Kilchurn Castle – Preserving Military History (History & Travel Tips)


Kilchurn Castle is located at the northeastern end of Loch Awe, in Argyll and Bute, Scotland. The oldest standing barracks on the British mainland are at Kilchurn Castle. The fortress has served as a castle, a luxurious home, and a military stronghold. The estate is formed by a five-story tower house, with a lower hall, courtyard, and barracks below.

The castle was built around the middle of the fourteenth century. It served as the home base for the powerful Campbells of Glen Orchy for 150 years. Kilchurn was transformed into a garrison fortress during the first Jacobite Rising in 1689, but it was abandoned by the end of the 1700s. Currently, the castle is protected by Historic Environment Scotland.

Kilchurn Castle is a stunning medieval ruin that overlooks Loch Awe. If you’re in the Scottish Highlands and a lover of nature & history alike, it’s well worth the trip to see this famous sight.

Kilchurn Castle is among the most photographed castles in Scotland. It is beautifully situated on a lochside and is flanked by rugged hills. 

Kilchurn Castle's aerial view with blue sky.
Kilchurn Castle’s aerial view. Kilchurn Castle flickr photo by Ian D shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Frequently Asked Questions


Early History

Building of Kilchurn Castle (15th Century)

In 1432, Sir Colin Campbell’s father granted him control of Glen Orchy and other territories; he later founded Kilchurn in 1450. The early castle consisted of a tower house with five stories and a courtyard enclosed by an exterior wall. Kilchurn was once located on a little island that was no bigger than the castle itself, and it would have been reached via a causeway that was either submerged or low to the ground.

Expansion of the Castle (15th-16th Century)

Sir Colin Campbell (1499–1583)–this one a descendant of the original builder–added several chambers to the north of the tower house and renovated the parapet in the second half of the 16th century, substantially enhancing the castle’s provisions. This featured the addition to the castle of the corbel-adorned corner turrets as well. In 1614, Sir Duncan Campbell had the south range of the castle repaired and expanded. In the southeast corner of the courtyard, he built a new range that included a chapel.

An artist’s imagining of Kilchurn Castle.
An artist’s imagining of Kilchurn Castle. JoJan, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Castle’s Brief Transition to Garrison (17th Century)

Earl of Breadalbane and Holland Sir John Campbell, 5th Baronet, was appointed in 1681. He took advantage of the unrest of the moment by assisting William III while also dealing with Jacobite rebels. He pushed a plan to settle down the Highlands in 1693, and as part of it, he started turning Kilchurn into a contemporary barracks that could accommodate 200 soldiers. You can still see those barracks today at Kilchurn Castle. 

The Ruination of the Castle (18th Century)

The castle was destroyed by lightning in 1760, leaving only the ruin of a tower’s turret, which is now leaning backward in the courtyard, as evidence of the storm’s ferocity. By 1770, the castle had lost its roof which still has not been replaced.

The ground inside Kilchurn Castle.
The ground inside Kilchurn Castle. Kilchurn Castle flickr photo by itmpa shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Current Times

Historic Environment Scotland is currently responsible for maintaining the castle. It is now accessible to the public throughout the summer and remains closed in the winter. Access to the castle is available by foot from the A85 close to Dalmally or by boat from Lochawe Pier. The castle is free to enter, with no admission fee.

Kilchurn Castle is a must-see attraction for nature lovers and photography enthusiasts. Visit the stunning setting, enjoy a picnic on Loch Awe’s banks, snap exquisite photographs, and learn about the castle’s intriguing history. You will undoubtedly find it worthwhile and enjoy the journey as you go.

Kilchurn Castle against the gorgeous hilly backdrop.
Kilchurn Castle against the gorgeous hilly backdrop. Markus Trienke, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Interesting Kilchurn Castle Facts

The facts about Kilchurn Castle are quite fascinating. Below is a list of facts that you might find intriguing:

  • The castle was positioned on an island that was once linked to the coast by a submerged bridge; but since the water level has gone down, today you can clearly see the bridge. 
  • In actuality, there are two Kilchurns—the tower house and the barracks. Even though the tower house is unoccupied, it still stands at the same height as it was built. A vaulted storage basement and a jail are located on the lower level.
  • Visitors often visit the most well-known location to view this ruined castle at Kilchurn Castle Viewpoint, also known as the Kilchurn Castle Panoramic Viewpoint.
  • Kilchurn Castle is among the most photographed castles in Scotland. It is beautifully situated on a lochside and is flanked by rugged hills. 
  • If you are wondering about the carvings on top of the castle’s gatehouse, they are the initials of the 1st Earl of Breadalbane and his wife. 

Visiting Kilchurn Castle – Tips and Tricks

Kilchurn Castle is one of those picturesque castles that you can just stand and admire for hours. The castle seems to have come directly out of a fantasy film due to its proximity to the water and its position in front of the hills. If you like taking pictures and making videos, this is the ideal location for you to make this stunning castle the backdrop of your efforts.  If you’re eager to visit this antique sight, you can make your trip easy and fun by following the tips and tricks provided below:

A view of Kilchurn Castle Two towers and a bridge
Two towers and the bridge.

How to get to Kilchurn Castle?

If you are traveling from Glasgow, you can take a bus, train, or you can drive there as well.  The bus takes around 2 hours and 40 minutes and will cost £17 ($20 USD). The train takes around the same amount of time for £29 ($35 USD). If you drive by car, it will take you 1 hour and 30 minutes and will cost £21 ($25 USD)

The Dalmally roadside (A85), which runs under the adjacent railroad overpass, provides access to the castle. You can access it over agricultural land from the loch-side. Be careful as the loch does floods periodically, so caution is advised.

Ticket Prices, Visiting Hours & Travel Tips

Information was checked & updated on November 5, 2023.

You will be happy to know that there is no admission fee to Kilchurn Castle. It is free to visit however Kilchurn Castle is currently closed for conservation works.

Stony interior of Kilchurn Castle.
Stony interior of Kilchurn Castle. John Proctor / Kilchurn Castle interior of ruin

Things to do in the Kilchurn Castle

Kilchurn Castle presents several opportunities for entertainment and relaxation. Some of these activities are:

  • You can hire the site for filming.
  • Enjoy a picnic on the banks of the loch and enjoy a panoramic view of the castle.
  • Get to watch one of the most majestic sunrise and sunsets at the castle. 
  • Stroll around the roofless ruins of the castle.
  • Climb up the stairs and get to watch Loch Awe gracefully flow with its current. 

How Long Will It Take to Tour Around?

As there isn’t much else to do within the castle, one hour is enough to explore the interior of the castle. After that, you are free to savor the sights for as long as you choose.

Some words of advice and tips: 

  • The route leading to Kilchurn Castle is closed to cars, thus there isn’t any suitable parking at the castle. You must park in the Kilchurn Castle parking lot off the A85 in order to explore the castle ruins.
  • The parking lot fills up rapidly in the summer. You won’t have any trouble getting a parking place if you go outside of the busiest travel season.
  • Make sure you’re wearing comfortable boots since the walk through the marshland to the castle can be very muddy and bumpy … but it’s worth it. 
  • A snack van is sometimes available in the car park. 

Quick Video Tour of The Main Kilchurn Castle Areas

Kainat Khalid
Kainat Khalid
Kainat is an English literature graduate with a profound interest in historical architecture. She has studied and explored the dusted pages of history for years which has ignited her passion to explore the existing remnants of our past glory and revisit them from a revised perspective. “There is no present without the past” is what she believes in and what drove her to begin cataloging these timeless historical monuments.

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