The Out About Scotland complete guide to Duart Castle
What’s this attraction all about?
Duart Castle is one of the most visited attractions on the Isle of Mull, and with good reason. This impressive 13th-century castle has been the seat of power for Clan MacLean for over 700 years, and it’s one of the few castles in Scotland that still remains in private clan ownership. There’s a lot to discover during a visit to this impressive fortification, and visitors will find that there’s more to this attraction than just rooms full of clan memorabilia.
The castle sits on a promontory overlooking the beautiful Sound of Mull and is surrounded on all sides by a wide expanse of grassland that’s a haven for wildlife. There’s also several areas of shingle beach that kids can run around and explore, while adults will appreciate the stunning views towards Tobermory in the north with the constant flow of ships that make their way towards Mull’s biggest town.
Once inside the castle you’ll be directed onto a short, but enjoyable, tour of the castle, and you’re free to walk around at your own pace if you want although there’s always a knowledgeable guide on hand to answer any questions about the castle’s fascinating history, as well as the impressive collection of artefacts that tell their own tales of Clan MacLean’s history.Read more...
What can you do there?
The location for Duart Castle was chosen for the defensive position of the enormous high crag that overlooks the Sound of Mull, and today’s visitors can enjoy it for the fantastic views it offers. The short walk around the castle is a great start and end point for your visit to the attraction and it has enough coves and shingle beaches that the whole family will enjoy exploring the area.
The castle itself is privately owned by Clan MacLean so it offers a slightly different experience to most other Historic Environment Scotland-managed castles. There’s definitely more of a family feel to this historic site and some areas almost feel like you’re walking through someone’s family home, especially the state bedroom which was furnished for the wartime honeymoon of Lord MacLean.
Arguably the highlight of a visit to Duart Castle is The Great Hall which boasts an impressive collection of family portraits and coats of arms, but keep a lookout for the enormous case of family silverware which must be worth a small fortune. There’s a beautiful collection of weapons on display in this room to remind visitors of the castle’s importance as a defensive position, and check out the thickness of the walls as they’re 10 to 20 feet thick in places. No cannonball was going to bring this place down!
Moving on from the Great Hall you’ll discover the state bedrooms and dressing rooms of the MacLeans, while an exhibition of the clan can be found by climbing up a winding stone staircase. You might be intrigued to find a load of Scouting Association memorabilia in this room alongside the history of the chiefs of the clan but this is easily explained by the fact that Charles MacLean was the UK’s Chief Scout between 1959 and 1971, and later became Chief Scout of the Commonwealth. It’s fair to say the MacLean’s have a pretty impressive history.
The final level of the castle leads onto an outside balcony that runs around its rooftops, and it’s here where you’ll get some of the best views of your visit especially as you look north towards Tobermory, so make sure you have your camera at the ready.
And finally, after you’ve explored both the inside of the castle and the castle grounds, you can head into the on-site cafe which has some really good home-grown food available. There’s a gift shop next door too which has got a really good selection of gifts that all relate to the MacLean’s and their castle.
If you’re visiting the Isle of Mull then a visit to Duart Castle has to be at the top of your list of attractions to visit.
The history of the attraction
Although Duart Castle is known as the family stronghold of Clan MacLean it’s actually believed to have been built by Clan MacDougall in the 13th-century. In fact, it wasn’t until 1350 that the fortification passed into the ownership of the MacLeans when it was gifted to them as part of the dowry from the marriage of the daughter of the Lord of the Isles to the 5th MacLean chief.
The castle saw several conflicts over the course of its history but perhaps none was more important than the siege of 1647 when Argyll government troops attacked the Royalist troops of the MacLeans. Although the government forces were forced to retreat they returned in 1653 along with a task force of six warships under the orders of the English leader Oliver Cromwell.
Luckily for the MacLeans a powerful storm swept in and destroyed three of the ships, with HMS Swan being sunk against the rocky outcrop on which Duart Castle sits. The remains of the warship are remarkably intact to this day, and in recent years divers have been able to recover several artefacts from her broken hull.
Duart Castle was eventually surrendered to the Duke of Argyll in 1691, who promptly demolished it and scattered the stones of its walls across the local area. The remains of the castle lay abandoned for over 200 years until it was purchased by Clan MacLean in 1911, and thankfully for modern-day tourists they began a programme of restoration that lead to its transformation into the impressive building that you can visit today.
What I liked about this attraction
- The view across the Sound of Mull is fantastic
- The inside of Duart Castle is really interesting and the guides are very knowledgeable
- There’s a lovely woodland to explore as well as the expansive castle grounds
What I didn’t like about this attraction
- It won’t take you long to fully explore the inside of the castle
- It’s not open in autumn or winter
Isle of Mull,
Prices and opening times
2018 castle admission prices:
|Family (2 adults + 2 children)||£17.50|
|Seniors and students||£6.00|
Duart Castle is open from 30th March to 18th October 2018
- April: 11.00am to 4.00pm
- 1st May to 18th October: 10.30am to 5pm
- The Castle, Tearoom and Gift Shop open for the season on Friday 30th March