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Ardvreck Castle



Loch Assynt

Visit Ardvreck Castle

Photograph Ardvreck Castle Scotland

Ardvreck Castle on Loch Assynt, Assynt, Scotland. Ardvreck Castle on Loch Assynt, Assynt, Scotland Stretched Canvas Poster Print by Grant Dixon, 24x32.


Groom was devil in disguise

Perched on a rocky promontory jutting into Loch Assynt are the ruins of Ardvreck Castle. The desolate scenery is a fit setting for a stronghold with a history of treachery, betrayal and intrigue with the devil. From its beginnings in the last decade of the sixteenth century it was reputed to have evil associations. The land had come to the Macleods through marriage with the Macneil heiress. Macleod had long envied his relatives of Dunvegan Castle and wanted nothing more than to own a castle at least as grand.

Ardvreck Castle Scotland

The devil saw his opportunity and offered to provide means to build the castle; but at a price--the soul of Macleod. Stiff bargainingfollowed but Macleod was wily enough to hold out for immortality to enjoy his castle. That was too much for the devil and negotations might have been broken off had not Macleod's daughter appeared on the scene. The devil resumed his bargaining -- this time offering to build the castle in return for the maiden's hand in marriage. Her father hastily sealed the bargain. The wedding took place. The castle was built. All seemed well -- until the young bride learned just who her bridegroom was. The Devil in disguise! In terror she cast herself out the window onto the rocks beneath, and her ghost wanders the ruins to this day, weeping bitterly.

So the Macleods of Assynt got their castle -- but little joy did it bring them. Legend tells of a wicked old crone who lived in the castle and caused much unhappiness in the area through her malicious "claiking" tongue. She was reputed to be a 'familiar' of the devil, but went too far in her slanderous gossiping one day, and was challenged by her victim's brother -- a young man who had studied the occult and the black arts. Their confrontation ended with the appearance of the devil himself who completely vindicated the young man's sister -- but the area was left desolate for years. No crops would grow and no fish lived in the loch.

Ardvreck's best known tale is one which persisted in the Highlands for centuries, and was told and retold as a story of treachery and betrayal so contemptible that it is said that from that terrible day the family fortunes declined. It happened in 1650. Montrose had landed in the North and had mustered a force in support of his king. Defeated, however, and deserted by his foreign mercenaries, he became a fugitive. It is from here that versions of what occurred differ, probably to remain a mystery forever.

The most widely held belief was that Montrose sought sanctuary at Ardvreck and was welcomed and offered protection. But Neil Macleod was tempted by the reward and sent word to General Leslie where Montrose could be found. Montrose was taken and ignominiously led off. his feet tied under the horse's belly, to imprisonment and execution at Edinburgh. Macleod's reward was £20,000 and 400 bols of meal -- and writers ever since have taken delight in recounting that 'the meal was sour'

The vile act of treachery is commemorated in verse:
A traitor sold him to his foes,
o deed of deathless shame.'
The accusation has always been hotly denied by the Macleods, and recent research has cast doubt upon the motives of his loudest accuser, who, within the next twenty years raided the castle and harried Macleod until he was driven from Ardvreck, and the Mackenzies took possession. The ghost of a tall man, dressed in grey, has been seen among the ruins on several occasions. He seems a friendly fellow and willingly enters into conversation with any brave enough to approach him --provided they speak the Gaelic!

If you would like to visit this area as part of a highly personalized small group tour of my native Scotland please e-mail me:

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