As usual, Scotland delivers yet another fantastic castle in some of its most beautiful scenery. Castle Sween is situated on the Eastern shores of Loch Sween on the West coast of Argyll, Scotland. In all probability, Castle Sween is one of the earliest stone castles built in Scotland, dating as it does from the late 12th century.
The name Sween, is the anglicised version of Suibhne, the name of the most likely builder of the castle, possible grandson of Hugh the Splendid O'Neill, Prince of Argyll. The Clan MacSween traditionally governed huge swathes of land from Loch Awe in the North, to Skipness Castle on the shores of Loch Fyne in the South. However, the MacSween's lands in the area surrounding Knapdale (including the castle here on Loch Sween) found their way into the hands of the Stewart Earls of Monteith. As a result of this, the MacSweens pledged their support to Edward I in an attempt to wrest their lands back from the Stewarts during the Scottish Wars of Independence. Unfortunately their plans failed, and they were swiftly removed from all of their lands by the newly crowned Robert the Bruce.
Robert the Bruce then went on to lay siege to Castle Sween which was being held by Alasdair Og MacDonald. Alasdair surrendered and was disinherited, losing Castle Sween, his lands and his titles to his younger brother Angus Og MacDonald. Edward II granted John MacSween the ancient ancestral lands around the Knapdale area, but the castle on Loch Sween was then held by Sir John Monteith. Sir John died in 1323, and the Lordships of Arran and Knapdale passed to his son and grandson. A large portion of Knapdale then passed to the MacDonald clan in 1376 when it was granted to them by Robert II of Scotland.
The castle was passed to Historic Scotland's predecessor, the Historic Building and Monuments Directorate in 1933.
Above. Castle Sween on the Eastern shore of Loch Sween (photo courtesy of John Jefferies)
The castle consists of four thick sturdy walls surrounding a courtyard. The walls have thick buttresses in the centre of each stretch of wall and at the angles, providing further re-enforcement. The gateway is in the South wall, providing exit and entry to the courtyard through ten foot thick walls.
During the 13th century, the North East corner of the courtyard wall was demolished and a tower house was built, possibly to provide more appropriate and comfortable accomodation for the castle's stewards.
The Western wall of the courtyard was altered during the 15th century, and a round tower, the MacMillan tower, was added to the castle's defences.
Castle Sween was attacked in 1644, during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, by Alasdair MacColla and the Irish Clan Donald. Such was the damage wrought during this attack, that the castle was rendered uninhabitable. The castle was never repaired and has been a ruin ever since.