Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Mingary Castle - 1

The name Mingary, or Mingarry, is the anglicised version of Mioghairidh, but the exact meaning of the word is cause for dispute. The most likely translation suggests that it is derived from two Norse words, mikil, meaning great, and gardhr, a garth or house, so ‘great house’ – though this has been stretched by some to mean ‘great land between machair and moor’.

That its name has a Norse derivation suggests that the site was occupied in the time of the Vikings, if not before, and evolved into a mediaeval castle site, for it is not an ideal defensive position. It stands in a wide bay, between the headlands of Rubha Aird an Iasgaich (Point of the Fishing Height), in the lee of which is the Calmac pier, and, in the foreground of the above picture, Rubh’ a’ Mhile (Point of the Mile).

The castle itself is sited on a promontory formed of a dolerite sill, with steep cliffs to south, west and east. A narrow neck of land connects it to the land to the north, which rises slowly, so the site is overlooked by hills. There is a better site within a mile: Glas Eilean (the grey island), which forms the most distant of the three points in the above photo, rises steeply to ten metres, is cut off at all but low tide, and protects Kilchoan Bay, an ideal anchorage. Glas Eilean is very similar to the small island upon which Castle Tioram, a similar castle north of Acharacle, was built.

This photo shows Mingary from the east. The castle’s curtain walls, up to 14m high, form a hexagon. The longest and thickest wall is to the north, facing onto a neck of land which is cut by a defensive ditch 7.5m wide and 3m deep. There is a sea gate in the south wall, and a rock-cut stairway leads from the beach at the west to a land gate in the NW wall. The walls enclose a courtyard roughly 20m N-S and 18m E-W, within which rise three ranges of buildings. Sadly, the state of decay of this historic castle is such that its interior is inaccessible.

A map showing the location of the castle is here.

1 comment:

  1. I found a couple of interesting websites. The first has recent aerial photographs of Mingary Castle. There are also good images of the Pier and the Lighthouse if you search for them too:


    The second website has exterior and interior images of the Castle for those who haven't been inside it before. Again, there are other local images available if you want to search for them:


    Hope they are of interest to you all.

    Iain Macdonald