The Mingary Castle restoration blog was written by Jon Haylett, who lives in the local village of Kilchoan. Now that restoration is almost complete Holly and Chris Bull will take over to report on bringing the Castle back to life.

Friday, 10 May 2013

The Courtyard of Mingary Castle

The extremely dangerous state of the building has meant that, for many of us who live locally, the courtyard of Mingary Castle remained a mystery.  The building isn't overlooked, so it's impossible to see across the high walls from the land, so the only information available came from from sites like Canmore, here, and the the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland's  book, 'Argyll Volume 3'.  So I felt very privileged indeed to join the archaeologists in the castle on Wednesday and be shown by Tom Addyman some of the main features of this fascinating monument.

The above, much simplified diagram was compiled some years ago from the RCAHMS book.  It shows the interior buildings to be in three 'ranges'.
The north or Principal Range is the largest - marked '3' on the diagram.  Much of it dates back to the 16th century, but has been extensively altered over the centuries - all the windows seen here are 17th to 18th century additions, cut into the earlier wall.  In its original form, the lowest level was a cellar.  Above it, a magnificent hall rose to the roof.  To the right of this building - the east - were stairs which led to small rooms built into the main external walls - one of these may have been an oratory.

The range on the west side, '2' in the diagram, contained the kitchen and some accommodation.  Again, it is originally 16th century, with alterations dating to the late 17th, early 18th century.  To the right of this picture can be seen the passageway that leads to the main gate in the north wall.

In the south wall is the water gate.  Some idea of the amount of rubble in the courtyard can be obtained by looking at the low level of the bottom of the door and the level of the arch on the right.  The line of the roof of the Kitchen range, on the right, can clearly be seen on the south wall.

The range along the east side, '1' in the diagram, is much the most recent, being late 18th century.  It has two rooms on the ground floor.  The one on the left has a room above it, the small one on the right doesn't.

I am no archaeologist but, having spent two hours in the building, I was overwhelmed by the story that experts can tell from a detailed the study of these crumbling walls.  But as much remains a mystery.  For example, the left-hand room in the last picture is plastered, and this has clear evidence of a thin partition running right across the room just to the left of the door, so there appears to have been a tiny 'entrance hall'.  Why?

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