Castle Sween

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Castle Sween
Achnamara, Loch Sween, Knapdale, Argyll, Scotland
Castle Sween is located in Scotland
Castle Sween
Castle Sween
Coordinates 55°56′52″N 5°39′55″W / 55.9479°N 5.6654°W / 55.9479; -5.6654
Type Castle
Site information
Owner Historic Scotland
Site history
Built 12th Century
Built by Suibhne

Castle Sween is located on the eastern shore of Loch Sween, in Knapdale,[1] south of the forestry village of Achnamara on the west coast of Argyll, Scotland. Castle Sween is thought to be one of the earliest stone castles built in Scotland, having been built sometime in the late twelfth century.[1] The castle's towers were later additions to wooden structures which have now since vanished.[1]


Castle Sween takes its name from Suibhne, whose name was Anglicised as "Sween". He was thought to have built the castle. Suibhne was thought to have been a grandson of Hugh the Splendid O'Neill who died in 1047.[2]

In the thirteenth century, the Clan MacSween governed lands extending as far north as Loch Awe and as far south as Skipness Castle on Loch Fyne.[2] In the later half of the thirteenth century the MacSween lands of Knapdale passed into the hands of the Stewart Earls of Menteith.[3]

By the time of the Wars of Scottish Independence the MacSweens entered into the service of King Edward I of England in the hope of recovering their lands from the Earl of Menteith, however when Robert the Bruce became King of Scotland he displaced the MacSweens from their lands.[2] After Robert the Bruce had defeated MacDougall Lord of Lorne in 1308, he then laid siege to Alasdair Og MacDonald in Castle Sween.[4] Alastair gave himself up and was disinherited by Robert Bruce who then granted Islay to Alasdair's younger brother, Angus Og, the king's loyal supporter,[4] who also received the Castle Sween in Kintyre from the King.[2]

In 1310, Edward II of England granted John MacSween and his brothers their family's ancestral lands of Knapdale, (though by then Castle Sween was held by Sir John Menteith).[3] It is possible that this could be the "tryst of a fleet against Castle Sween", recorded in the Book of the Dean of Lismore,[3] which tells of the attack of John MacSween on Castle Sween.

In 1323, after the death of Sir John Menteith, the Lordship of Arran and Knapdale passed to his son and grandson.[3] In 1376 half of Knapdale, which included Castle Sween, passed into possession of the MacDonald Lords of the Isles, by grant of Robert II of Scotland to his son-in-law John I, Lord of the Isles.[3]

During the MacDonald's century and a half of holding the castle, the castellans were first MacNeils and later MacMillans.[5]

In 1490 Castle Sween was granted to Colin Campbell, 1st Earl of Argyll, by James IV of Scotland.[5]

In 1647, during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, Castle Sween was attacked and burnt by Alasdair MacColla and his Irish Confederate followers.[5]

In 1933 the castle was put in the care of the Historic Building and Monuments Directorate (HBMD).[6] Currently Castle Sween is under the protection of Historic Scotland.[6]


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