Castle Sween

Castle Sween

Castle Sween Details

  • Access: Historic Scotland
  • Condition: ruin
  • First build century: 12th
  • Closest To: n/a
  • Grid Ref: NR712788
  • Last use century: 17th

Castle Sween stands on a rocky knoll on the east shore of Loch Sween, one of the many long sea lochs penetrating the western seaboard of Argyll. It consists of a four sided courtyard with a simple gate entrance, with a rectangular keep attached to the north-west corner. To the west a round tower and rectangular building extend the floorplan of the castle to the very edge of the knoll. It is maintained by Historic Scotland, and open to the public.

The courtyard was originally defended at each of the corners with a large solid buttress, those to the north being absorbed by the later buildings, which shows that at its construction, Castle Sween was a very simple structure. The gateway was similarly straightforward, an arch through the curtain wall, and a hall filled the south-eastern end of the courtyard. A well lay to the north. This building was certainly in use in the early 13th century, but cannot confidently be dated to earlier.

During the late 13th and early 14th centuries, Castle Sween was used as a military base, with metalworking being carried out here, by which time it was in the hands of the Stewarts of Menteith. A new hall range was erected along the north wall, along with the extension of the castle to the west with the round tower and rectangular building there. In 1362 the MacMillans were granted the castle under the aegis of the Lord of the Isles, and it is likely they added the keep at the north-western corner.

After a brief tenure of the MacNeills, also under the Lords of the Isles, the whole of that Lordship was forfeited to the Crown, and in 1481 the Campbell family were made keepers of the castle. During their occupation, the courtyard buildings were demolished and the castle took on the superficial appearance of a tower and barmkin. In 1647 the castle was attacked and damaged by Colkitto, after which it appears to have fallen out of use.

Official Historic Scotland page

HES Canmore database entry