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Castle Stalker

Castle Stalker near Port Appin Scotland
Castle Stalker near Port Appin, Scotland.
Castle Stalker near Port Appin - 40 Inch
Canvas Print (101cm) by Robert Harding
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Castle Stalker, the fortress of the Hunter, sits on the Rock of the Cormorants, an islet at the mouth of Loch Laich, two miles north east of Port Appin. The first castle on this site was built by the Macdougall Lords of Lorn but the present castle was raised by the Stewart Lords of Appin in 1388. Much of the surviving castle was built by Sir John Stewart before his murder at Dunstaffnage in 1463 by a renegade Macdougall. Five years later the castle witnessed the revenge of his clansmen when they crushed their Macdougall foes in the Battle of Stalc fought at the castle gates.

A cousin to the Stewarts of Appin, James IV enjoyed hawking in the western Highlands. James stayed at Castle Stalker on several of his hunting expeditions, a fact commemorated by the improvements made to the castle's living quarters during his reign, as well as the royal arms above the front door. After James' death at Flodden in 1513, the influence of the Appin Stewarts waned and they found themselves at loggerheads with the rising House of Campbell. That rivalry was symbolized by the Campbell assassination of Sir Alexander Stewart while fishing in Loch Laich in 1520 and the murderous revenge taken by his son Duncan of the Hammers a generation later by killing nine Campbells in 1544.

In 1620 the castle fell into the grasp of Clan Campbell. Local tradition says that the 7th Stewart laird drunkenly wagered the castle in exchange for an eight oared wherry. More likely, the impecunious Stewarts of Appin succumbed to the lure of Campbell cash and sold it. In the civil war of 1688-1690, the Stewarts briefly seized Stalker back, acting in the name of King James VII. After the victory of the Protestant Cameronians at Dunkeld however. Stalker was besieged by Campbell forces and the Stewarts quit the castle honorably in 1690.

In 1745, three hundred Appin clansmen besieged Stalker but could make little headway against a Campbell garrison of sixty. The shot from the Jacobites' two pounder cannon merely bounced off Stalker's thick walls. This failure to take Castle Stalker was to prove costly for the Jacobite cause, as it promptly became an important stop on the supply route between Inverary and Fort William as the Hanoverian government prepared to crush the Rising. After Culloden, the Western Highlands were ruthlessly 'pacified' and Stalker served as a mustering point where clansmen were required to surrender their weaponry. Abandoned and ruined by 1840, Stalker was finally sympathetically restored. Castle Stalker appears in the final scene of Monty Python and the Holy Grail as Castle Aaaaarrrrrrggghhh.

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