Blairadam Forest

Moy Castle, Lochbuie, The Isle of Mull

Moy Castle, the traditional stronghold of the Macleans of Lochbuie, is a small towerhouse built on a low rock platform at the head of Loch Buie.  Most of the building can be ascribed to the 15th century, though alterations and additions, mainly carried out in the upper parts of the tower, date to the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries.  The castle was finally abandoned as a domestic residence around 1752 and by the latter part of the 19th century the roof and garret floor had collapsed or were dismantled.  In the years following water ingress slowly began to erode and destabilize the structure.  Renovation work to render the castle water tight was commenced in 2006.  In July 2012 stone mason Duncan Strachan funded by Historic Scotland commissioned Alder to carry out recording associacted with the last phase of work.

3d Model, internal walls and floor of upper level

The area investigated was the upper or second floor level, located below the parapet walkway, an open chamber approximately 42m squared in area. The large open fireplace at the S end W side was inserted into the original build at a much later date to form a kitchen.

The chamber has two window embrasures with single window openings, which are also later insertions through the 2.35m thick W and E walls of the main castle block.  Below the chamber is the first floor hall vault aligned on a N-S axis. Also below the chamber on the E side is the vault of an upper entrosol which is below the E window embrasure and also aligned N-S.

The W embrasure excavated down to the flagstones

The chamber floor was found to be uneven comprising a loamy silt (formed by the trees which had grown up inside the room) covered with large stone fragments repesenting accumulated debris from various works on the castle.  In the corners and along the wall bases, low mounds of debris and silt had accumulated.  The embrasures were covered in thin mortary deposits.

In this phase of renovations, the stones and uneven deposits were to be removed to form a level surface on which to lay turf to stop water ingress down through the floors below.  The work also required insertion of a drain under the floor of the E embrasure, which required excavation through the flagstones.

A lead seal found in the E embrasure

Initially the loose stones were removed from the floor layer and were piled in front of the fireplace.  Following this, excavation and detailed recording of the deposits in the embrasures were made revealing flagstones.  In the E embrasure, a lead seal was discovered with a lion design which appears to be an 18th or 19th century Dutch bale seal used for sealing parcels of traded goods. 

Excavation of the drain trench in the E embrasure was eventually halted when the upper stones for the vault of the upper entrosol below were revealed.

Removal of the low mounds of debris on the main floor revealed fragments of roof slate including an intact slate with a nail still adhering. This was significant given that the roof at Moy is known to have been one of the earliest slated roofs in Scotland.

A complete slate with nail at one end

In the NW and SE corners of the room parts of the original flagstone floor were found to survive, which was suprising given that the two trenches excavated across the centre of floor by SUAT in 2006 showed an absence of flagstones. This suggests that only the centre of the room was robbed for flagstones after the castle was abansdoned.

Marking fragments of flagstone during excavation of the drain trench