Dunskey Castle – Portpatrick, Scotland - Atlas Obscura

Dunskey Castle

Portpatrick, Scotland

The ruins of a 12th-century seaside castle on the southwest coast of Scotland. 


Dunskey Castle is a three-storied L-shaped ruin of a tower house, perched on top of the cliffs near Portpatrick jutting out into the Irish Sea, it is defended on three sides by cliffs and on the landside by a 15-meter-wide, 2.5-meter-deep rock-cut ditch.

The castle was home to the Adair family for over 300 years, with a brief period when it fell into the hands of the Kennedy family in 1455. The original fortification was plundered and then destroyed in 1489 by Sir Alexander McCulloch. The tower house was then rebuilt in 1510 by Ninian Adair which is when it took on its L-shaped tower house layout. This version of the castle would have had a curtain wall and a watch tower out on the cliff edge.

In 1620, the castle was purchased by Hugh Montgomery who extended the castle by adding the north wing. His grandson, also a Hugh, supported the Royalist cause during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms and ultimately surrendered to Oliver Cromwell when he lost his property and was sent in to exile.

The Blair family took over control of Dunskey Castle, but as their holdings increased Dunskey became superfluous and was eventually abandoned. The coastal location that had once made the castle such a defensive location was ultimately the cause of its demise, the exposed location meant that the castle soon fell into disrepair as the elements caused its rapid deterioration and it was reported to be in a ruinous condition by 1684.

Rumors of ghosts surround Dunskey Castle. Legend tells that there is a ghost nursemaid who dropped a baby from a window onto the beach below. Another tale says a piper found a way into the caves below the castle and though he was never seen again, occasionally his pipes are heard below the castle.

Dunskey Castle’s romantic location jutting out in to the wild Irish Sea has not been lost on filmmakers, it was used as a filming location for several films, including Kidnapped (1951), Hunted (1952), and Double-X: The Name of the Game (1992).

Know Before You Go

Parking can be found at the end of Castle Bay Holiday Park.

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March 6, 2022

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