Ardvreck Castle


History of Ardvreck
The castle is thought to have been constructed around 1590 by the Clan MacLeod family who owned Assynt and the surrounding area from the 13th century onwards. Indeed Sutherland, the area in which Ardvreck is situated, has long been a stronghold of the clan MacLeod. The most well known historical tale concerning the castle is that on April 30th 1650 James Graham, the Marquis of Montrose, was captured and held at the castle before being transported to Edinburgh for trial and execution. Montrose was a Royalist, fighting on the side of Charles I against the Covenanters. Defeated at the Battle of Carbisdale, he sought sanctuary at Ardvreck with Neil MacLeod of Assynt. At the time, Neil was absent and it is said that his wife, Christine, tricked Montrose into the castle dungeon and sent for troops of the Covenanter Government. Montrose was taken to Edinburgh, where he was executed on 21 May 1650, using the traditional method for traitors: hanging, drawing and quartering. Ardvreck Castle was attacked and captured by the Clan MacKenzie in 1672, who took control of the Assynt lands. In 1726 they constructed a more modern manor house nearby, Calda House, which takes its name from the Calda burn beside which it stands. The house burned down under mysterious circumstances one night in 1737 (see below) and both Calda House and Ardvreck Castle stand as ruins today.

Architecture
Ardvreck Castle was a rectangular-shaped keep comprising three storeys. Under the castle the vaulted basement is pierced by gunloops and the round stair turret is corbelled out to support a square caphouse. Despite the small size of the ruined tower, Ardvreck was originally a large and imposing structure and it is thought that the castle included a walled garden and formal courtyard. The remains of the foundations can still be seen and cover a large area. Unfortunately, all that remains today is a tower and part of a defensive wall. When the waters of the loch rise very high, the peninsula on which the castle stands can be cut off from the mainland.

Ghosts and legends of Ardvreck
The castle is said to be haunted by two ghosts, one a tall man dressed in grey who is supposed to be related to the betrayal of Montrose and may even be Montrose himself. The second ghost is that of a young girl. The story tells that the MacLeods procured the help of the Devil to build the castle and in return the daughter of one of the MacLeod chieftains was betrothed to him as payment. In despair of her situation, the girl threw herself from one of the towers and was killed. The nearby ruins of Calda house are also supposed to be haunted. The legend says that the Mackenzie family organised a family gathering there one Saturday and that the celebrations continued past midnight into the Sabbath day. At some point a fire broke out, possibly caused by a lightning strike, and all the inhabitants perished as the house burned to the ground. The causes of the fire are uncertain, but inhabitants of the Assynt area state that it was a manifestation of divine wrath as the family had been merry-making on the Lord's Sabbath day. Indeed, stories are told that there was a survivor of the fire, a piper who was spared the flames because he refused to play the pipes past the midnight hour. A number of ghost sightings have been recorded around the area of the Calda ruins, including that of a ghostly woman who haunts the site itself. Strange lights have also been seen there at night, and several people have claimed that they have seen car headlights approach them on the road there at night, but after waiting for the vehicle to pass, no car has appeared.

Building Activity

  • updated a digital reference
    about 5 years ago via Annotator
  • updated a digital reference
    about 5 years ago via OpenBuildings.com