Castle Stalker

Appin, Scotland | C.1320

Photo Credit: Accidentally Wes Anderson

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We’ve all been there. You’ve had a few drinks with your friends long into the night, and the conversation devolves into ribaldry and boasting. Before you know it, you’ve lost your clan’s castle in a drunken bet, and unfortunately there’s nothing you can do about it because, well, you wagered with King James IV of Scotland, and he’s not feeling very forgiving. It might seem like a tall-tale, but that’s exactly how the Stewarts passed Castle Stalker to Clan Campbell after two centuries of ownership.

Castle Stalker was built on a tidal islet on Loch Laich in the early 1300s, and by the end of the century the Stewarts had taken ownership. Though the transaction was mostly peaceful, fighting amongst the clans and families in the area – especially between the Stewarts and Campbells – continued for centuries with at least one wedding day assassination, a handful of angry ambushes and more than a few vengeful murders along the way. But as the saying goes, keep your friends close and your enemies closer, and the clans followed suit. They flipped the script, and ultimately ‘made nice’ in an effort to destroy one another in a more … civil manner.

And thus, through an inebriated card game, perhaps the most peaceful transition of castle ownership came to be. But unfortunately, the peace did not last. The Campbells and the Stewarts would resume their murderous ways, and the castle would change hands barbarously a few more times until it was finally abandoned by the Campbells in 1840 in disrepair and without a roof.

To keep the back-and-forth going, a Stewart bought it and began the preservation process that allows it to stand until this day. By 1975 it was so thoroughly restored that it was able to make its feature film debut as the Castle Aaaaarrrrrrggghhh (properly pronounced in the back of the throat) in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It is here that King Arthur could complete his quest for the titular grail, but not before being foiled by manure and police.

The Stewarts and the Campbells probably would have liked to unclog their noses in the general direction of their foe more than a few times. And no wonder, the beauty of the island castle is not lost on anyone who sees it, and the islet reveals a path to the castle only during low tide providing natural protection against enemies. That is unless you’re sharing a drink with them and make an errant bet. Then really, that’s on you.

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