Mull, Aros Castle

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Canmore ID 22272
Site Number NM54SE 1
NGR NM 56287 44989
Former District ARGYLL AND BUTE
Former County ARGYLL
Datum OSGB36 - NGR

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Archaeological Notes

NM54SE 1 56287 44989

(NM 5629 4498) Aros Castle (NR)
(remains of)
OS 1:10,000 map, (1976).

Not to be confused with White House of Aros (NM 5645 4554), for which see NM54NE 8.00.

The ruins of Aros Castle, lying about 2 km NW of Salen, constitute a prominent landmark on the W coast of the Sound of Mull. They occupy a strategically important position on a flat-topped promontory.
The principal remains are those of a hall-house and bailey defended on the landward side by a ditch and bank. The hall-house occupies the NW portion of the summit, the remaining area of which was enclosed by a stone curtain-wall to form an approximately square bailey some 0.19 ha (0.47 acres) in extent. The principal approach appears to have been by way of a causeway which crossed the N section of the ditch, thence passing beneath the SW corner of the hall-house to enter a gateway in the W wall of the bailey. Another track, probably of comparatively recent origin, leads westwards from the gateway, passing across the bottom of the ditch and through the outer bank.
The hall-house is more or less oblong on plan (q.v.), measuring about 25.3m from N to S by 12.5 transversely over walls varying from 1.7m to 3.0m in thickness. The structure appears to have comprised two main storeys and a part attic; the walls now stand to a maximum height of about 10m. Architectural details suggest that it was built in the 13th century.
The curtain-wall that formerly enclosed the bailey survives only along parts of the W and S sides. It varies in width from 1.1m to 1.7m and now rises to a maximum external height of 1.2m. Elsewhere the wall is represented only by a turf-grown mound of debris, while along part of the E side, where it could be quarried easily, it has disappeared completely. The interior of the bailey is much overgrown, but the stone footings of a rectangular building (A on plan, q.v.) may be seen close to the E wall. Traces of another building (B) lie immediately to the NW. The remains of at least five other buildings (C - G) can be seen SW of the hall-house. Some of these may post-date the occupation of the castle.
The castle was probably built by one of the MacDougall lords of Lorn in the 13th century. It first comes on record (as 'Dounarwyse') in the later 14th century when it was in the possession of the Lords of the Isles. It appears to have been garrisoned by Argyll's troops in 1690, though it was described two years previously as 'ruinous, old, useless and never of any Strength'. Throughout the 18th century the lands of Aros were farmed by a succession of Campbell tacksmen, but there is no record of the castle having been inhabited at this period.
RCAHMS 1980, visited 1973.

The remains at this site were in a similar condition to that described above when seen in 1972.
Revised at 1:2500.
Visited by OS (J P) 2 May 1972.

Books and References

Millar and Kirkhope, H B and J (1964i) 'Aros Castle', Discovery Excav Scot
Page(s): 10

RCAHMS (1980a) The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Argyll: an inventory of the monuments volume 3: Mull, Tiree, Coll and Northern Argyll (excluding the early medieval and later monuments of Iona), Edinburgh
Page(s): 173-7, No. 333 plans, illusts Held at RCAHMS A.1.1.INV/21

Ritchie and Harman, [J N] G and M (1996) Argyll and the Western Isles, Exploring Scotland's Heritage series, ed. by Anne Ritchie Edinburgh
Page(s): 33, 85 Held at RCAHMS A.1.4.HER

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