Hugh Smith’s letter from Islay
Dun Naomhaig Castle’s fascinating history
ONE OF the noted landmarks on the east coast of the island is the now ruined Dun Naomhaig Castle, once a stronghold of the Clan Donald, the Lords of the Isles.
It sits on a rocky promontory overlooking Lagavulin Bay where the MacDonalds anchored their galleys and it is from the Gaelic word for these very ships that the castle’s name is derived.
The original fort or dun may have been established by the Vikings before passing into Clan Donald ownership in the 12th century. Forfeited in 1493, the castle came into the possession of the MacIans of Ardnamurchan who then leased it to the MacDonalds.
It was then handed over to the Clan Campbell before being returned to the MacDonalds.
The castle was the scene of much intrigue, treachery, betrayal and bloodshed and was no stranger to siege during the 17 th century. After a chequered history Dun Naomhaig came into the possession of Sir John Campbell of Calder in 1615.
A further siege in 1647 saw the castle being taken over by the Covenanters, led by Sir David Lindsay. This was a particular gruesome onslaught as the castle’s occupant Alasdair MacDonald was hanged from the rampants.
Ownership of the castle then passes to the Campbells of Cawdor who were to play an important role in the island’s history. They held on to Dun Naomhaig until around 1677 when Sir Hugh Campbell pulled large sections of it down before taking up residence in his new and much more comfortable residence at Islay House, Bridgend.
Today, all that remains at Dun Naomhaig are the remains of the 16th century castle along with traces of a 13th century courtyard and a 15th century keep.
In 1998, Lagavulin Distillery carried out essential repairs to the site with grant aid from Historic Scotland.
Post Office changes as new owner takes over
BOWMORE Post Office, at the top of the village’s main street, is under new ownership.
Postmistress Catherine MacTaggart, who has been in harness for the past 14 years, handed over the reins last week to Alyson MacGillivray, a member of a well-known local farming family.
Both Catherine and staff member Sheena MacMillan will stay on to help in the transfer and the training of new staff.
Under the new regime the post office will provide longer opening hours and the Thursday and Saturday half day early closure will be discontinued.
The new owner will continue to operate the shop premises in the building and a retail outfit, currently operating at the Islay House Square shopping development, is also being transferred to the Bowmore premises. Everyone wishes Catherine and Sheena a long and happy retirement and the community’s good wishes go to Alyson in her new venture.
Half-marathon athletes are ready for the run
UP TO 200 runners are expected to take part in the island’s annual half-marathon which takes place on Saturday August 6.
The race begins at Bowmore village square at 10.45am and follows a looped course via the island airport before the runners head back to the starting point where the prize giving ceremony will take place.
The event is now in its 30 th year and continues to enjoy sponsorship from Ardbeg Distillery as well as encouraging support from home and overseas competitors.
Those immune to calloused soles and muscle strain can continue to keep up the pace at the post marathon Saturday night jig in the village hall.
Hugh Smith, 4 Flora Street, Bowmore, Islay PA43 7JX. Tel: 01496 810658
The ruins of Dun Naomhaig Castle.