Island I Vow, castle and settlement, Loch Lomond
The monument comprises the remains of a 16th-century castle and small rectangular buildings, enclosure walls and a jetty which are probably contemporaneous with the castle.
Island I Vow is the northernmost of Loch Lomond's islands. The castle dates to 1577 and was built by Andrew MacFarlane as a residence of the MacFarlane chiefs. When the castle on Inveruglas isle was destroyed by Cromwell's troops in the mid 17th century, the castle on Island I Vow became the principle residence of the MacFarlane clan chiefs. The castle stands at the southern edge of the island with a small bay immediately to the south.
The entrance to the castle was probably on the N. The E and S walls are in a reasonable state of preservation, surviving to c 7m and there is a possible stairwell rising from the first floor in the SE internal corner. The castle had a vaulted ground floor and a small vaulted room remains, probably either a cellar or kitchen. Immediately above the vault the first floor (ground) surface may be intact underneath the turf covering and it is likely that this area formed the hall of the castle. The large window in the S wall is placed directly above the vault and the later fireplace in the SW corner suggests that this was a living area
To the W and N of the castle are the ruins of small houses. Their walls are mainly drystone, although some parts are mortared. Their period of construction is not certain but they may be contemporary with the castle. The open area on the east side of the castle may have been used as gardens or for small-scale agricultural production or for livestock. Enclosure walls can be traced along the W and S shores of the island. The N shore is taken up with a jetty and breakwater.
At the NW corner of the island is a rectangular building aligned E to W, and a hollow-way leads up from the shore past the east side of this building. On the E side of this cleared area is an earth bank which runs N to S and forms an enclosing arm. From the SW corner of this bank an enclosure wall can be traced running off to the W and joining with the main enclosure wall along the W side of the island. At the S end of the bank is a rectangular drystone structure which probably had an entrance on its N wall at the NW corner.
The MacFarlanes moved to Arrochar in 1697, but the castle seems to have continued in use. In 1743 the castle was described as a 'pretty good house with gardens' by Buchanan of Auchmar. It was in ruins by 1814 when William Wordsworth visited Loch Lomond.
The area to be scheduled comprises Island I Vow which measures a maximum 98m N to S by 80m E to W, as marked in red on the accompanying map.
The castle is of national importance for its historical associations with the MacFarlane chiefs. In addition, the castle, buildings and enclosure walls are of national importance for the potential of the above and below ground archaeology. There has been little investigation of the site which consequently holds considerable potential for the archaeological study of a medieval stronghold on an island location.
The monument is recorded by RCAHMS as NN31SW 2.
Baker F 1995, LOCH LOMOND ISLANDS SURVEY. AN ARCHAEOLOGICAL ASSESSMENT COMMISSIONED BY FRIENDS OF LOCH LOMOND, Report on phase 1 and management recommendations, Unpublished.
Fraser Sir W 1869, THE CHIEFS OF COLQUHOUN AND THEIR COUNTRY, Edinburgh, Vol. 2, 78-9, 146.
Macleod D 1891, HISTORIC FAMILIES, NOTABLE PEOPLE AND MEMORABILIA OF LEVEN, LOCH LOMOND AND CARDROSS, [s.l.], 230.
RCAHMS 1978d, THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES AND MONUMENTS OF DUMBARTON DISTRICT, CLYDEBANK DISTRICT, BEARSDEN AND MILNGAVIE DISTRICT, STRATHCLYDE REGION, The archaeological sites and monuments of Scotland series No. 3, 17, No. 103, Edinburgh: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.