tower house
16th century

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NM 838 009
2km N of Kilmartin
off the A816
3m from Loch Awe


open site


Historic Scotland
Clan Campbell
Lego Castle


Carnasserie Castle

The weather cleared as we approached the hill. It's a bit of a walk -- there's parking down by the main road and you need to walk up to the bsae of the hill and then climb.

up and up and up - more stiars

16th century tower house

Carnasserie castle looks very much like the square tower of Cardoness, and dozens of other highly fortified towers. Once again, it's up hill quite a ways, percehd on a grass-covered hilltop overlooking the road.

The tower stands five storeys high, with an attic above a parapet. There are atually two twoers incorporated into the castle - the huge main tower, and a small one assocaited with the hall block attached to it. The tower dates from the 16th century, although there are datestones on other remains on the hilltop dated as late as 1681. THe castle was deliberably designed to look as if a newer hall block was grafted onto an older, massive tower, but all evidence points to the building being designed and built at the same time, between 1566 and 1572. It has remaind remarkably unchanged through out its history.

There is carving over the entrance of tthe tower (which is fairly rare, as far as we've seen - usually there are square placeholders for plaques or coats-of-arms over the doors, but the frames themselves are rarely carved. It is in Gaelic, as would be expected from the owner's feat of publishing the first book in Gaelic in 1567. It says "DIA LE UA NDUIBHNE", God be with O'Duine" - god be with the family, basically.

the gaelic plaque over the door / empty spots for the owners arms

The main tower is 9.7m x 9.3m over 1.6m thick walls. There is a decorative string course between the third and fourth storeys - this is a common decorative element in 16th century castles, and is rendered very nicely here. It is likely that hte decorations and style of the building were strongly influenced by the castle at Stirling, where John Carswell had serrved as chaplain to King James V.

The cellars are vaulted, although the vaulting is now missing, and included a large kitchen and wine cellar. The main bedrooms are in the tower, but the public rooms are all in the hall block atached to it. The bedrooms on the upper floors were reached by a small staircase and did not connect directly to the hall and rooms below in the tower, but instead by a staircase from the hall.

The hall is a large and has a number of huge fireplaces - I spend a lot of time standing inside fireplaces looking up...not the best plan, I might remind you, in an old ruin where pigeons are llikely to roost. First, you'll likely step in a few inches of decomposed pigeon poo, and second, they tend to continue to drop it on you if you look up. Keep your mouth shut, at the very least!

the end of the long hall block attached to the tower

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