A 13TH CENTURY castle that once fought off the Spanish Armada has been transformed into a £2.3m luxury hotel.
Mingary Castle looks out on the Atlantic Ocean from the tiny village of Kilchoan – the most westerly point of the British mainland.
Over its 700 year history the hexagonal keep – with 10ft-thick walls – has been at the centre of bitter battles between kings and clans.
In 1588 it was even the target of an unsuccessful three-day long siege by the ship San Juan de Sicilia – of the Spanish Armada.
For the last 150 years it has sat in ruin – disintegrating in the harsh elements of the Ardnamurchan peninsula in the Highlands.
But now the castle is set to open to the public – after a painstaking two-year, £2.3m archaeological restoration of the whole property.
The castle-hotel – which boasts its own drawbridge and five double bedrooms – is now set to receive its first guests on May 6.
Rooms at the exclusive getaway cost up to £450 for a single night – but includes four-poster beds, en-suite bathrooms and stunning views of the Highland landscape over the crenellations.
The price also includes full catering by an in-house chef – who will even pack visitors a picnic of local game for day trips to the surrounding islands.
And whisky distilled on the castle estate will be served to guests on the ramparts – looking out over the Sound of Mull.
The renovators originally hoped to open the castle ready for a rush of Christmas guests – but the job of restoring the castle has proven even more challenging than originally thought.
Before work began the castle was in a state of semi-ruin, and was completely missing a roof.
But as an A-listed building the repairs had to be undertaken by expert stonemasons, with careful attention to preserving its original features.
Painstaking excavation also revealed a number of incredible historical artefacts – including a hidden chapel, ancient graffiti and cannonball fragments.
The discoveries hint to the rich and troubled history of the castle – which was originally built for the Clan MacDonald of Ardnamurchan.
The castle was eventually occupied by King James IV of Scotland in the late 15th century – in his efforts to fight off the Clan Donald.
But the most dramatic moment in the castle’s story came in 1588 – when it was the target of an unsuccessful three-day siege by a ship from the Spanish Armada.
The ship was acting on behalf of the Maclain and Maclean clans in return for supplies and support – but failed to break through its walls, and eventually sunk off the Isle of Mull.
Manager Holly Bull – who will also cook for guests – admitted that the plans to open at Christmas were “over optimistic” thanks to the extent of the work required to preserve the castle.
Now, with just a month until its doors open, she said: “We’re so very close and it’s very exciting.
“It’s been a massive project, but all the major building work is completed and the drawbridge is in.
“They’re just putting the finishing touches to it now. We’ve got all the furniture in and it’s looking really good.
“We’re still got pictures to put up and a few other bits and pieces, but we’re pretty much there now.”
But – she warned – this year may be the only chance to rent out individual rooms.
She said: “This year we’re opening on a room by room basis, but we’re hoping it will become more exclusive with people booking the whole castle for them and their friends.”