Carnasserie Castle is a ruined 16th-century tower house built by reforming churchman John Carswell, who was Rector of Kilmartin, Chancellor of the Chapel Royal at Stirling, and later titular Bishop of the Isles. Construction began in 1565 using masons brought from Stirling. Although the castle was notionally built for Carswell's patron, the Earl of Argyll, he intended it as a personal residence for himself.

On Carswell's death in 1572, the castle passed to his patron, the Earl of Argyll. Later, in 1643, the 8th Earl of Argyll sold Carnasserie to Sir Dugald Campbell, 3rd Baronet of Auchinbreck. Following the 9th Earl's failed uprising in support of the Monmouth Rebellion, against James VII in 1685, the castle was blown up by Royalist forces. Although the outer walls remain largely undamaged, the ruins were never repaired.

Carnasserie has only ever been slightly altered, in the late 17th century, and so presents an accurate picture of 16th-century architecture. Although sited on raised ground close to a strategic pass at the head of Kilmartin Glen, it was designed more for domestic rather than military purposes.

The castle comprises a 5 storey tower house, with a longer three storey hall house, providing a substantial range of accommodation. At basement level are the remains of cellars and a kitchen with a large fireplace and water inlet. Above this is the large hall. This is connected to a large drawing room in the tower house, which retains its stone floor and large fireplace with carved stone decoration. A broad stair rises from the entrance to the hall, contained in a small tower to the north-west. A second smaller stair leads up from the hall to the parapet walk on three sides of the tower house. Upper rooms would have contained bedrooms.

The exterior displays numerous gunloops, as well as decorative string courses and corbelling. Over the entrance are blank panels framed by carved supports, as well as the arms of the 5th Earl of Argyll with the motto DIA LE UA NDUIBHNE, 'God be with O'Duine', referring to the semi-legendary ancestors of Clan Campbell. At the top of the tower are the remains of open rounds along the parapet, and a caphouse above the stair. Fragments of carved drain spouts have been found, and are on display in the cellars.

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Founded: 1565
Category: Castles and fortifications in United Kingdom

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User Reviews

Andrew McBride (5 months ago)
Sadly, Historic Scotland have closed (temporarily) due to COVID. Only short walk from free car park just off the A816. Looked good from a distance. Hopefully have a chance to visit another time.
Aussie Gamer (6 months ago)
Great walk. Free entry.
Emma Say (6 months ago)
Full of history. The walk that's next to the castle is well worth it too...
The Jacobite (9 months ago)
Carnasserie Castle a roofless ruin of the 16th-century is located about 1mile to the north of the Village of Kilmartin, in Argyll and Bute, Scotland. It was built in 1565 for John Carswell the then Bishop of the Isles, but on Carswell’s death in 1572 the castle passed to the Earl of Argyll, in 1643 it was sold to Sir Dugald Campbell, 3rd Baronet of Auchinbreck. The castle was extensively burned around 1690 and although the outer walls were undamaged the castle was never rebuilt, and subsequently fell into ruin when the Auchenbreck’s became bankrupt. The castle is now in the care of Historic Scotland and is open to the public.
Steven McDiarmid (11 months ago)
Excellent example of a sixteenth century castle it has been a ruin since it was burnt down in the late 16 hundreds. It's about a ten minute walk from the car park nice place when the sun is out
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