Old Lochnaw Castle

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Alternative Names Lochnaw Castle Policies; Isle Of Lochnaw; Lochnaw Loch
Site Type TOWER HOUSE
Canmore ID 60400
Site Number NW96SE 4
NGR NW 99329 63223
Council DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY
Parish LESWALT
Former Region DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY
Former District WIGTOWN
Former County WIGTOWNSHIRE
Datum OSGB36 - NGR

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Notes and Activities

Archaeological Notes

NW96SE 4 99329 63223

(NW 9933 6322) Lochnaw Castle (NR)
(Remains of)
OS 6" map (1957).

Location formerly entered as NW 9933 6322.

Only a small fragment of a castle remains on the island, which measures about 120' by 56'. Almost 60' from the north side and 30' from the east side of the island is a fragment of wall about 28' in length and 8' in thickness. There is a return at the SW angle, and the basement appears to have been vaulted. The wall is about 12ft high. From what is left it appears to have been an oblong keep, probably dating from about the end of the 14th century.
RCAHMS 1912

This site has been bypassed as no boats will be available until April, 1968, the start of the fishing season.
Visited by OS (RD) 21 February 1968

The remains of Lochnaw Castle consist of two sections of walling. One is 8.5m long, 2.0m thick and between 1.5 and 3.0m high. The other, to the S, is the footings of a right-angled corner 0.5m long on each side, 0.2m thick and 0.2m high.
Surveyed at 1/2500.
Information from OS Reviser (J Carnall) 14 July 1970

The remains of a tower-house, reduced to a fragment of its N wall, are situated on the Isle of Lochnaw, 420m NNE of Lochnaw Castle (a listed building of 16th-century and later date). The remaining wall (9.7m long, 2.55m thick and 2.9m high) severely robbed of its facing-stones, incorporates the haunches for a ground-floor vault, an aumbry and a window-embrasure. At the WSW angle there are traces of a return wall (1.6m long, 1.35m thick and 0.7m high). A castle is said to have been built at Lochnaw by the early 15th century.
A Agnew 1893; P H M'Kerlie 1906; W Macfarlane 1906-8; RCAHMS 1912; RCAHMS 1985, visited September 1984.

Excavations at Lochnaw Castle revealed the plan of the 14th century castle. This was a rectangular tower 15.4m long and 10.1m wide with walls 2.4m thick.
Architectural features noted included a slit window, an aumbry, a drain and the bases of two possible latrine chutes. The cellar appears to have been barrel vaulted and a small room built into one corner possibly acted as a prison. The floor consisted of layers of deposited material on top of subsoil between outcrops of bedrock. A reused millstone set in clay and burnt and fragmented possibly represented the remains of an oven base. A silver penny of Robert III was found and dates from the period between when the castle was supposed to have been attacked in 1390 and when it was abandoned in favour of another site in 1426.
Once the tower was no longer in use it appears to have been systematically dismantled, down to its basal courses in places, and most of the dressed stone removed. However, the site appears to have been reused at some point when a stone wall c0.9m wide was constructed to the S of the tower, underlying the later drystone dyke. This wall overlay the remains of the tower and was subsequently supported by a buttress on the S side.
The recovery of a lead seal matrix bearing the name of Andrew McCracken also testifies to later activity on the island in the 16th or early 17th centuries. A stone cannon ball was sealed below deposits of mortar which overlay the southern side of the tower. A large number of animal bones and oyster shells found within the tower may relate to this later period of use. A poorly constructed lean-to structure against the N wall of the tower may be contemporary with the construction of the drystone dyke around the island when the loch was drained in the 18th century. Finally the site was subjected to the excavation of three pits in the 20th century.
Sponsor: Mr Christopher Nightingale.
D Alexander 1995.

Between June and August 1995 the Centre for Field Archaeology (CFA) carried out an archaeological survey and excavation on the castle on the Isle of Lochnaw just W of Stranraer. This work was commissioned by Brodies Solicitors on behalf of their client Mr Christopher Nightingale in advance of a proposed programme of reconstruction and presentation.
The main objectives of the excavation were to uncover the ground plan of the tower and record any structural details that could help the reconstruction of the site. The nature and extent of the archaeological deposits were to be examined and recorded. Also the area around the tower was to be examined for evidence of archaeological deposits and ancillary structures. The drystone dyke was to be examined to investigate whether it was built on top of an earlier wall.
The survey revealed that the Isle of Lochnaw is around 80m long and up to 24m wide. The remains of the 14th century tower are located on the highest part of the island between the 2.0m and 2.5m contour above the loch water level. Stone robbing had removed all but the NW wall and a small part of the SW wall (the castle is aligned SW to NE). The excavations revealed the plan of the 14th century castle. This was a rectangular tower 15.4m lond and 10.1m wide, the outer walls were 2.4m thick. There were some architectural features noted including a slit window, an aumbry, a drain and the bases of two possible latrine shutes. The report says that the ground floor appears to have been barrel vaulted and a small room built into one corner, maybe for use as a prison. The floor was made of layers of depostied material on top of subsoil between outcrops of bedrock. The remains of an oven may be represented by a burnt and fragmented reused millstone set in clay. A silver penny of Robert the third was found which was dated to the period between when the castle is supoosed to have been attacked in 1390 and when it was abandoned in favour of another site nearby overlooking the loch (NW99SE 6).
After the tower fell out of use it appears to have been systematically dismantled, in places right down to the basal courses and in most places all the dressed stone was removed. The site seems to have been reused at some point when a a stone wall circa 0.9m was constructed to the SE of the tower, underlaying the later drystone dyke. This wall overlays the remains of the tower and was subsequently supported by a butress on the SE side.
Evidence of later reuse is also shown by a lead seal that was found, it bears the name of Andrew McCracken and dates from the 16th or early 17th centuries. Other evidence for later activity include a stone cannon ball sealed below dposits of mortar which cover the SE side of the tower. There is also a large number of animal bones and oyster shells which seem to be later. There is a poorly constructed lean-to structure which the author says may be connected with the construction of the drystone dyke around the island when the loch was drained in the 18th century. During the 20th century three pits were excavated. Some redeposited prehistoric flints were found during excavation, they are the only evidence found for activity before the tower was constructed.
The report concludes that the excavations support the documentary evidence that the tower is the remains of the castle mentioned as being attacked in 1390 and then abandoned in 1426. No evidence for a ground floor entrance which indicates the doorway would probably have been on the first floor at hall level, consistent with other 14th century towers. The room thought to be a prison is very similar indeed to the prison found in the basement of Threave Castle, built by Archibald the Grim, the man resposible for attacking Lochnaw Castle. The deposits within the tower seem to have been disturbed, probably when it was being dismantled, internal deposits were also disturbed by modern rubbish pits. The floor deposits that were found seem to have accumulated on top of natural subsoil with no evidence for cobbled or flagstone floors. Apart from the wall that was discovered under the 18th century drystone dyke no evidence of ancillary structures was recovered.
The report emphasises that a programme of post-excavation work is now required to fully interprete the remains and also to determine the chronological relationships, function and environment of the site. Key work is needed in the areas of stratigraphic analysis, artefact analysis and environmental analysis. Further excavation could be conducted on the site to reveal the full extent of the southern side of the tower and to investigate the relationships between the tower, later wall and butress.
Sponsor: Brodies Solicitors on behalf of Mr Christopher Nightingale
MNRS MS/726/134 (CFA) October 1995

NW 9933 6322 A second season of excavation was carried out on the site of the Agnew family?s 14th-century tower on the island in the middle of Lochnaw (NMRS NW96SE 4). Previous excavation had revealed the full extent of the southern face of the tower (Alexander 1995).
Excavations, focused on the area to the SW of the tower, revealed the foundations of a later (?17th century) rectilinear structure built over the remains of the collapsed SW end of the tower. This structure was c 7.5m wide and possibly as much as 15m long, although only the SE wall survived to any great extent. Most of the walls and the floor surface had been robbed and disturbed, but what appears to have been a fireplace was located at the NE end built into the foundations of the old tower. A possible passageway to the right of the fireplace led to an old latrine chute, incorporated within the tower wall, which appears to have been reused in this phase. This was subsequently blocked and a buttress incorporating a new latrine chute was constructed immediately outside.
To the W of this structure, stretches of walling, paving and the remains of a possible hearth indicate the presence of another structure, which may have been contemporary with the tower.
An assemblage of medieval and post-medieval pottery was recovered, along with large quantities of animal bone and shell. Notable artefacts recovered include a number of coins, a bronze belt buckle, and a lead token, possibly bearing the arms of the Agnew family.
A detailed report will be lodged with the NMRS.
Sponsor: Mr Christopher Nightingale.
D Alexander 1998.

NW 9933 6322 Between June and August 1998 the Centre for Field Archaeology (CFA) carried out a second season of archaeological excavation on the remains of Old Lochnaw Castle on the Isle of Lochnaw, near Stranraer, Dumfries and Galloway.
The excavation's objectives were to uncover the complete ground plan of the tower and remove rubble from along its SW side. Also it was hoped to investigate the wall underlying the drystone dyke and to locate the remains of any structures to the SW of the tower. This area was thought important to look at as it may contain remains of ancillary structures assiciated with the tower, also in order to assess it (at the request of Historic Scotland) as a possible alternative site for the construction of the replica 14th century tower. Other areas that were to be looked at include more detailed work on the historical records, metal detecting on the site and an underwater survey around the island in an attempt to locate any remains of an approach causeway.
The excavations focused on an area to the SW of the tower and revealed the foundations of a later (possibly 17th century) rectilinear structure built over the remains of the collapsed SW end of the tower. The structure was around 7.5 m wide and may have been 15m long, though only the SE wall survived to any great extent. Most of the walls and floor surface of this structure had been robbed and disturbed though what appears to be a fireplace was located at the NE end built in to the foundations of the old tower. A possible passage was found which led to an old latrine chute, incorporated within the tower wall which appears to have been reused in this phase. This chute was later blocked and a butress incorporating a new latrine chute was constructed immediately outside. To the W of this structure, evidence of walling, paving and a possible hearth indicate the presence of another structure aprroximately 5m by 5m in size. This may have been contemporary with the tower. An assemblage of medieval and post-medieval pottery was recovered along with large quantities of animal bone and shell. Notable artefacts recovered included a number of coins, a bronze belt buckle and a lead token which may bear the arms of the Agnew family.
Although the historical documents relating to the island and the Agnews are limited, research has shown a complex tenurial arrangement related to the island which may have some bearing on the sequence of structures built there. The underwater survey indicated that nothing appears to have survived of a causeway out to the island.
A programme of post-excavation analysis will now be undertaken in order that a full interpretation of the remains, including determining the chronological relationships, function and environmnet of the site can be made. The following key areas still require further work, stratigraphic analysis, artefact analysis, environmental analysis and the synthesis of all the work.
Sponsor: Work commissioned by Christopher Nightingale
NMRS MS/726/151 (Centre for Field Archaeology, December 1998).

 
Books and References

Agnew, A (1893) The Hereditary Sheriffs of Galloway, Edinburgh
Page(s): Vol.1, 213-16

Alexander, D (1995c) 'Lochnaw Castle, Isle of Lochnawe (Leswalt parish), 14th century tower', Discovery Excav Scot
Page(s): 23

Alexander, D (1998e) 'Lochnaw Castle, Isle of Lochnaw (Leswalt parish), 14th-century tower and later structures', Discovery Excav Scot
Page(s): 28

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Charity SC026749