Castle Sween is thought to be one of the earliest stone castles built in Scotland, having been built sometime in the late twelfth century. The castle's towers were later additions to wooden structures which have now since vanished.

Castle Sween takes its name from Suibhne, whose name was Anglicised as 'Sween'. He was thought to have built the castle. Suibhne was thought to have been a grandson of Hugh the Splendid O'Neill who died in 1047. In the thirteenth century, the Clan MacSween governed lands extending as far north as Loch Awe and as far south as Skipness Castle on Loch Fyne. In the later half of the thirteenth century the MacSween lands of Knapdale passed into the hands of the Stewart Earls of Menteith.

By the time of the Wars of Scottish Independence the MacSweens entered into the service of King Edward I of England in the hope of recovering their lands from the Earl of Menteith, however when Robert the Bruce became King of Scotland he displaced the MacSweens from their lands. After Robert the Bruce had defeated MacDougall Lord of Lorne in 1308, he then laid siege to Alasdair Og MacDonald in Castle Sween. Alastair gave himself up and was disinherited by Robert Bruce who then granted Islay to Alasdair's younger brother, Angus Og, the king's loyal supporter, who also received the Castle Sween in Kintyre from the King.

In 1310, Edward II of England granted John MacSween and his brothers their family's ancestral lands of Knapdale, (though by then Castle Sween was held by Sir John Menteith). It is possible that this could be the 'tryst of a fleet against Castle Sween', recorded in the Book of the Dean of Lismore, which tells of the attack of John MacSween on Castle Sween.

In 1323, after the death of Sir John Menteith, the Lordship of Arran and Knapdale passed to his son and grandson. In 1376 half of Knapdale, which included Castle Sween, passed into possession of the MacDonald Lords of the Isles, by grant of Robert II of Scotland to his son-in-law John I, Lord of the Isles.

In 1647, during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, Castle Sween was attacked and burnt by Alasdair MacColla and his Irish Confederate followers.

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Founded: 12th century
Category: Castles and fortifications in United Kingdom

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User Reviews

Donna Douse (2 years ago)
Gorgeous stunning scenery
andyn666 (3 years ago)
Great historical site to visit, ruined remains of the oldest stone built castle in the UK. There is a lot of the building left and plenty of information plaques on site too
Eugene Monaghan (3 years ago)
Fantastic remote location to get away from it all
Todd White (3 years ago)
One of the oldest castles in Scotland, Castle Sween is mostly ruins bearing silent testimony to the ravages of time. While the primary features of the well, kitchen and latrine tower remain in relatively good standing, much of what would have been the living area of the castle has withered away. The Castle needs considerable work to repair its eroding walls and ramparts. Because of its remote location, it is not as easily visited as a site such as Linlithgow Palace, and as such probably has not received the attention it deserves. The Castle Sween caravan and holiday park adjacent the site boasts a wonderful bar and restaurant from which to either prepare for or recover from your adventures at the site. Worth the visit for any intrepid historian.
Joshua CruverKibi (3 years ago)
Short walk from the road to the castle. You have to walk through the holiday park. Or stay for the week in the holiday park to get away from the world.
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