in 1367, you'd have needed to be on the right side of Lachlan Lubanach 5th chief of clan Maclean to get passage on one of his war galleys. Lachlan married Mary Macdonald, the daughter of the Lord of the Isles who gave her Duart as dowry. It was a love match, it is said, and old Macdonald not too happy about it. Relations between the two clans remained uneasy in the future.
At that time, Duart Castle was a rectangular wall enclosing a courtyard (which, I suppose, held some timber buildings), and it was Lachlan Lubanach who built the stone keep outside the curtain wall but connected with it. It's an unusual structure to have the keep outside the wall, but it is protected by its situation on the crag and the peninsular structure of the site. On the landward side, the curtain wall was 9 metres high, and the castle was additionally protected by a deep ditch cut into the solid rock.
In the 17th century, vaulted cellars (some of them serving as dungeons) and a kitchen were built inside the walls, with a hall on first floor level and a chamber above it. A two storey gatehouse was added to defend the entrance into the courtyard. The keep atop the cliff
Being a Scottish clan, the Macleans were involved in a lot of feuds and shifting alliances with other clans and the kings. The guidebook has some stories, like the one of Lachlan Cattanach (the Shaggy) Maclean and 11th chief who abandoned his wife Catherine Campbell on a rock that would be flooded at high tide. She was rescued by a fisherman and sought shelter with her brother who in turn had Lachlan 'dirked in bed' (1523).
The Maclean chose the 'wrong' side during the first Jacobite rising, and in 1691 Sir John Maclean 4th Baronet of Morvern surrendered the castle to Archibald Campbell 1st Duke of Argyll who fought for William and Mary. Despite being in bad repair, the castle was used as garrison for Government troops until it was abandoned in 1751. Duart Castle - seen from the land side
Duart Castle was sold a few times, slowly falling into ruins. But in 1910 Sir Fitzroy Maclean, 26th chief of the clan fulfilled a dream he had since a childhood visit to the hereditary lands and bought the castle. He took up the enormous and costly task to restore the building.
The restoration by the architect Sir John Burnett stayed close to the original features. Judging by a photo in the guidebook, the remains were substantial enough to serve as guideline. Further repairs were performed in 1991-95 under the present chief, Sir Lachlan Hector Maclean, 28th chief of the clan. Duart Castle is open to the public.Some Maclean stories can be found here and here.