Castle Stalker is a four-story structure that is picturesquely located on a small tidal island located in Port Appin, Argyll. In Scottish Gaelic, the name of the castle is known as ‘Caisteal an Stalcaire‘. The word ‘Stalcaire‘ can be translated into ‘hunter’. The name of the castle can literally translate into Castle Hunter – an alternative word with the same meaning as ‘Stalker.’
“Monty Python fans will know the name of the building as the hilariously and historically appropriately named Castle Aaaaarrrrrrggghhh!”
Famously Castle Stalker made an appearance in one of the popular British comedy Monty Python films. In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the castle was given a very interesting alternative name!
It is thought that the castle was named ‘Stalker‘ because James IV of Scotland stayed at it during his various hunting or stalking expeditions in the fifteenth century. The name Stalker just seems to have stuck for all these years.
Castle Stalker is located in Port Appin and is 25 miles north of the small scenic town of Oban within the region of Argyll.
The castle stands rather picturesquely on a small tidal island floating on Loch Laich (an inlet of Loch Linnhe). The Ardnamurchan mountains surround the area making for an amazingly beautiful atmosphere filled with the tranquil sounds of local bird and sea life.
The small tidal island is technically accessible from the shore when the tide is low. However, it is recommended that you do not attempt to make your way to the island as doing so effectively can be rather difficult and dangerous. Furthermore, the castle is privately owned so it is not a good idea to land on the island without being on an organised tour of the castle!
There other ways to reach the island. For instance, kayaking is a fun method to reach the castle. Alternatively, you join our wildlife adventure to Mull, Staffa and Iona and you will be treated to a private boat journey to the island and tour of the castle led by one of the family owners!
Famously, Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail was shot at Castle Stalker and made an appearance as Castle of Aaaaarrrrrrggghhh! Most of the movie was actually filmed in Scotland with Doune Castle based in Stirlingshire and Glen Coe making appearances as well as Castle Stalker.
In the film the cast visit Castle Stalker in search of the Holy Grail – it is here they find out its real name of the castle … or do they? The excerpt below shows the interesting debate the characters have about the castle’s name:
Brother Maynard: “He who is valiant and pure of spirit may find the Holy Grail in the Castle of…. Aaaargh!”
Brother Maynard: “The Castle of Aaaargh. He must have died while carving it.”
Bedevere: “Oh, come on!”
Brother Maynard: “Well, that’s what it says!”
Arthur: “Look, if he was dying, he wouldn’t bother to carve ‘aaargh’, he’d just say it!”
Brother Maynard: “Well, that’s what’s carved in the rock.”
Apparently, a number of other Scottish Castles were meant to make an appearance in the film, but for reasons, this never materialised – do you think any of these dramatic Scottish castles could have been cast in the movie?
In the 1986 Highlander film, Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery graced the silver screens and visited Scotland to film scenes around Castle Stalker and Eilean Donan Castle.
Over a decade later in the year 2000, the Highlander franchise returned to Scotland. Eilean Donan Castle starred again in the next chapter of the franchise with Highlander Endgame. Christopher Lambert returned to play the character of Duncan MacLeod, although Scottish actor Sean Connery was not featured this time around.
Unlike the 1986 movie, Castle Stalker does not have as much screen time as Eilean Donan Castle. However, the footage they use shows quite a breathtaking aerial view of the iconic castle and its beautiful surroundings.
Before Castle Stalker was built, it is believed to have actually been the location of a small fortified building that belonged to The MacDougalls who constructed it in 1320. At this time the MacDougalls were known as the Lords of Lorn. In 1308 the MacDougalls lost the title Lords of Lorn, but only briefly (as far as history is concerned) when they lost to King Bruce during the Battle of Brander Pass. Around 20 years later in 1328 they regained the title and once again became the Lords of Lorn.
Roughly 60 years later in 1388, the title was passed on to the Stewarts. It is thought that during the 1400s the Stewarts made changes to the architecture of the building and that the changes are still visible present day. It is said that before their Lord of Lorn title, the Stewarts owned a small castle on the neighbouring island of Shuna. However, this is not clearly documented in the history books. The Castle on Shuna Island is now in a complete state of ruin.
During the period between 1388 and 1620, the Stewarts regain control of the castle. It was a turbulent time full of murder and bloodshed between the Stewarts and the Campbells. This was a time of conflict between the clans. The Highlands were witness to a wedding that ended in a bridegroom’s demise, the brutal battle of Stalc which took place near Castle Stalker, various murders, attempted murders and a few stories of miraculous survival against the odds.
“In what may have seemed like a cruel twist of fate and after all the bloodshed throughout the years the castle would change hands through a simple drunken wager.”
In the year 1620, a bet took place between Duncan Stewart (the seventh Chief of Appin) and a Campbell of Airds while they were both under the influence of a considerable amount of alcohol. The bet resulted in the Campbells securing ownership of the castle in exchange for an eight-oared wherry (boat).
A boat in exchange for a castle? Does it seem like a fair bet?
Until 1800 the Campbells owned and lived in the castle, but then they made the decision to move to a building that was on the mainland of Scotland. After the Campbells left the roof of the building looks to have been removed due to the forces of weather. It is assumed that it was abandoned at this time.
In 1908 Castle Stalker was back with the Stewart Clan. It was bought by Charles Stewart who carried out some preservation work on the castle, but it was not really until 1965 that the castle was fully restored to its former glory after Lt. Col D.R Stewart Allward bought the building. It took a decade for the full restoration to be completed.
On our Mull, Staffa and Iona Wildlife Adventure you can look forward to a private tour of Castle Stalker from a member of the Stewart Allward family.