I've been looking through some photographs recently and noticed how many I've taken of castles. Scotland is studded with fortifications, from Iron Age hillforts and Brochs right up to Victorian castles.
The west coast is particularly rich in fortifications of all types, most for defence against sea raiders, but some built to exert control over the vital sea routes which link the islands and reach deep inland via sea lochs.
This is the rather magnificently sited Castle Stalker. It's in the entrance to a shallow loch (Loch Laich) which is an arm of Loch Linnhe in Appin. Although the water dries out around the rocky island the castle is built on at low tide, it would still have been a very effective defence. It seems to me to be a statement of power. Built by the MacDougalls of Lorn, probably replacing a smaller fortification, in the 13th century, it was designed to stamp the authority of this colourful clan of sea raiders on an arterial route.
The story of Clan MacDougall and their struggles with the Stewarts is fascinating; a roller coaster ride of triumph, disaster, bloodshed and battles. The castle is a fitting monument to those turbulent times.
In this wider view, another castle can just be made out. Castle Shuna is in front of the tree plantation on Shuna Island. Built by the Stewarts of Appin some 200 years later than Castle Stalker, it's now a ruin. It seems to have been more a fortified house than a castle.
The views from both these castles are fabulous; these pictures were taken in December 2008 when I paddled around Shuna Island and down to Lismore. The mountains across Loch Linnhe are Fuar Bheinn and Creach Bheinn in the Kingairloch area of Morven.