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A Former Ruin – Kilmartin Castle

Kilmartin Castle is a quaint little castle that was once a ruin. It dates back to the 16th century and is designed in a Z-plan tower house that sits just to the north of the village of Kilmartin. It is unknown who actually built the castle.

The history of Kilmartin Castle

Though formerly ruined, Kilmartin Castle is now a beautiful bed and breakfast that attracts many visitors. It is rather small, but that is likely the drawing factor. It consists of a main block of three storeys and also has projecting round towers at opposite corners of the building. Against one side of the main block, there is a small stair-tower.

The windows still have their iron yetts as well as shot-hole pierced into the walls. While it is now entirely different from what it once was, it went through quite a lot to get there.

Kilmartin castle at dusk
Kilmartin Castle is now a bed and breakfast. Source: Kilmartin Castle.

The early history

It all begins in the year 1550 when John Carswell became the first-ever caretaker of Kilmartin Castle. He held down two jobs, as many people do. He was Rector of Kilmartin Church as well as Tutor to the son of the 4th Earl of Argyll, who in his later years became the 5th Earl of Argyll. John Carswell was then given the position of Bishop of the Isles in the year 1565.

Then, in the same year, he moved from Kilmartin Castle to the far nicer Carnasserie Castle which was nearby. Nowadays it is a large ruin that is open to the public.

The Campbell Clan

The castle then passed to the Campbell Clan in 1674. Around the year 1790, the castle was left to ruin, however, the ground floor was still in use as a schoolhouse. There is very little information around as to why the castle was left roofless for so long. 200 years passed, and the castle was held by the Campbell Clan during that entire time.

At one point, John’s daughter lived there with her husband who was one of the Campbells. The Campbells made many repairs to the castle during their time there, however, in the year 1922, they left the castle.

File:Clan member crest badge - Clan Campbell.svg
Crest of Clan Campbell. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Tom and Olive Clarke

Sometime after 1992, a couple in their 50’s named Tom and Olive Clarke were out rambling when they discovered Kilmartin Castle. It truly was love at first sight, and they quickly got to work. They then spent the next ten years’ worth of summers working on the castle and developing it into a country bolthole. At this time, it only had one shower and three bedrooms.

The present day

In the year 2019, the new owners spent over seven months working closely with a team of skilled builders and architects to complete a full restoration of Kilmartin Castle. They worked to overhaul the heating and plumbing throughout it as well as address many problems. They turned it into the lovely bed and breakfast it is today.

It is described as a place where the present and past reconcile. They say that love for art, architecture and history exist together in Kilmartin Castle.

You may enjoy reading about other Scottish castles such as Dunvegan Castle.

Kilmartin Castle Timeline

  • 1550- John Carswell becomes the first-ever caretaker of Kilmartin Castle
  • 1565- John Carswell is given the position of Bishop of the Isles
  •  1565- John Carswell moves from Kilmartin Castle to the far nicer Carnasserie Castle which was nearby
  • 1674- The castle passes to the Campbell Clan
  • 1790- The castle is left to ruin; however, the ground floor was still in use as a schoolhouse
  • 1922- The Campbell Clan leaves the castle
  • After 1992- A couple in their 50’s named Tom and Olive Clarke find Kilmartin Castle, fall in love, and begin restoring the castle
  • 2019- The new owners spend over seven months working closely with a team of skilled builders and architects to complete a full restoration of Kilmartin Castle

Kilmartin Castle facts

  • Kilmartin Castle was held by the Campbell Clan for 200 years
  • It is unknown who built the castle
  • The castle didn’t have a roof on it for just over 200 years
  • There is a beautiful outdoor entertaining area with kitchen, formal raised lawn, orchard, organic vegetable garden and wild swimming pond on the grounds

Books on Kilmartin Castle

  • The World’s Most Mysterious Castles by Patricia Fanthorpe (2005)
  • Once There Were Castle by Larry Millett (2011)

Who owns Kilmartin Castle?

The castle is owned by a couple who call themselves Stef and Simo. They used to have stressful day jobs and their dream was to open their own holiday hideaway. On a trip to Scotland, they fell in love with the West coast and when they returned to Dubai, their hearts yearned for Scotland. Then, as if it was meant to be, an article about Kilmartin Castle coming up for sale caught their eye.

They called the agent, flew to Scotland, sold their possessions to fund it, and in 2018, moved there to restore it.

Tourism

When visiting the castle, you can head to the official website to book your stay. On the website, it states: “Staying at Kilmartin Castle is food for the soul. A place to relax, recharge and reconnect. The connection to the past is tangible in Kilmartin Glen. Everywhere you look, there are reminders of those who came before and their attempts to understand and find meaning.”

There is also plenty to do nearby if you would like to stay for a while. You can visit the Kilmartin Museum, Carnasserie Castle, or even Glebe Cairn.

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