The monument is the remains of a medieval castle located on the summit of a rock outcrop looking E over Kilbrannan Sound towards Arran. The visible remains comprise the fragments of a stone curtain wall that appears originally to have enclosed the entire summit, an irregular pentagonal area measuring 67m N-S by 24m transversely. The curtain wall has a thickness of about 1.5m and now rises to a maximum height of 3.4m where it acts as a retaining wall on the E side of the site. The ground falls away steeply from the summit on all sides except the NW, where there is a hollow that probably represents a broad flat-bottomed ditch. The castle lies about 300m S of Carradale Harbour and 100m inland at about 20m above sea level. The monument was originally scheduled in 1972, but an inadequate area was included to protect the remains and the documentation did not meet modern standards: the present scheduling rectifies this.
The scheduled area is an irregular shape on plan, to include the remains described above and an area around them in which evidence for the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.
Statement of National Importance
The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:
Airds Castle was held by the Lords of the Isles until its forfeiture to the Crown in the late 15th century. Although its date of construction is not known, researchers believe all the existing remains are of medieval character. The principal entrance was probably situated towards the centre of the W side and reached by a track that climbs the W slopes of the outcrop; an apparent gap in the E wall may mark the site of a postern-gateway. Although there are no visible traces of any internal buildings, it is highly likely that significant archaeological deposits and features survive below ground level. These have high potential to inform us about the construction, use and development of the castle, including the layout, character and date of the buildings. The site has considerable potential to provide information about the daily lives of the occupants and about the changing character of structures and occupation over several hundred years. The likely survival of artefacts and ecofacts would also enhance our knowledge: there is particular potential for their recovery in a small circular reed-grown depression on the summit that may represent the site of a well, in the ditch to the NW, and in the deep hollow below the curtain wall to the E.
The castle stands in a commanding position on the E coast of Kintyre; a strategic location that would have enabled its occupants to control the Kilbrannan Sound between Kintyre and Arran, which is particularly significant given the importance of the sea during the medieval period. It lay close to the boundary between lands controlled by the Lords of the Isles and those held by the Scottish king. There is particular potential to compare Airds Castle with Skipness Castle, which is located about 20 km away at the N end of the sound and was the administrative centre of a considerable barony, one of the great medieval lordships of Kintyre. There is also potential to study this monument in the context of several other important W coast castles, among them Castle Sween, Lochranza Castle, Dunstaffnage Castle and Rothesay Castle. Such comparisons give this monument considerable potential to inform our understanding of the nature of lordship, control and the wider operation of medieval society.
The castle seems to have come into the possession of the Crown at the end of the 15th century following the forfeiture of John, Lord of the Isles. In 1498 James IV granted the 'Fortalicium de Ardcardane', together with other property in the same area, to an Ayrshire landholder, Sir Adam Reid of Stairquhite and Barskimming. In the middle of the 16th century the same lands formed part of the barony of Bar, in North Kintyre, then held by the MacDonalds of Dunnyveg. In 1605 they were again in the possession of the Reids of Barskimming.
The site of the castle is marked 'Airds Castle (Ruin)' on the Ordnance Survey 1st edition map.
This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, particularly the construction, defences and domestic life of a west coast medieval castle. The visible remains of the curtain wall are augmented by buried archaeology, and there is potential for the survival of organic remains that may be preserved in a well and ditch. The monument can enhance the written history of the Lords of the Isles by providing data on trade and exchange, economy and the details of everyday life. Its loss would impede our ability to understand the medieval castles of Argyll and Bute and their role in the exercise of power by the Lords of the Isles.