Argyll & Dunbartonshire: About 12 miles south-west of Lochgilphead, on minor road 4 miles north-west of B8024 at Achahoish (much further by road), east coast of Loch Sween, at Castle Sween.
HES NR 712789 OS: 62 PA31 8PT
OPEN: Castle Sween and Kilmory Knap chapel: access at all reasonable times.
Standing on a rocky ridge on the east side of Loch Sween, Castle Sween is an impressive 12th-century castle of enclosure, consisting of a strong curtain wall, enclosing a rectangular courtyard,
and a substantial 15th- or 16th-century tower with other buildings.
The basement of the tower contained the kitchen and bakehouse, the hall was on the first floor, and above this were private chambers. A round tower at one corner contained a prison, although this may have actually been a cesspit.
‘Castel Suyn’ is marked on Blaeu’s map of Knapdale, although (surprisingly) it is given no prominence.
One of the earliest castles in Scotland, Castle Sween was built at a time when this part of Scotland was still under Norse rule, and is said to be name after Sueno (or Sween), an 11th-century Dane, who was Lord of Knapdale. The castle was held by the MacSweens until the middle of the 13th century, the Stewarts of Menteith from around 1262 until 1362, then by the MacDonald Lords of the Isles, then by the MacNeils and then by the MacMillans, after whom the MacMillan Tower is named.
MacMillan’s Cross is a fine carved cross, decorated with a crucified Christ, and it is housed in Kilmory Knap Chapel [NR 703752]. There are several beautifully carved burial slabs in the old building, which stands in an interesting graveyard in a pretty and peaceful spot.
In 1481 the Campbells became keepers of the castle for the Crown. The castle was captured and partly dismantled by Alaisdair Colkitto MacDonald in 1647. It was later used for industrial purposes, possibly metal working. One tower of the castle collapsed in the 19th century, but it has since been consolidated.
It is located by the caravan park, which is a shame, and beware of unfriendly signage.
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