Kilchurn Castle is located near the A85 at the foot of Loch Awe in Argyll. The castle was built in the 15th-century as the power base of the Campbells of Glenorchy but it is now managed by Historic Environment Scotland. Admission is free.
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Review of Kilchurn Castle
Kilchurn Castle can be found just off the A85 at the northernmost point of Loch Awe, more or less midway between the Trossachs National Park and the Highland coastal town of Oban.
This is an area that’s every bit as spectacular as Skye but it has even more interesting places to visit with lochs, mountains and tourist attractions a-plenty in pretty much every direction you head to.
Loch Awe itself is an awesome (Loch Awesome?) place to visit with lots of wee islands and inlets to explore around every corner, but the best way to experience it is to get off the A85 and follow the A819 and the B840.
These roads follow the loch its entire length and they offer plenty of places to get out of the car and go exploring. The A819 is also the road you have to follow to get to the Kilchurn Panorama viewpoint which has to be up there with Eilean Donan for atmospheric views.
Nearby to Kilchurn you’ll find St. Conan’s Kirk (one of the prettiest chapels in Scotland) and the mighty Ben Cruachan mountain, while the ‘Hollow Mountain‘ visitor experience is just a few miles further down the road.
It’s safe to say there are lots of other places to visit in the area but if anyone was to ask me I’d say Kilchurn Castle is the pick of the bunch.
Although it’s now a ruin, this still-impressive fortress was at one time the powerbase of the Campbells of Glenorchy, a clan that almost rivalled the earls of Argyll at the height of their power.
The exact date the castle was built is unknown but it’s believed to have been constructed sometime in the mid-1400s by the 1st Lord of Glenorchy, Sir Colin Campbell.
The castle was extended in the 1500s with a lower hall and turrets being added to the original five-storey tower house but by the late 1680s it had ceased being used as an ancestral home.
It was then converted into a military garrison with a purpose-built barrack block in the north of the main courtyard, but due to the fact it didn’t see much use it was eventually abandoned for good in the late 1700s.
What remains today is a derelict (but very atmospheric) Scottish castle that might not be particularly impressive if it was situated anywhere else, but thanks to its position at the head of Loch Awe it has become something of a ‘must-see’ historic site on most organized coach tours.
When you visit don’t be surprised to find yourself caught up in a crowd of excited camera-wielding tourists as the place seems to be getting ever more popular with each passing year, but get there early in the morning and you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views in a 360-degree panorama that begs to be photographed.
If you’d like to join a tour of Scotland’s best castles take a look at my recommended Get Your Guide castle tours.
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Things to do at Kilchurn Castle
Arriving at the Kilchurn Castle car park you’ll find that it’s actually quite well catered to visitors with plenty of parking space, decent paths, and a really (really, really) tasty food van. It’s a bit of a walk to the castle through marshland but it’s well worth the effort, even if you do get eaten alive by midges in the summer months.
See my guide to the best midge repellent to use in Scotland.
Prior to entering the marshland you’ll pass a wee cabin with a local photographer who’s set up shop there, and there are a few friendly Highland Cows to say hello to as you walk past.
You’ll see the castle in the distance from this point as well as the surrounding mountains, most noticeably Ben Cruachan which provides a fittingly dramatic backdrop against the usually grey Scottish sky.
It’s a 5-10 minute walk to the castle (which is maintained by Historic Environment Scotland) but for some reason there’s no entrance fee to get in. However, it’s also unmanned so you might well arrive and find the castle door firmly closed and locked.
But arrive when the castle is and open you’ll be able to walk inside and wander around the roofless ruins of the old tower house and barrack block as well as climb the short stairs to the top of the lookout towers.
The tower overlooking Loch Awe should be your first point of call as it’s there where you’ll get the best views of your visit – especially if you look through the windows when the sun is low in the sky and the light is reflected off the glass-like loch. It’s a gorgeous scene and one that I guarantee will stay in your memory for a long time.
There’s not much else to do inside the castle and to be honest I’d plan no more than an hour for your visit, but you can at least follow the path outside the castle walls that runs down to the loch shore for a closer look.
The foot of the loch is a great spot to take a few photos but as Kilchurn is a landlocked island you can’t go any further so you’ll have to return to your car after you’ve finished with your camera, but thankfully there are plenty of other places you can visit in the vicinity.
I already mentioned St. Conan’s Kirk, Ben Cruachan, and the Hollow Mountain Experience, but if they don’t tickle your fancy I recommend checking out Bonawe Iron Furnace near Taynuilt to the west or a walk up Ben Lui to the east.
All are fantastic attractions, and all will nicely round off a visit to Kilchurn Castle.
If you’d like to explore more Scottish castles read my Guide to the Best Castles to Visit in Scotland.
- What a view from the castle. Absolutely stunning.
- Unusually for a HES property that is popular, Kilchurn Castle is free to enter.
- Kilchurn Castle makes a good stop-off point between Oban and The Trossachs National Park.
- There aren’t any facilities at Kilchurn Castle so get your snacks from the van in the car park or head west down the A85 to the Ben Cruachan Visitor Centre café.
- Although it’s a decent size the car park gets full quickly (especially at the weekend) so get there early.
- Head to nearby St. Conan’s Kirk to see another beautiful historic building. Inveraray Castle is also spectacular (you’ll find it 14 miles south on the A819).
Kilchurn Castle is located at the northeast end of Loch Awe, 2.5 miles west of Dalmally off the A85.
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Things to do near Kilchurn Castle
- St. Conan’s Kirk. Lochawe, Dalmally PA33 1AQ. 5-minute drive. One of the most beautiful historic buildings in Scotland, in a similar vein to Rosslyn Chapel. This privately-run church is free to enter and welcomes people to view the ornate stone and woodwork carvings.
- Cruachan Visitor Centre. Cruachan Power Station Lochawe, Dalmally PA33 1AN. 9-minute drive. This attraction takes visitors deep inside the ‘hollow mountain’ to marvel at the power station built underground. The visitor centre is set in a great location next to Loch Awe and includes a gift shop and café.
- Ben Cruachan Dam. Dalmally PA33 1AN. 10-minute drive, 40-minute walk. Large man-made dam on the side of Ben Cruachan mountain that powers the Cruachan power station. The walk up the mountainside is easy thanks to the tarmac link road that runs from the A85 to the dam.
- Loch Awe. A large, mostly freshwater body of water that is over 25 miles in length. The loch is a popular fishing location with anglers in search of brown trout and salmon. Boats can be hired for sailing on the loch in the summer months.
- Bonawe Historic Iron Furnace. Taynuilt, Argyll PA35 1JQ. 20-minute drive. Historic ironworks founded in 1753. Bonawe Iron Furnace is located close to Loch Etive and within sight of Glencoe. Visitors can explore the original buildings and learn about Scotland’s iron-making history.
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- The Complete Guide to Free Attractions in The HighlandsDiscover the best free attractions in Scotland with my list of free attractions in The Highlands