Ascog Castle

By J,S, Fleming, F,S,A, Scot

The keep of Askak, Eschog, or Asgog – as it is variously named, and meaning in Gaelic, Cuckoo’s Retreat – is erected on the lands described in a charter of 1538 of the Barony of Inveryne as the 4 Merkland of Askak. It is reduced to three roofless walls, the erased one having faced the east, of the foundation of which there is now no trace. It stands on a small promontory on the west bank of Loch Ascog, a small oval lake about a mile distant by a moor road from the Kames Powder Work, in the Kyles of Bute. It appears to have been 42 feet square with walls 6 feet thick, which have in their thickness the stairs and passages leading to the upper chambers. These seem to have been single apartments, the two lowest floors, also single, having been vaulted, i.e. the vaulting of the first is superimposed on the vaulting of the ground floor (not a very usual arrangement in the construction of these keeps). The stairs in the south wall apparently led from the south-west corner (the walls forming which are a mass of ruins), suggesting that point as the entrance to the Castle. This is corroborated by what seem the foundations of a semi-circular building, 15 feet in diameter, probably of an outside turret stair at that corner, and another tower may have been in the demolished walls. The foundations of a wall some 5 feet in height leading southwards from the east end of the south wall and then at right angles westwards, returning to the Castle and enclosing the same circular foundations, seem as if a small external court had existed there. The walls show no corbels, as in Toward Castle, for support of the battlements, and are composed of common rubble, and the doors and window jambs are without freestone facings. A screen or supporting wall to the north gable (having formed in it entrances as accesses to the doors in the gable itself, leading to the stairs in its upper apartment) has apparently been built at a later date, probably after Argyll’s siege and burning of the Castle, and shows as of the building had been repaired and inhabited, in some form, subsequently. A space between this wall and gable has suggested itself to me as a protected covered way for drawing water from the loch, instead of the culvert or drain referred to below. The castle’s defensive position, having the lake and small bay on its north and south sides, seems well chosen, as it was able with its small garrison to resist a siege by Argyll’s whole army, and only capitulated to preserve the live of Sir James Lamond, then a prisoner in the Earl’s hands. He had been brought from Toward, and the Campbell’s threatened to hang him in face of the garrison did it not capitulate; and that was eventually done, but only in terms of safe conduct, which were shamefully violagted. It was thus of great natural strenght.

An access in the basement of the north gable is alleged to be a door leading to a subterranean passage which, local tradition alleges, communicated with an island some yards distant in the adjacent lake on the banks of which the castle stands, which passage was to be used by its garrison as a refuge in an emergency. The islands is a low one and was totally submerged on my visit, and to excavate such a sub-aqueous tunnel through the rock forming the bed of the lake would have been an almost physical impossibility, especially with such appliances as then existed, nor could it have returned sufficient compensation for the labour, as the island would have been accessible by rafts, easy of construction where there was plenty of wood. This is a common tradition attached to the castellated buildings; but in all my experience I have not yet met with one single instance of an underground-built passage, capable of being so used, connecting two distant buildings, to support the popular theory. It is probable an arched culvert or drain, carrying the sewage from the castle, and the tradition is unworthy of serious attention. I mention it here only because of the insistence of the tradition by the neighbouring cottars.

(source Clan Lamont Society Journal October 1927 – Strongholds of the Lamonds, Barons of Cowal; extracts from a paper read to the Clan Lamont Society on 27th March, 1907, By J,S, Fleming, F,S,A, Scot)

Ascog Castle