The freedom of a bay of wild and unspoilt beauty
This well-built, model estate building has an open fire and sunny bay window. It also has easy access onto the beach which is just a couple of minutes’ walk away. Saddell Bay looks out across the Kilbrannan Sound to the Isle of Arran off the east coast of Kintyre. The ruins of an ancient abbey lie nearby, and around 1500 the bay was chosen by the Bishop of Argyll for a new castle, planted boldly near the shore at the mouth of a small river. The whole of Saddell Bay with its long white strand and rocky point now belongs to Landmark, including the castle, a later mansion and four cottages. Each building stands alone and those who stay in them have the freedom of the whole bay in all its wild and unspoilt beauty.
Much-loved with its own architectural character
We do not know exactly when it was built – perhaps when Colonel McLeod was refurbishing the castle in the 1890s, or after the serious fire at Saddell House in 1899. Either way, the lodge avoided any such ravages itself, a simple but considered building to which we added a bedroom. For many years it was the much-loved home of our Regional Property Manager. Today the lodge adds its own architectural character to the Landmarks at Saddell, lying snugly at the edge of the estate half a mile from the ruins of Saddell Abbey up the glen. There you'll find tumbled stones, moulded or carved, and many grave slabs of proud and unruly Scots.
‘My 15 year old granddaughter became very adept at making up and keeping the fire going, much to the satisfaction of the oldies.’
From the logbook
A licence to build castles
In 1508 James IV, King of Scotland, granted the lands of Saddell Abbey to David Hamilton, Bishop of Argyll, with licence to "build castles ... and fortify them with stone walls". Saddell Castle was the result, a tower-house typical of the period. It was probably completed by 1512, and used by the Bishop as an occasional residence.
Of this 16th-century building there remain only the outer walls, including the entrance doorway, the great fireplace on the first floor and a small fireplace on the second floor (where there is also a garderobe closet), together with a short stretch of the original barmkin wall to the south of the tower, and some carved stone panels. In 1556 Saddell had been transferred to James Macdonald, who was busy annoying the English army in Ireland. In retaliation the Earl of Sussex mounted a raid on Kintyre in 1558, during which he burned and sacked the Castle, which he described as "a fayre pyle and a stronge".
The Castle seems to have been left as a ruin for the next hundred years, even after it was granted to Archibald Campbell, Earl of Argyll, in 1607. Then in 1650 the Earl, in turn, granted Saddell to William Ralston of that Ilk, a fugitive from religious persecution in the Lowlands, on condition that he made it habitable within two years. The Castle was given a new roof, and floors, and the walls and parapet were extensively repaired. The arrangement of the rooms is mostly of that same date.
William Ralston soon moved elsewhere, and by the end of the 17th century the estate had been granted to a junior branch of the Campbell family, who became known as the Campbells of Glensaddell. During the 18th century they tried to make the Castle more comfortable, by lining the bedroom walls with panelling for example; and they smartened up the sitting room with a new fireplace, alcoves and a moulded plaster ceiling.
They must have felt they were fighting a losing battle, however, because in about 1774 the Campbells built themselves a new and more convenient home, which they called Saddell House. The castle became a farm, and was lived in by estate employees. Stone from the Abbey was used for the farm buildings that cluster around the foot of the tower.
In 1890 the Castle once again became, for a few years, the chief residence of the estate, after Saddell House was damaged by fire. At that time it belonged to Colonel Macleod, who clearly had great fun restoring the castle. It was he who put up the heraldic shields in the dining room, which contain heraldic jokes and puns; and he made several other minor alterations, such as the ceiling in the top bathroom, and fireplaces in several of the bedrooms.
Once Saddell House was repaired the castle went back to being an estate farmhouse. In the 1930s it was given another new roof, but after the War there were no longer the funds to repair it. In 1939 the Saddell estate had been bought by Lt Col and Mrs Moreton, and it was they who in 1975 sold the Castle, with Shore Cottage (built in the 19th century) and Cul na Shee (built in the 1920s), to the Landmark Trust. In 1984 the Trust bought the remainder of the estate, and in 1990 Ferryman’s Cottage.
Experience the lodge
For up to 4 people
Saddell Lodge is a handsome granite gate lodge, guarding the entrance to stunning Saddell Bay on the east coast of Kintyre looking out across the Kilbrannan Sound to the Isle of Arran.
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