5o2631                                                NM 56 sw                                                       August 1971

Pls. 71-2) (Figs. 232-6,

346. Moy Castle, Mull. This castle stands on a low rock platform at the head of Loch Buie, some 90 m south of the present mansion-house of Lochbuie. The site, whose choice was partly, determined by the need to provide an easy means of access by boat, has few natural defensive advantages, but the castle commands a wide prospect of the loch and a small fertile plain on the landward side. The castle is a modest-sized tower-house formerly incorporating a small enclosure or barmkin on the SE side. Much of the surviving fabric of the tower can be ascribed to the first half of the 15th century, following the acquisition of the lands of Lochbuie by Hector, brother of Lachlan MacLean of Duart. Some alterations and additions, confined mainly to the upper-works of the tower, were carried out at about the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries, and the castle was finally abandoned as a domestic residence in about 1752. It is now derelict and roofless, but the walls, although in need of repair, survive virtually complete to the height of the parapet and gables.



THE TOWER-HOUSE. On plan the tower is 10.7 m square over walls varying in thickness between 2.1 m and 3.2 m at ground-floor level. It incorporates three main storeys and a garret with the remains of a later two-storeyed cap-house. The walls, which are built directly on the uneven surface of the natural rock, rise to an average height of 14 m at parapet level and the lower courses have spreading bases, usually at or near the angles of the tower. The masonry is of harled random rubble laid in lime mortar and comprises beach boulders and schistose slabs, almost certainly quarried from Laggan about 1.6 km to the SE. Freestone utilised for quoins and the margins to all openings, both inside and outside the tower, is identifiable as a fine-grained sandstone of greenish hue formerly quarried at Carsaig on the S coast of the Ross of Mull, some to km to the W of Lochbuie; some of the stones bear masons' marks. Use of a coarser sandstone, emanating possibly from Ardentallan or Kerrera, is confined to a single door jamb at the foot of the main stair. Other noteworthy building-materials employed in the original construction of the tower include large blocks of slate paving for the parapet-walk, quarried either from Ballachulish or Easdale. Most of the original door- and window-openings have dressed flush surrounds and the arrises are wrought with a plain chamfer. There is, however, no consistency in the treatment of the relatively few windows of the tower, none of which show any evidence of direct glazing. A number of smaller slit-windows are formed with crude rubble surrounds and through-splays; on the NW elevation two complete lancet windows and the remains of a third have dressed. stone surrounds with through-splays and pointed arch-heads cut from single stones. Larger rectangular windows lighting the principal apartments of the upper floors were formerly protected by bars and are rebated internally to receive shutters or fixedwooden frames.


Externally the most interesting features are to be found in the upperworks of the tower. The parapet, which is flush with the main wall-face, is battlemented with broad merlons and crenelles which are generally of deep and narrow proportions except for a wider opening overlooking the entrance. Some of the original crenelles have been subsequently converted to windows or have been totally or partially blocked, and the infilling of a crenelle on the NW wall contains smaller recesses which may represent pigeon-ports. Immediately beneath the parapet there is a series of projecting water-spouts, crudely constructed of rubble and slate, which provide drainage for an open wall-walk. The disposition of the weepers and the crenellations suggests that in the original arrangement an open wall-walk continued round all four sides of the tower except for a restricted area above the stair in the S angle. The stair was probably originally covered by a lean-to roof, and the two crenelles flanking the stair may therefore have been protected by shutters. On the SW wall there are the remains of an original corbelled garderobe-chute at parapet level, the uppermost of a series of three chutes in that wall serving the three upper floors of the tower; the chutes are offset in relation to each other at different heights.

Many of the features associated with the original parapet and wall-walk still survive, but the upper parts of the tower assumed their existing forms largely as a result of a general remodelling at the end of the 16th or beginning of the 17th century which involved the construction of rounds at the N and E angles. The rounds, which have splayed eaves-cornices and were intended to be roofed, oversail the angles on continuous moulded corbel-courses. Each turret is amply provided with windows and smaller square openings, possibly firing-apertures. A steeply raking pistol-loop with a double aperture at the base of the N round protects the area immediately in front of the entrance to the tower. A drainage-channel in the base of the corresponding wall of the E turret may originally have been a loop of similar character.

The gabled cap-house in the S angle and the two-storeyed cap-house at the W angle of the tower can also be ascribed to the phase of alterations carried out at the end of the 16th century. The gable-wall of the larger cap-house, which is crow-stepped and terminates in a cavetto-moulded skewput at the W angle, incorporates a double chimney-stack arrangement of some architectural refinement. The chimney, which serves fireplaces at the upper and lower- floor-levels of the cap-house, is constructed in coursed rubble masonry and projects from the main wall-surface on two rows of individual corbels. In elevation the stack is stepped above a window formed from an original crenelle, and is divided at the top by a narrow vertical channel. At the base of the channel there is a projecting blind spout, now much weathered, which appears originally to have been carved in the form of a cannon. The chimney has a broad weathered cope.

The entrance-doorway of the tower is placed at ground-floor level near the centre of the NE wall. The surround is wrought with a chamfer and the lintel has subsequently been reversed and inverted. The doorway was formerly protected by an inner wrought-iron yett' now preserved in Lochbuie House. The yett is of orthodox design incorporating two ring-staples for a pair of bolts, and it was secured by a stout timber draw-bar housed within a slot on the SE side of the entrance-lobby. A second original external doorway was placed at an entresol level at the NE end of the SE wall, probably giving access to a former barmkin wall-walk. The door has a pointed arch-head and chamfered surround which is continued over the threshold. A small circular aperture cut from a single stone near the head of the door probably served as a peep-hole. The doorway went out of use during the 17th or early 18th century and was subsequently infilled, a small window being inserted in the blocking.

Internally - the tower incorporates one. principal room .on each floor, and vertical circulation is obtained by means of a stair ascending in two straight flights from the ground to the first floor, where it gives way to a narrow newel-stair in the S angle serving the upper chambers and the parapet wall-walk. The main apartments at ground- and first-floor levels are covered with opposed stone barrel-vaults, and two associated entresol-chambers are also ceiled with opposed vaults aligned parallel to the main chambers. In the late 16th or early 17th century increased domestic accommodation was provided by the two-storeyed cap-house, and fireplaces with stone-built flues serving the main upper chambers of the tower also date from this period. Beneath second-floor level the original layout and features survive with only a few minor alterations: The majority of the original internal doorways are lintelled  with roughly hewn slabs but incorporate dressed jambs with flush surrounds and chamfered arrises; two original doorways have pointed arch-heads. The majority of the embrasures associated with small slit-windows are lintelled, the larger openings being covered with shallow segmental-arched vaults.

On the ground-floor a vaulted lobby immediately thin the entrance-doorway is served by a small apartment, possibly a guard-chamber, built into the thickness of the NW wall. It is vaulted and unlit, and contains a high rubble-built shelf or platform in the S corner. The main ground-floor room is reached through a doorway with a pointed head and arched embrasure. The door-head is composed of four individual voussoirs dressed with a sharp arris, the jambs being wrought with a chamfer. The main apartment is barrel-vaulted and lit by means of a slit-window within a deep lintelled embrasure in the SE wall. The walls of the chamber are well constructed and the mortar-covered rubble vault, like others within the tower, preserves the out-lines and occasional fragments of the timber planks that were laid above the centering framework during the original construction of the vault. Near the centre of the apartment there are the remains of a well with a partly infilled stone-built shaft descending to a depth of 1.2 m. At the time of the survey the natural water-table was 0.3 m below the existing floor-level of the chamber. In the W corner of the NW wall a small mural recess 1.1m above floor level may have been designed to receive the end of a timber frame supporting a shelf or table.

The doorway on the SE side of the entrance-lobby opens on to the foot of the main stair, which rises in a short flight to a landing in the E angle of the tower and thence returns in a longer straight flight to a first-floor landing. The stair, which is wholly built within the thickness of the external walls of the tower, is composed of roughly hewn stone treads, and is ceiled with correspondingly stepped schistose slabs. The upper flight is lit by a slit-window checked internally to receive a wooden frame, and by a small opening formed within the blocking of the doorway to the barmkin wall-walk. Above the intermediate landing a doorway in the inner or NW wall of the stair gives direct access to an entresol chamber. The chamber, which probably served as a bedroom, is of elongated rectangular plan and is covered by a stone tunnel-vault aligned parallel to the vault over the. main ground-floor apartment. The entresol apartment was lit by slit-windows in the NE and NW walls, the latter, which had a pointed head, having been subsequently blocked. There is a locker or cupboard in the SE wall.

Fig. 236. Moy Castle, Mull (No. 346); axonometric drawing from north: a, principal entrance; b, guard-chamber; c, entry to main stair; d, cellar; e, well; f, pit-prison; g, lower entresol chamber; h, hall ; i, entry to main stair and turnpike ; j, window bench-seats; k, mural chamber and access to pit-prison; 1, smoke-vent; m, entry to turnpike and mural chamber; n, later kitchen fireplace; o, wall-walk and battlemented parapet; p, later angle-turret; q and r, later cap-houses; s, ditch

The first-floor stair-landing forms a lintelled mural passage leading directly to the foot of the newel-stair, where there is a window in the SE wall. A stone corbel built into the newel may represent the remains of a carved lamp-bracket. Like most original doorways in the building, the doorway on the NW side of the passage incorporates a slab lintel and flush-dressed jambs wrought with a chamfer and is rebated internally. At least three of the rybats forming part of the external surrounding are incised with a mason’s mark.

The doorway gives access to the main first-floor apartment, an impressive barrel-vaulted chamber which probably served as a hall in the original arrangement. The apartment is oblong an a plan and was originally floored with earth levelled above the crown of the ground floor vault. The extrados of the vault of the lower entresol-chamber intrudes into the floor area at the NE end of the hall, where there may have been a raised platform of dias. The apartment is lit by a window in each of three side-wall, the NE wall remaining blank. The splayed window-embrasures are ceiled with segmental-arched vaults which converge towards the daylight-openings and preserve evidence of put-log holes beneath the springing-lines of the vaults. The larger openings is the SE and SW walls are rebated internally to receive fixed wooden frames, and the ingoings are provided with stone bench-seats. The NW window is lanciform with deep through-splays from sharp external arrises, and retains no evidence of window-frames or of glazing.


The semicircular barrel-vault is built transversely in relation to the vaults of the lower apartments. Immediately beneath the crown of the vault at the head of each end-wall there is a lintelled and stone-lined vent which penetrates the thickness of the walls. These vents, which slope upwards towards the exterior, may be interpreted as smoke-holes designed for draught inducement and the dispersal of smoke from an open hearth or brazier.' The vents were not replaced by fireplaces with flues so it is probable that this arrangement persisted throughout the period of occupation of the castle.

The hall is served by two original mural chambers in the diagonally opposed E and W corners of the tower. The W chamber, which is L-shaped on plan, has a slabbed ceiling and is lit by a small lancet-window in the NW wall. The apartment was formerly provided with a garderobe, the lowest in the series of corbelled latrine-chutes still visible externally on the SW wall. Near the angle formed by the two limbs of the chamber there is a hatch in the floor which provides the only means of access to a small well-constructed pit-prison. The prison, which is 3.3 m in depth and approximately 1.2 m square on plan at base, has slightly tapering side-walls which are corbelled at the neck and in-corporate a narrow ventilation-shaft in the NW wall.


The E chamber or closet, which is reached through a doorway in the E corner of the hall, is floored at a slightly higher level than the main apartment and is celled with a stone barrel-vault. The lintelled door-head is crudely shouldered and the NW jamb is rebated externally to receive an outward-opening door of which the hinge-crooks and part of the wooden frame are preserved in the adjacent SE wall. A slit-window in the SE wall of the closet has been blocked up, and in the opposite wall a small opening with a dressed and rebated external surround gives access to a deep mural locker or cupboard which is floored internally at the same level as the chamber.


From the first-floor landing the upper floors are served by a newel-stair in the S angle of the tower. The stair, which has stone treads 0.6 m in average width, is lit by a single slit-window with splayed embrasures. A short lintelled passage leads NE from the stair into an entresol chamber formed within the thickness of the SE wall and compressed above a first-floor window-embrasure. It is a long narrow apartment, possibly intended as a bed-chamber, and is celled with a stone barrel-vault aligned approximately parallel to the vault covering the first-floor hall. A slit-window with through-splays from sharp external arrises occurs in the SE wall, and there is a small locker in the NE wall. In the opposite end-wall the outline of an internal door-frame, which was probably spanned by a timber lintel, is still visible. At second-floor level a single main room is reached from the stair through a fine original doorway in the inner wall of a lobby in the SW wall of the tower. The doorway incorporates a pointed arch-head composed of four voussoirs, and the dressed surround is uniformly wrought with a broad chamfer. In the original layout the mural passage NW of this doorway probably formed part of a garderobe  - associated with a latrine-chute near the NW end. Sockets, probably designed to receive the ends of the wooden lintel of an original door-frame, are visible on each side of the passage immediately NW of the entrance to the main apartment, and the original garderobe was lit independently by a window near the centre of the SW wall. In the late x6th or early 17th century the garderobe was reconstructed to form a large fireplace serving the main apartment, and at a slightly later period the passage was blocked midway along its length. The fireplace-opening comprises a segmental arch in two orders, the inner order consisting of dressed Carsaig sandstone wrought with a chamfer on the external arris, and the outer order, which has been reinforced within recent times, being composed chiefly of rubble masonry flush with the main wall-face. Part of the SE ingoing of the fireplace, which incorporates a salt-box, is lintelled and the blocking beneath the lintel appears to be later in date than the fireplace opening. Unless this ingoing replaces an earlier wall, the evidence suggests that, when first constructed, the fireplace incorporated a small door or service-hatch on the SE side communicating directly with the stair-lobby.


The main second-floor apartment probably served originally as an unheated upper chamber, but was subsequently converted for use as a. kitchen, the large fireplace being introduced for this purpose. The kitchen may have been partly sub-divided by a timber screen erected against the SW wall, the upper rail of the screen possibly being housed in the socket that can be seen midway between the entrance and the fireplace. The apartment is lit by windows in the opposing NW and SE walls, the character and size of the openings corresponding to those in the SE and SW  walls of the first-floor hall. The splaved embrasures have similar segmental-arched vaults but do not incorporate stone bench-seats. The apartment was formerly covered with a flat timber ceiling, the transverse joists being supported at the ends on longitudinal beams which are in turn carried on five opposed pairs of corbels along the NW and SE walls.


The main block is gable-ended and formerly contained a garret within the roof-space. Floored at approximately the same level as the parapet wall-walk and served by the newel-stair in the S angle, the garret was originally entered from the wall-walk by a doorway in the SW gable-wall. The inner face of the door incorporates a dressed surround with a segmental-arched head and internal splays. Fragmentary rybats which appear, to have been part of the external surround, are wrought with a sharp arris. In the late 16th or early 17th century this door was blocked up and a new doorway fashioned, with an ogival-moulded external surround, was inserted in the NE gable. At this period the garret was also provided with a fireplace and a small square window built into the NE gable-wall. The fireplace-surround incorporates a a roll-moulded lintel and plain flush jambs wrought with a chamfer. The chimney-stack, which incorporates dressed quoins and four intake-courses, is built out into the area of the parapet-walk. The chimney stack on the opposite gable probably dates from the same period but serves no practical purpose, the kitchen fireplace having a separate stack on the SW wall. The main block was covered by a ridged roof and the NE gable bears the outline of a timber collar-rafter roof. The inner scarcement of the original gable-copes appears to have been partly infilled at a later date and a secondary gable-cope incorporates a plain notched skewput at the E angle.

In the original arrangement the parapet-walk continued round all four sides of the tower and was open throughout its entire length. The walk consists of blocks of slate which slope outwards towards the base of the parapet and are separated by inter-mediate slate-floored drainage-channels or runnels associated with spouts on the external wall-face. The newel-stair in the S angle appears originally to have ascended slightly further in order to give direct access to the SW wall-walk and the original entrance to the garret. In the later remodelling of the upperworks of the tower the stair was reduced in height, thus serving the SE wall-walk only; some of the stair-treads were re-used in the construction of a stair for the upper floor of the two-storeyed cap-house in the W angle. The entrances from the wall-walks to the later cap-houses on the SE and NW sides had doors with stone jambs wrought with a chamfer on the arris. The jambs of the entrance-doorways to the rounds in the N and E angles of the tower are fashioned with bull-nosed arrises. At parapet level the cap-house in the W angle of the tower consists of a single main apartment provided with windows and a fireplace built into the NW wall. The windows, which are now blocked up, have been formed within original crenelles and the fireplace has a plain stone surround. The apartment may have extended along the SW wall to a point where the wall-head of the two-storeyed cap-house is stepped down to the height of the original parapet.' The upper floor of the cap-house is reached by a flight of stairs built into the internal face of the parapet. The accommodation at the upper level comprised a single apartment, probably square on plan, and likewise provided with a fireplace and window in the NW wall. The floor of the apartment was supported on substantial timber joists housed in recesses in the SW wall and probably supported upon a trimmer in the W angle of the main roof; the sockets in the SW wall were sub-sequently contracted in size.


BARMKIN AND BOAT-LANDING. The lack of natural defences on the landward approaches to the site was made good to some extent by the construction of a shallow rock-cut ditch on the NW and by the erection of a wall enclosing an area to the SE of the tower. The rubble core of a section of this barmkin-wall can be seen extending eastwards for a distance of about 8.8 m from the N angle of the tower, and turf-covered foundations of a wall are visible 12.8 m SE of the E angle of the tower. From the evidence of these surface remains it appears that the wall was built along the edge of the rock platform E of the tower and continued across the shallow depression in front of the entrance, thus enclosing a courtyard area roughly ovoid on plan. The barmkin-wall abutted the N, and probably the E, angle of the tower, access to a wall-walk being provided by an original doorway at the NE end of the SE wall of the tower. The barmkin was probably dismantled before the middle of the 18th century and there are no surface remains either of courtyard structures or of gateways. About 8 m to the SE of the tower-house there is a rectangular building of comparatively recent date, having a wide entrance facing seaward; this was probably used as a boat-shelter. On the beach some 36 m S of the tower and in alignment
with the shelter there is a boat-landing, clearly defined by two rows of large boulders some 4 in apart at maximum width. Within the loch an arc of large boulders, possibly partly artificial in origin, has been formed across the mouth of the River Lochuisg, and may have served either as a fish-trap or as an anchorage and boat-dock.



The architectural evidence suggests that the original fabric of Moy Castle dates from the first half of the 15th century, and its construction may thus have been begun by Hector, brother of Lachlan MacLean of Duart, or his immediate successor. According to later tradition, Hector was progenitor of the family of MacLean of Lochbuie, an estate which he had acquired from the Lord of the Isles probably in about the last quarter of the 14th century. The castle first appears on record, however, in a royal charter of March 1494 confirming John MacLean of Lochbuie in possession of the lands which he and his predecessors had held of the Lords of the Isles. Thereafter the castle remained for the most part in the possession of the MacLeans, and the late 16th or early 17th century alterations to the upperworks of the tower may be attributed to John MacLean or to his son, Hector, 8th of Lochbuie, who died in about 1614.

During the Civil War the MacLeans supported the Royalist cause, but little detailed information about the castle is available until the later 17th century, when the 9th Earl of Argyll, who had pressed his claims to MacLean lands on Mull, was in possession of Duart Castle (No. 339). In January 1679 Hector MacLean and John Campbell, Governor of Aros Castle, with a warrant from the Earl of Argyll, seized Moy Castle from Hector's father, Lachlan, who was imprisoned in Duart Castle for a period of five or six months, and was still demanding restitution of his castle and lands in 1683. The MacLeans opposed the Revolution Settlement, but in October 1690 the laird of Lochbuie was obliged to surrender to the government, and Archibald, Loth Earl of Argyll, garrisoned Moy Castle with twenty-four men under the command of Colin Campbell of Braglen.6 The castle was abandoned as a domestic residence on the completion of a new house on a nearby site in about 1752. Dr Samuel Johnson and James Boswell inspected the castle on the occasion of their visit to Lochbuie in October 1773, and Boswell recorded in his journal that not many years previously the laird, John MacLean, 17th of Lochbuie, had been fined for -imprisoning some gentlemen in the castle dungeon. No doubt the diarist was referring to an incident in which John MacLean had confined two neighbouring lairds within the old castle in 1758, but it appears that the prisoners were locked up at large within the building Rather than being restricted to any particular chamber.

616247                                      NM62 SW                       August 1972