Dunollie Castle Ruins

Argyll and Bute, United Kingdom

Dunollie Castle is a small ruined castle located on a hill north of the town of Oban. The castle is open to the public as part of the Dunollie Museum, Castle and Grounds.

There was a fortification on this high promontory in the Early Middle Ages, when Dunollie was the royal centre of the Cenél Loairn within the kingdom of Dál Riata. The Irish annals record that 'Dun Ollaigh' was attacked or burned down three times, in 686, 698, and in 701. It was subsequently rebuilt in 714 by Selbach mac Ferchair (died 730), the King of Dál Riata credited with destroying the site in 701. Excavations in the 1970s suggest that this early fortification was abandoned some time in the 10th century.

The area around Dunollie subsequently became part of the semi-independent Kingdom of the Isles, ruled over by Somerled in the 12th century. On his death the MacDougalls became Lords of Lorne. Dougall, Somerled’s son, held most of Argyll and also the islands of Mull, Lismore, Jura, Tiree, Coll and many others in the 12th century.

Excavations show that Dunollie was refortified with an earthwork castle in the 13th century or potentially the late 12th century. The builder may have been Dougall, or his son Duncan. Ewan MacDougall, great-grandson of Somerled and the third chief of the MacDougalls, switched the clan's allegiance in the mid 13th century: initially allied with Haakon IV of Norway, from the 1250s Ewan remained loyal to the kings of Scotland.

In the 14th century Ewan's grandson John MacDougall, along with his kinsmen the Comyns, sided with the Balliols against the interests of Robert the Bruce. John MacDougall's army defeated the Bruce at the Battle of Dalrigh in 1306, but Bruce returned in 1308 and crushed the MacDougalls at the Battle of the Pass of Brander. The MacDougall lands of Lorne were subsequently forfeit and were given to the Campbells, though Dunollie and other estates were regained later in the 14th century.

The existing castle ruins date largely from the 15th century. The Marquis of Argyll captured the castle in 1644, but it was returned to the MacDougalls in 1661. In 1746, the MacDougalls abandoned Dunollie Castle and built Dunollie House just downhill from the castle ruins.

In recent years, descendants and members of Clan MacDougall have been encouraged by clan leadership to support local tourism and pay visits to Dunollie, as an ancestral site and important cultural location. Remains of a historical herb garden have recently been discovered in the castle grounds.



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Founded: c. 1200
Category: Miscellaneous historic sites in United Kingdom


4.3/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Domingo ocho (14 months ago)
Dunollie castle is a very nice 15th century ruin. It's interesting to explore and learn about! The walk up to the ruin is very nice, with overhanging trees and lots of greenery.There is also 18th century house next to it with it's own interesting history. The house is a museum with lots of displays of how it was like to live in it when it was built. If you are visiting Oban Dunollie castle is a worthy visit!
James Williams (15 months ago)
Had a fantastic afternoon at Dunollie. We took part in the afternoon guided tour with Alex and he was fantastic! Really knowledgeable and very entertaining. Certainly would recommend if you're staying the Oban area!
India Eiloart (16 months ago)
Spent hours here, really pleasant day. Lots of information in museum, definitely worth waiting for a tour. Worth visiting just for the views from the castle in any case. During our wait times we had a delicious hot choc 'The Chieftain' and later soup and sandwiches and coffees from the onsite food cart.
Abigail Bowman (17 months ago)
We went to dunollie castle on a sunny day and it made the experience a lovely one. Plenty to learn about on the site in the museum and it was great to see the ruined castle too. Lovely staff at the kettle coffee shop who made us a cracking chocolate cheiftain. The lady and young man who served us were kind and had great chat. Would say it's worth a visit if you are looking for a wee walk round nice gardens and are a Scottish history enthusiast.
Teri Daulton (18 months ago)
We all had lovely morning visiting Dunollie. The castle is in ruins, and you can visit the house built in 1745. They have a fun adventure for children. We spent about an hour and a half here.
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