Gaelic, "Sgibinnis. from Iselandic, "Skip", a ship;
and "ness" , a cape.

This is a medieval painting of St Brendan the Navigator with his followers, as they ride on the great monstrous whale.

The Revival of Dunderave Castle
an ancient stronghold of the McNachtan Clan

A castle built by Scotland's kings, Castle Tarbert dominates the isthmus between Knapdale and Kintyre.

The Oldest and most important Castle in Knapdale:
Castle Sween

A Map of the Castles in Argyll

Link to
All the "KnapdalePeople" Maps


Knapdale People Home Page


Skipness Castle door The photo to the right gives some indication of the sheer power exemplified in Skipness Castle. Unlike most other castles, it does not perch on the top of a rock. Instead, it sits on a flat piece of ground, south of Tarbert, beside Kilbrannon Sound. It is in the photo below that you can see why Skipness was built where it lies: through a blue haze, Arran can be seen, not very far away. Attacks on this island are a constant feature of the history of western Scotland in the middle ages. At the same time as Tarbert Castle was repaired and made a Royal Burgh (1494), Skipness was declared a 'free barony' in the charge of a trusted royal servant. The Firth of Clyde , however, required strong local lordship, and soon, the Campbell family was in charge of Skipness:

".... Skipness Castle looked out on the north of Arran, and pillaging attacks on the island were a persistent feature in the period 1500 to 1503. When Earl Archibald (of Argyll) granted Skipness to his younger son Archibald in 1511, the terms of the grant suggest that the stronghold was very much viewed as an active military centre." (Boardman, page 313.)

Skipness, looking at Arran Skipness' origins lie in the centuries of the MacSweens and Sween Castle. By 1300, the MacSweens had been forced out of the Hebrides by the spreading Stewart power of the time. Through the centuries, Skipness was enlarged and strengthened by MacDonalds, Stewarts, and Campbells. In the late 1640s, it successfully withstood siege by the MacDonalds of Colkitto during their attack on Knapdale and Kintyre.

Kilbrannon Chapel Apparently the earliest chapel at Skipness was dedicated to St. Columba (of Iona). By the 1300s, however, the preferred saint was St Brendan ('Brannon') the Navigator. On the shore beyond the castle, you can see the remains of Kilbrannan Chapel beside Kilbrannon Sound.

St Brendan lived in the 500s, and is famous for having travelled into the north Atlantic, during which he saw many marvellous things. At one point in his journey, he and his followers camped on the back of a large sea-monster, a whale, thinking it was an island. St. Brendan's Feast Day is May 16th. He is the patron saint of boatmen, mariners, sailors, travellers, and whales.


Argyll Castles in the Care of Historic Scotland. Extracts from RCAHMS Inventories of Argyll, Volumes 1, 2 and 7. Published by RCAHMS, Historic Scotland, 1997.

Voyage of St Brendan. Trans by J. F. Webb. Penguin Books, 1965.

Stephen Boardman. The Campbells, 1250 - 1513. Edinburgh, John Donald, 2006.