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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Tour Scotland Skipness Castle

Tour Scotland Skipness Castle. Sitting on flat grazing land near the empty shore lands of the Kintyre peninsula, Skipness Castle seems to be in an unusual location. The clue to its existence lies in the fact that its main entrance, once defended by a machiolated gatehouse tower and a portcullis, lies on the seaward side. Skipness was built as a base in the sea wars fought along the shores of western Britain between the Gaelic birlinn and the Norse longship. In the military geography of thirteenth century Scotland, Skipness was vital as it overlooked the confluence of four important waterways; the Firth of Clyde, the Sound of Bute, Loch Fyne and the Kilbrannan Sound between Kintyre and Arran.

Its strategic importance explains the sudden switch in the ownership of Skipness in the early 1260s. A charter of 1261 confirmed Skipness in the hands of Dugald MacSween whose family had spent the previous fourteen years heightening its great curtain wall. The following year however, as King Haakon's vast invasion fleet appeared in Hebridean waters, Skipness was entrusted instead to the Menteiths, kinsmen of the Stewarts. The King of Scots was making sure that Skipness was held, spoiling any secret deals between Clan MacSween and the Norse overlord.

At some point after 1400, Skipness became part of the Macdonald lordship of the western isles. Skipness was again a border fortress but this time it lay on the frontier between the Lordship of the Isles and the kingdom of the Scots. It was one of the Scottish Crown's first targets when James IV set out to crush the Macdonalds in 1493. At first it was held for the Stewarts by their Forrester allies but in
1499 it fell into the clutches of Clan Campbell. These were western magnates with whom the Stewarts could do business and Skipness Castle remained a Campbell house for almost four hundred years.

Campbell ownership was confirmed by charters of 1576 and 1588, and was only threatened once in an unsuccessful siege in 1644 by the Irish guerilla, Alastair Colkitto. A more serous threat to Campbell ownership of Skipness was the execution of the rebel Earl of Argyll in 1685. His opposition to the catholic James VII and II threatened two hundred years of careful acquisition of power by Clan Campbell. King James issued a warrant for 'the razing down of the strength at Skipness' but its canny captain, Walter Campbell, petitioned to save his home from destruction. James' reign proved to be brief and the subsequent monarch, William II and III, was friendlier to the Campbell cause. Skipness remained in their hands until 1867 when the impoverished Campbells of Skipness took the opportunity to sell it.

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