Argyll & Dunbartonshire: About 7 miles south-west of Dunoon, on track north of A815, at the southern tip of Cowal, south-east of Castle Toward, at Toward Castle.
Ruin or site NS 119678 OS: 63 PA23 7UH
OPEN: Access currently unclear. Formerly park in layby on A815, then through gate and along track to east: short walk.
In a pretty spot, Toward Castle consists of an atmospheric ruined 15th-century tower, one wall standing to the height of the parapet, and a 16th-century courtyard, with a decorated arched gateway. The basement of the tower is vaulted, as was the first-floor hall. The stair, in the thickness of the walls, led up to the first floor, and the main entrance appears to have been at first-floor level.
The courtyard contained a range of buildings, housing a hall and kitchen, and there was also a gatehouse and bakehouse.
‘Castell of Towart’ is marked on Pont’s map of Dunoon and Inveraray.
This was a property of the Lamonts, who had held lands in Cowal from 1200 or earlier. Mary, Queen of Scots, visited in 1563.
The Lamonts were Royalists, and in 1646 the Campbells bombarded, captured, looted and burnt the castle after a two-week siege – this is said to have been in retaliation for the Lamonts sacking Kilmun and killing many Campbells. Although the Campbells had promised that the Lamonts could go free, they massacred and mistreated any Lamonts they found, including old folk, women and children. They took many of the captives back to Dunoon where they hanged 36 from one tree, while others were buried alive in pits. The chief of the Lamonts, Sir John, was imprisoned in Dunstaffnage Castle. Many Lamonts changed their name to Black after the slaughter.
The Lamonts recovered their lands but their chief seat then became Ardlamont. The old castle was excavated and consolidated in 1970, and is in the care of the Clan Lamont Society.
The ruins of the castle are said to be haunted by those slain in 1646 by the Campbells. A hoard of more than 200 silver coins was found at Toward in 1821.
In the 1820s, a new castlellated mansion, Castle Toward [NS 115682], near the site of Auchavoulin, was
built by the architect David Hamilton for Kirkman Finlay, Lord Provost of Glasgow. This property is currently for sale.
The BBC TV series Raven was filmed here.
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