Scheduled Monument

Dunstaffnage CastleSM90120

Status: Designated


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The legal document available for download below constitutes the formal designation of the monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. The additional details provided on this page are provided for information purposes only and do not form part of the designation. Historic Environment Scotland accepts no liability for any loss or damages arising from reliance on any inaccuracies within this additional information.


Date Added
Last Date Amended
Secular: castle
Local Authority
Argyll And Bute
Kilmore And Kilbride
NM 88273 34453
188273, 734453


This monument is a castle, whose visible remains date back to the 13th Century, and the remains of associated structures. It is already scheduled and in state care, but this rescheduling is necessary to ensure that the most important area of archaeological and historical remains is adequately protected in the light of imperfections in earlier scheduling documentation.

The castle is built on a rock some 6m to 9m in height. The curtain walls follow the shape of the rock giving an irregular quadrilateral plan. At each corner are slightly expressed round corner towers. The east or gate tower was remodelled in the late 15th and 16th Centuries to produce what is effectively a tower house over the entrance.

The north and west towers also contained accommodation but the only surviving range within the courtyard dates from the late 16th Century. Beyond the walls of the castle stand the remains of the 18th-century stables and a cottage which now houses a shop and works accommodation.

The history of Dunstaffnage rises out of tradition. It is said that the Stone of Destiny was kept at Dunstaffnage until Kenneth MacAlpin had it moved to Scone. The castle as it stands today, though, was founded by the MacDougalls in the second quarter of the 13th Century. Following the Battle of the Pass of Brander, Robert the Bruce besieged and took the castle.

The MacDougall lands were forfeited and passed, largely, to the Campbells. David II returned part of the Lordship of Lorn to the MacDougalls before it passed through marriage to John Stewart of Innermeath in 1388. Little is heard of the castle until the Lordship passed to the Earl of Argyll in 1469. The Earls entrusted custody of the castle to a Captain, a post which has become hereditary.

During the 16th and 17th Centuries the castle was used by the Crown and the Earls of Argyll as a base for campaigns in the Western Isles. It was garrisoned in the Civil Wars, throughout the Commonwealth occupation, and was burnt by the Marquess of Atholl following the Marquess of Argyll's rising in 1685. It was again garrisoned by government troops during both major Jacobite risings and remained a residence for the Captains until the gate house was gutted by fire in 1810. The gate house was restored by the Duke of Argyll in 1903-4.

The area to be scheduled includes all the features described above and an area around them which is likely to retain archaeological evidence relating to their construction and use. It is defined to the east by the stone boundary wall, to the NW by a line 20m out from the NW wall of the castle and to the SW by a line 50m out from the SW wall of the castle. The area measures approximately 140m SW-NE at its greatest extent by 140m and is marked in red on the accompanying map extract.

Statement of National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it is a well preserved 13th-century castle. It has a long history as an outpost of Royal authority in Argyll, either as a Royal castle or through the Earls of Argyll. It has seen continuous and varied use up until the start of the nineteenth century. Its archaeology has the potential to add greatly to our knowledge of a long period of the history of Argyll. Its importance is reflected in its status as a property in state care.



RCAHMS records the monument as NM 83 SE 2.

Historic Environment Scotland Properties

Dunstaffnage Castle & Chapel

Find out more

Related Designations

  1. Dunstaffnage Castle ChapelSM90121

    Designation Type
    Scheduled Monument

About Scheduled Monuments

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

Scheduling is the process that identifies, designates and provides statutory protection for monuments and archaeological sites of national importance as set out in the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

We schedule sites and monuments that are found to be of national importance using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)

Scheduled monument records provide an indication of the national importance of the scheduled monument which has been identified by the description and map. The description and map (see ‘legal documents’ above) showing the scheduled area is the designation of the monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. The statement of national importance and additional information provided are supplementary and provided for general information purposes only. Historic Environment Scotland accepts no liability for any loss or damages arising from reliance on any inaccuracies within the statement of national importance or additional information. These records are not definitive historical or archaeological accounts or a complete description of the monument(s).

The format of scheduled monument records has changed over time. Earlier records will usually be brief. Some information will not have been recorded and the map will not be to current standards. Even if what is described and what is mapped has changed, the monument is still scheduled.

Scheduled monument consent is required to carry out certain work, including repairs, to scheduled monuments. Applications for scheduled monument consent are made to us. We are happy to discuss your proposals with you before you apply and we do not charge for advice or consent. More information about consent and how to apply for it can be found on our website at

Find out more about scheduling and our other designations at You can contact us on 0131 668 8914 or at


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Printed: 25/09/2020 17:05