Dunollie Castle

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Dunolly, an estate, with an ancient castle and a modern mansion, in Kilmore and Kilbride parish, Argyllshire. The ancient castle, crowning a precipitous rocky promontory between Oban Bay and the mouth of Loch Etive, 9 furlongs NNW of Oban town, is believed to have taken its name, signifying ' the fortified hill of Olaf, ' from some ancient Scandinavian prince or king; and occupies a romantic site, well adapted by its natural character for military defence. Originally perhaps a rude fortalice, altered or extended in the course of centuries into a strong castle, it dates in record so early as the 7th century, but retains no masonry earlier than the latter part of the 12th; as long the principal seat of the Macdougalls, Lords of Lorn, figures boldly in old history and in curious legend; and is now a gloomy, lonely, fragmentary ruin. ' The principal part of it which remains, ' says Sir Walter Scott, ' is the donjon or keep; but fragments of other buildings, overgrown with ivy, attest that it had once been a place of importance, as large apparently as Artornish or Dunstaffnage. These fragments enclose a courtyard, of which the keep probably formed one side, the entrance being by a steep ascent from the neck of the isthmus, formerly cut across by a moat, and defended doubtless by outworks and a drawbridge.' An eagle, kept chained within the ruin, was seen by the poet Wordsworth in 1831, and forms the subject of a stinging sonnet from his pen. A stalactite cavern was accidentally discovered, about 1830, in what long had been garden ground contiguous to the base of the castle rock; was ascertained to have had an entrance which had been blocked by a wall; and was found to contain many human bones, some bones of several of the lower animals, pieces of iron, remains of broadswords, and a few defaced coins. Thomas Brydson, in his Pictures of the Past, says respecting Dunolly Castle

' The breezes of this vernal day
Tome whisp'ring through thine empty hall,
And stir. instead of tapestry,
The weed upon the wail,
' And bring from out the murm'ring sea,
And bring from out the vocal wood,
The sound of Nature's joy to thee,
Mocking thy solitude.
' Yet proudly, 'mid the tide of years,
Thou lift'st on high thine airy form,
Scene of primeval hopes and fears, Slow yielding to the storm!

' From thy grey portal, oft at morn,
The ladies and the squires would go;
While swell'd the hunter's bugle-horn
In the green gien below;

' And minstrel harp, at starry bight.
woke the high strain of battle here,
When, with a wild and stern delight,
The warriors stooped to hear.

' All fled for ever! leaving nought
Save lonely walls in ruin green,
which dimly lead my wandering thought
To moments that have been.'

Modern Dunolly Castle, a little to the N, is a fine edifice, embosomed among wood, and contains the famous Brooch of Lorn, taken from Robert Bruce in the skirmish of Dalry, with several other curious relics of antiquity. The estate belonged to the Macdougalls from very early times; was forfeited for participation in the '15, but restored just before the outbreak of the '45; and now is held by Lieut. -Col. Charles Allan MacDougall of MacDougall (b. 1831; suc. 1867), who owns 3339 acres in the shire, valued at £1302 per annum. One of its proprietors fell in the Peninsular Campaign; another, in 1842, steered the barge of Queen Victoria through Loch Tay, in her progress from Taymouth to Drummond Castle.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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