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Skipness Castle

Skipness Castle is an early 13th century castle standing on the north east coast of the Kintyre peninsula, looking across Kilbrannan Sound to the Isle of Arran. The castle was built by the leader of the MacSween clan, at a time when this area of Argyll was under Norwegian rule, making it one of the very first true castles to be built in Scotland. The most likely builder was Suibhne (Sven) ‘the Red’, the founder of Clan MacSween, or his son Dugald. The MacSween castle consisted of a two storey hall house with a separate chapel. Skipness was not overly developed at that time, for the main seat of the family was at Castle Sween, a late 12th century castle also built by Sven the Red. Another MacSween fortress is almost visible from Skipness, across the Sound at Lochranza. The MacSweens used both castles to control this area of Argyll.

History of Skipness Castle

1200's ~ The castle is built by Sven 'the Red', Norse founder of Clan MacSween, who later builds another castle at Lochranza. The MacSweens use both castles to control the important sea routes surrounding the Isle of Arran and Argyll, from their principle seat at Castle Sween.

1263 ~ The MacSweens are forced to surrender Skipness Castle following the Battle of Largs between King Hakon of Norway, their liege lord and King James of Scotland. Although the battle did not result in defeat for the Norwegians, it resulted in their loss of control to the Scots over the Highlands and Islands, with just the Orkney Islands remaining in Norse control. The castle passes to the MacDonalds, Lord of the Isles, who add a powerful curtain wall to the castle with crenellations.

1493 ~ The MacDonald's lose congtrol of the castle to their bitter rivals the Campbells, Earls of Argyll. They build a towerhouse within the castle walls. (more in the History section)

Castle today

The castle is well worth exploring and was a welcomed surprise how much there is still left to explore in such terrific condition and ease of access, including the tower house itself which has some fabulous features.

Text by Fred Vincent