Dunstaffnage Castle | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Dunstaffnage Castle

Dunbeg, Scotland, United Kingdom

Lily Johnson

16 Apr 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Dunstaffnage Castle

Dunstaffnage Castle is a medieval stronghold built by the MacDougall clan at a time when Scotland was under constant threat from Norwegian attack. Seeing much conflict over its 800-year history, today Dunstaffnage provides an atmospheric glimpse into Scotland’s medieval past.

Dunstaffnage Castle history

Begun in the 1220s, Dunstaffnage Castle was likely constructed by Duncan Macdougal, son of Dubhgall, Lord of Lorn and grandson of the self-proclaimed ‘King of the Isles’ named Somerled. At the time, the Kingdom of Scotland was in a vicious power-struggle with Norway for control of the Hebrides, before the Scots won the territory in 1266.

During the Scottish Wars of Independence Robert the Bruce laid siege to Dunstaffnage Castle, eventually taking it in 1309. As a result, it would remain in royal hands until the mid-15th century, when it fell under the ownership of the aristocratic Campbell family.

Dunstaffnage Castle would continue to see conflict in the following centuries however, including during the Jacobite Rising of 1745-6. During this time it would earn one of its most famous legacies as a prison for Flora MacDonald.

MacDonald was incarcerated there after famously helping Bonnie Prince Charlie escape from the Red Coats by dressing him as a woman, following his defeat at the Battle of Culloden. She remained at Dunstaffnage for a few days before being moved to the Tower of London, and was released the next year.

Dunstaffnage Castle today

Today Dunstaffnage Castle is operated by Historic Scotland and is open to visitors. The imposing battlements may be climbed, affording lovely views over the nearby harbour, while its curtain wall remains a highly impressive and imposing sight, and is one of the oldest in Scotland.

Also visible at Dunstaffnage Castle are the remains of its 13th century chapel hidden away amongst the trees, and a 16th-century 3-storey gatehouse. The cells that reportedly held Flora MacDonald may also be explored, allowing visitors to walk in the footsteps of the young heroine.

Getting to Dunstaffnage Castle

Dunstaffnage Castle is located 3 miles northeast of Oban in Scotland. It can be reached via the A85, and there is a car park 200m from the castle. Connel Ferry train station is 3.5 miles away, from which the 410 bus can be taken from the Post Office to the MacCallum Court bus stop in Dunbeg. A 20-minute walk will take you from there to the site.

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