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.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

The Moat

This blog post is an attempt to share what, at this stage, I understand of the history of the moat.  The map shows the north end of the castle, with its thick stone walls and the gate in its northwestern wall.  The moat, from which much of the stone for the walls may have been taken, slopes down from west to east.

In its original form, the two walls at either end, 3 and 4, didn't exist, nor did the causeway, 2.  The main gate was connected to the landward side by a drawbridge which, when lowered, rested on the short promontory, 1, seen at the right of this picture.

Rain, and water seeping into the moat, would have run downhill to 5, where it was stopped by a stone wall filled with thick, grey clay.  Whether this water lay in the moat as a puddle, or whether the moat was partly filled with rocks to hide it, isn't clear.  This water passed through the hole seen in the centre of this picture into the bottom of the well, marked W on the map.

A castle has to be able to withstand both direct assault and siege.  While Mingary looks formidable, it had sufficient weaknesses to be successfully attacked by the Royalist Alasdair MacColla MacDonald in 1644 who, as described in the earlier post, here, managed to subdue the garrison surprisingly quickly by assaulting, and burning down the gate.  But the account makes it clear that the defenders were already in trouble: "....the continual thundering of muskate and cannon did so shake the rock as thair wall [well] went dry...."

Further evidence for the weakness of the water supply also comes from an account of the subsequent siege of the Royalist forces which then held Mingary.  The Coventanting general, David Leslie, invested the castle for seven weeks.  An account from the time described how the only water available was from rainwater which gathered in the wall-head.

At some point the walls marked 3 and 4 on the map were built to enclose the ends of the moat.  It's not clear what their purpose was, unless, by that time, the moat had ceased to have any defensive role, and was partially filled, perhaps for use as a garden.

The drawbridge was replaced by a causeway.  This picture, taken by John-Paul Ashley of Ashley Thompson, shows the rocks that form the causeway sitting on the rubble infill of the moat.

Many thanks to John-Paul Ashley for the photograph,
and to Flying Scotscam for the aerial picture of the castle.

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