Home Newsletter Locations Diary


Castle Section Castle Index Featured Castles Castle Lists

Ardvreck Castle and Calda House

Loch Assynt, Sutherland

Featured Location Guide

The landscape around Ardvreck Castle is stunning and from a plan in the car park you can see there are a number of historic sites in one location. The castle sits on a small island spit off the mainland at the side of Loch Assynt and is accessible by foot. On the island itself sits the remains of Ardvreck Castle, together with it's rampart, walled garden and the remains of a kiln barn. You can also see the remains of a wooden jetty, used in the early 20th century.

Ardvreck Castle and Calda House, on the shores of Loch Assynt, with the mountains behind

The castle dates from the latter half of the 15th century and was initially a simple rectangular block, 3 or 4 storey's high. It was the 15th century seat of the MacLeods of Assynt. Almost a century later the accommodation was enhanced by adding a tower, vaulted cellars and a vault over the great hall on the first floor. Access to the tower and higher floors being via a circular staircase in the tower. Even after this extension it was still small, and other buildings were built around it to accommodate the kitchens, servants quarters and stables.

Throughout it's life it has been the scene of much violence, with murders, executions and sieges and was even a prison in 1650 for John Graham, Marquis of Montrose after his defeat at the Battle of Carbisdale. In 1672 there was a 14 day siege by the MacKenzies of Wester Ross which marked the end of the MacLeod ownership.

In 1795 nature carried out the final act of violence when it was struck by lightening and largely destroyed.

As you walk from the car park to the castle on the left you pass what is believed to be the remains of an iron works site. The mound to your right is said to be the remains of a chambered cairn dating to before 2000BC. It was excavated in 1925 and a massive slab lining one side of the chamber can still be seen, and it contains 3 compartments, these are now covered in grass and a little difficult to distinguish. In fact you'll probably walk over them without realising.                                       

Once you are at what looks like a small pebble beach, look to your right and you may see a waterfall cascading down the hillside, it will depend on the time of year you visit and if there has been any recent rain. At the mouth of the stream where it feeds into the Loch some footings and remains of a kiln barn, shieling huts, possibly a dairy, kiln and horizontal grain mill have been found, with a large millstone found near Allt Calda Beag on the other side of the road.

Access to the Castle is via a footpath and across this shingle beach area through a gap in the wall

For centuries this area has supported a variety of livestock with good grazing, today there are still sheep roaming the landscape and roads! But when we visited in May 2012 there were also large numbers of Red Deer, when we arrived they could be seen on the hillside on the opposite side of the road grazing, but later we also saw them close up at the car park and on the castle mound, but our arrival soon led them to disperse once again on the hillside opposite.

In the past the communities that lived here would have been self sufficient growing their own crops as well as looking after livestock and this is borne out by the remnants of the buildings that have been found here.

A new 20th century use of the site happened just before the First World War when a nine hole golf course was laid out in the area of the two ruins. It was designed by Eric Chaplin, the Duke of Sutherlands grandson, and maintained by James MacKenzie with his grass cutting machine and roller, both pulled by a pony, he also issued tickets to the golfers and collected their fees which were one shilling per day. Chaplin would bring his guests from Loch Assynt Lodge, on a steam launch where it was moored at a jetty near the castle, these are the remnants of the ruins that can be seen today. There is no sign of the golf course now and the castle is a tourist attraction for the area and a great photo opportunity.

See Larger Image   Click to see larger images    See Larger Image

The many faces of Ardvreck Castle on the shores of Loch Assynt in the Highlands of Scotland. Awesome location !

See Larger Image   Click to see larger images    See Larger Image

Nearby is the remains of Calda House, which you can walk to from the main car park area.

Calda House

In 1726 Kenneth MacKenzie II of Assynt, the then owners and occupiers of the castle, commissioned the building of Calda House for his wife, Frances, who didn't like living in Ardvreck Castle. It was known locally as the White House, in its day it had white walls and window and door surrounds from imported dressed sandstone. It was the first house in the north-west highlands to have a symmetrical design and it had two principal floors plus an attic, and in a document from 1794 is said to have had 14 bed chambers with the conveniencey of chimneys or fireplaces.

The ruins of the Calda House

The MacKenzie's growing debts, incurred through supporting the royalists cause meant the house was an extravagance the family could not afford and after only 10 years, through Kenneth's weakness and Frances's extravagance they were in financial ruin. The Earl of Sutherland vied with MacKenzie to purchase Assynt and won, however due to their long feud it was looted and burned by MacKenzie supporters and never occupied by the Sutherlands. Fifty years later many of the stones from the ruins were transported by boat to build the first parochial schoolhouse at Kirkton.

Today the remains are left standing alongside the Loch and those of the castle and offer a fascinating insight into the history of this area. It is a stunning place to photograph, on our visit there were very few other people around and the weather was good.

Calda House as viewed from the island Castle Ardvreck is situated

Further information Grid



Ardvreck Castle and Calder House, Loch Assynt, Sutherland

Ceremonial County: Sutherland

Grid Reference:


Map Link:


Aerial photo: Google Aerial



Best Times to Visit:






Other useful websites:

Wikipedia   Historic Assynt   Undiscovered Scotland

Nearby Locations:  
Other Relevant pages:  


Planning Grid


Ardvreck Castle and Calder House, Loch Assynt, Sutherland

Grid Reference:


Getting there:

On the side of Loch Assynt on the A837 towards Lochinver, north of Inchnadamph.


From the car park a narrow path, over shingle and sand and through a gap in a wall onto the mound and up around the castle.


Car park provided



Things To Do, See and Photograph:

Castle Ruins, Ruins of Calda House, Loch, Mountains

What to take:

wide angle lenses, tripod (essential for a panorama), filters

Nature highlights:



Ardvreck Castle

Loch Assynt



IV27 4HL



Opening times:

All year round access at any reasonable time



Photo Restrictions:


Other Restrictions:  
Special Needs Access: Not easy to access, from the lightly gravelled car park there is narrow windy path, then you have to get over small shingle and sand before entering through to the castle which is on a hill mound. But you get good views from the roadside and car park.
Special Needs Facilities: None
Children Facilities: None specific
Dogs Allowed: Yes, but keep on leads as there are sheep and other wildlife.

Please let us know any other information that we can add to the Further information and Planning Grids or page and any errors that you discover. Before making a long trip to any location it is always wise to double check the current information, websites like magazines may be correct at the time the information is written, but things change and it is of course impossible to double check all entries on a regular basis. If you have any good photographs that you feel would improve the illustration of this page then please let us have copies. In referring to this page it is helpful if you quote both the Page Ref and Topic or Section references from the Grid below. To print the planning grid select it then right click and print the selected area.

Please submit information on locations you discover so that this system continues to grow.


By: Tracey Park Section: Castles Key:
Page Ref: ardvreck_castle Topic: Castles Last Updated: 06/2012


This page:

Link directly to this page, with text or the button on right.

Text linking: Ardvreck Castle and Carla House on Photographers Resource

Linking Instructions                            http://www.photographers-resource.co.uk/

Photographers Resource, all the information for the photographer