The ruin of Toward Castle is situated to the south east of the grounds of Castle Toward, a 19th century castellated mansion. The old castle dates from the 15th century and served as the seat of Clan Lamont until it was destroyed by their rivals the Campbells in 1646. Sir John Lamont entertained the tragic Mary Queen of Scots here in 1563.
(source text below Clan Lamont Society Journal December 1926 – Strongholds of the Lamonds, Barons of Cowal; extracts from paper read to the Clan Lamont Society on 27th March, 1907)
The erections forming Tollert, Towart or Toward Castle cover a small spur or ridge, situated in the policies of the modern Castle Toward and about a mile west of Toward Pier. These consist of buildings of two, probably three, dates, viz.
1) a square tower of the 15th century type of three storeys (exclusive of vaulted ground floor) in height, shewing corbels for battlements in the south wall, the only one perfect. The less ruined part occupies the south, the highest part of the ridge, which slopes northwards to the hill with which it is connected.
(2) a series of more modern buildings of apparently two storeys, in which were domestic offices, on the north east.
(3) on the north by the entrance archway with side walls and interior buildings on either side of the passage through it and a low curtain wall of about 100 feet in length on the west, encloses an internal court of about 66 by 54 feet.
The buildings are roofless, and these and the archway much dilapidated, and, after suffering the effects of the fire when besieged and pillaged by the Marquis of Argyll in 1646, were probably never fully repaired or even occupied. There is no evidence of an outer wall or of a fosse surrounding Toward Castle.
The ground floor of the keep is divided into to unequal sized chambers. The largest is vaulted 15 by 15 and has a wide fireplace in its north wall. A narrow stairs in the thickness of its east wall probably led to a garde de robe. The windows, if such they may be called, are two small slits. The smaller chamber a cellar is unvaulted, and from the holes for joints in its walls evidently had only a wooden roof.
Ross, in his “Castellated Architecture” gives ground plan and an illustration of its fine gateway, and describes the keep as a rectangular structure, 39 feet east to west, by 28 feet north to south, and that it might have had an arm to make the building in form of an L, but that the stones of the ruins encumbering the court prevent this being ascertainable; that it was four storeys, and the ground and hall floors were vaulted, and that in the face of the west wall, at 12 feet above the ground, a round arched doorway, with a sliding bar, an apparent entrance that led direct into the hall, and on the north wall was a garde de robe and high windows having stone slabs. He also adds that on the south-east corner the hall floor stair led to the cellar chambers; and on the south side of the west wall, a passage 6 feet wide, with a door, possibly led to a wing. The later buildings were also of considerable extent, and he makes the outside measurements of the whole erections 119 feet 6 inches by 80 feet, and that they were grouped so as to form a court.
His description of the arched gateway as a beautiful example of the revived early works of the 17th century is not exaggerated, as a sketch of this archway shows. The sides of the covered passage through this gateway, 21 by 6 feet, are lined with stone seats and gun hole apertures are inserted in either side of the projecting jambs, thus protecting the approach to the entrance. A few steps of a stair, apparently leading to the upper apartments over the gateway or to those of the side dwellings, are still visible. In the east-most of the two chambers of the buildings forming the west wing of the gateway is a stone cistern or coffin, 48 by 20 inches at the top by 16 inches at the bottom and 12 inches deep. It is loose and has no connection with the buildings, and its form is dissimilar to a water trough. It is given on Ross’s plan but without explanation.
A large oval vacant space is visible through the coat of ivy, over the keystone of the archway; and lying in the court is the fragment of a circular sculptured stone on which can be seen a partially obliterated monogram and the figure “6” of a date. This stone when whole, would exactly fit the vacant space; and two leaf carved vases, also lying there, may be the complement as end terminals to the gateway. When Toward Castle was besieged and burnt down, the arms and monograms of the Lamont family would be the first to share in the indignities then suffered. The gateway, from several examples I have seen of similar designs attributed to the early 17th century, might, along with the later buildings referred to, have been erected, and the court formed, about 1600. Mr. Ross refers to a doorway in the domestic offices opening on to the hillside outside the works, as if part of the original design of that house, I consider it, therefore, a subsequent insertion for convenience in later and more settled times. To render abortive the castle’s carefully planned defenses by leaving such an unprotected opening is most improbable.
The erection of the keep may be fairly ascribed to the time of John Lamont, whose charter erecting his estates into the Barony of Inveryne is confirmed by James III, in 1472, and the most extensive and later buildings, including the fine archway to Sir Coll’s possession about 1617; and his initials and this date are probably that on the stone.
Lines From Old Toward Castle (source Clan Lamont Journal October 1912)
This ancient stronghold was the property of Sir John Lamont, but, being besieged by the Clan Campbell, they, after acceding to terms of capitulation, treacherously burned the Castle, and having made the Chief prisoner, caused thirty
of his kinsmen to be taken to Dunoon in boats, and there hanged on one tree in the kirk-yard. The following poem is
by the Rev. J. S: Martin, 1856
Fallen, fallen to decay,
Melting, melting still away,
What art thou old pile?
I was once a stately thing,
Beautiful and flourishing,
Hadst thou seen me in my prime,
Scathless yet from hand of Time;
Hadst thou viewed me in my pride,
Looking o’er these waters wide;
Glory crowned my summits then,
Fenced around with valiant men,
Now, alas, in joyless mood
I bewail my solitude.
Night-wind voices! varying tones !
Angry gust that howls and moans!
Gentle sigh of summer breeze,
Flitting o’er the quivering trees,
Mingling visions evermore
Call ye up from Mem’ry’s store:
My gallant inmates now I see
Writhing ‘neath the gallows tree I
Ranged around, the treacherous foe
Insults on their heads bestow;
Flames consume my lofty halls,
Sink in dust these stalwart walls.
Yet wherefore buried grief renew?
Brighter scenes arise to view,
Song of love and wassail cheer
Oft awoke to echo here.
Bold, yet gentle, was my lord,
Noble strangers graced his board;
Scotia’s high dames I have seen,
Gazed with awe on Scotia’s Queen.
Enough: old pile, thy joys and woes
These varying tales indeed disclose.
Spacious courts and mouldering heaps
Where the nestling adder sleeps,
Stately walls with ivy crowned,
Marking out thy ample bound,
Noble ruins clothed in green,
Point to better times I ween ;
Yet tho’ sad their language be,
Hope is not entombed in thee.
Phoenix-like, I see arise
Castles not in feudal guise;
Banners not of vengeance float,
Guarded rampart needs them not;
Hostile clans no longer meet,
Fired by Pride’s vindictive heat;
Brother’s blood by brother shed,
Fiends exult not o’er the dead;
Science, now awaked to life,
Inaugurates a fairer strife,
Eager hearts, intent to find
The paths of progress for mankind;
Beauty drapes each scene around,
Mantling o’er the fruitful ground.
Religion’s sweet controlling power
Consecrates the busy hour,
Faith by God to mortals given,
Presents her earliest here of heaven.