Secret passages discovered at Scottish Castle

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Secret passages that were sealed up around 500 years ago have been discovered during restoration work at a ruined castle on the most westerly point on the British mainland.

Secret passages discovered at Scottish Castle
Mingary Castle is currently undergoing restoration work
[Credit: Dave Fergusson]

A room, which is high enough to stand up in, was also uncovered during an archaeological dig at Mingary Castle, near Kilchoan, Ardnamuchan.

It is believed they were filled in to make the walls more robust following the invention of cannons.

The 13th century castle has not been occupied for more than 150 years.

But its owner, Donald Houston, has been granted permission to turn the ruin into a residential property, through the Mingary Preservation Trust, and work is now under way to restore it to its former glory at a cost of around £2 million.

Local historian Jon Haylett, who has been following the project, yesterday explained that archaeologists discovered the room while excavating a passageway in the north wall of the historic building.

He said today: “We knew there had to be something in there as there are lancet windows on the outside, which did not go right through the thickness of the wall.”

Mr Haylett said they had expected the passage to be full of rubble, but discovered it was filled with blocks of stone fixed in place with mortar, which slowed progress.

He said: “They have now reached what is recognisably a room, with a stone floor, an oak ceiling, now lost, and stone walls.

“But what’s most exciting is that they’ve finally exposed the back of the first of the lancet windows.”

Mr Haylett explained that they had accessed the passageway from the east end and were working westwards.

The first window they reached was the single lancet window (a tall, narrow window with an arch) at the east end, the double one is further west and the small room is between these windows.

He said: “It’s difficult to describe the sense of excitement when one steps into a room, which was probably blocked up some time in the 15th or early 16th century.

“This was around the time that newly-invented cannons threatened the walls and the MacIains, for it would have been this powerful sept of the Clan MacDonald who would have controlled Mingary at that time, decided to infill the chamber to increase the wall’s strength.”

For more information visit The Mingary Castle blog

Author: Anna Gault | Source: The Scotsman [January 15, 2014]

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