Castle Sween

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Alternative Names Macmillan's Tower; Loch Sween
Site Type CASTLE
Canmore ID 39028
Site Number NR77NW 1
NGR NR 71235 78829
Council ARGYLL AND BUTE
Parish NORTH KNAPDALE
Former Region STRATHCLYDE
Former District ARGYLL AND BUTE
Former County ARGYLL
Datum OSGB36 - NGR

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Architectural Notes

This site has only been partially upgraded for SCRAN. For full details, please consult the Architecture Catalogues for Argyll and Bute District.
March 1998

Notes and Activities

Archaeological Notes

NR77NW 1.00 71235 78829

NR77NW 1.01 7123 7883 Carved Stone Ball; Flint Arrowhead
NR77NW 1.02 7123 7882 Platforms; Kilns; Building

For industrial remains (including kilns and platforms) towards SE corner of curtain-wall enclosure, see NR77NW 1.02.

(NR 7123 7883) Castle Sween (NR)
Macmillan's Tower (NR) Well (NR)
OS 6" map, Argyllshire, 2nd ed., (1924)

Castle Sween, now ruinous, was probably built in the mid-12th century (S Piggott and W D Simpson 1970). The main structure, a quadrangular enclosing wall, 6'-7' thick, measuring 84' x 70' over all, against the inner face of which three main ranges of timber buildings were originally disposed round a small court, is Norman in appearance. The annexe to the W and its round tower - Macmillan's Tower - were probably added in the early 14th century, while the rectangular keep was probably added to the NE corner in the 16th century. There is also a well, doubtless original, in the NE angle of the courtyard.
The castle was beseiged by Robert the Bruce, and was finally destroyed by Sir Alexander Macdonald in 1647.
S Piggott and W D Simpson 1970; W D Simpson 1967; J G Dunbar 1966.

The castle is as described and planned.
Visited by OS (DWR) 6 June 1973

No change to the report of OS (DWR).
Surveyed at 1/10,000.
Visited by OS (BS) 25 January 1977

Two small-scale excavations within the E half of the courtyard of this castle revealed a sequence of domestic and service ranges, culminating in an elaborate industrial complex, all of which broadly echoed the succession of families associated with the site. The original simple enclosure castle as occupied by the MacSweens until the mid 13th century may have featured some form of tower-like structure in the NE corner of the enclosure. The site was then extensively remodelled under the Stewart Earls of Menteith, who built two towers outside the W wall of the primary enclosure, and a stone-built N range inside (c.1262 to 1362).
When the site was later occupied by the MacNeills of Gigha on behalf of the Lords of the Isles, a substantial E range with first floor hall, was built within the courtyard, to compliment the new NE or 'Macmillans Tower' during the 15th century. Finally, with the discovery of a series of kiln-like structures and ancillary sheds and compounds, it was evident that up to the end of its active life, under the Earls of Argyll c.1650, the E courtyard was largely cleared of major buildings and the area given over to industrial usage, probably metal working.
Sponsor: SDD HBM
G Ewart 1989a.

 
Books and References

Dunbar, J G (1966) The historic architecture of Scotland, London
Page(s): 25 Held at RCAHMS F.2.1.DUN

Ewart, G {J} (1989a) 'Castle Sween (Knapdale parish)', Discovery Excav Scot
Page(s): 56

MacGibbon and Ross, D and T (1887-92) The castellated and domestic architecture of Scotland from the twelfth to the eighteenth centuries, 5v Edinburgh
Page(s): vol III, p58, p60 Held at RCAHMS F.5.21.MAC

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