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Ardencaple Castle

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Ardencaple plaque, 2007
Ardencaple plaque
© Stephen Mackenzie

Ardencaple Castle was located in Helensburgh, on the Firth of Clyde.

The original castle dated from the 12th century, and was the traditional stronghold and seat of the Clan MacAulay, but by the 17th century they had sold off most of their land, and abandoned the castle as a roofless ruin. The estate was purchased by John Campbell, 4th Duke of Argyll, after which the castle was extensively redeveloped, featuring work by Robert Adam, becoming a large mansion, rather than a defensive castle. By 1852, the Duchess Dowager of Argyll had sold the Ardencaple estate to the Colquhouns of Luss. Sir Ian Colquhoun of Luss was responsible for building the planned town of Helensburgh, named after his wife Helen.

In 1923, Sir Iain Colquhoun sold the castle to Mrs H Macaulay-Stromberg, a wealthy American, who restored the castle and lived there until her death in 1931, when ownership of the castle passed to Adelaide Parker Voorheis. In 1935 it passed to a consortium of developers, and between 1936 and 1937, they created a housing estate on what had been Tower Lawn.

World War II

The arrival of World War II saw the castle being requisitioned by the Royal Navy, at which time it is believed to have become part of HMS Vernon , possibly HMS Revlis, and used for torpedo and mines countermeasures training, and degaussing operations.

Childhood memory

A childhood account of the occupation of the castle by the Royal Navy can be found in this article: Ardencaple Castle and the Royal Navy[1]

Post war

The castle was not returned at the end of the war and, in 1957, most of the castle was demolished by the government in order to make way for naval housing being built to serve HMNB Clyde, the nearby naval base at Faslane. Ardencaple Castle, or rather the remaining square tower, became a Category B listed building on May 14, 1971.

Ardencaple Castle, 1950s, Jill Fox
1950s Ardencaple Castle
Ardencaple Castle, 1850s, Jill Fox
1950s Ardencaple Castle

Prior to its demolition, the Royal Navy used the castle for accommodation, and had divided the interior into flats, and the pictures to the right, which were taken during the 1950s, show the structure that once lay adjacent to the present day tower. We're grateful to reader Jill Fox, who provided the pictures, and whose family lived in the castle grounds at the time. Click on the images as usual, for slightly larger versions.


Ardencaple Castle tower<br clear='all' />Range rear light, 2007
Ardencaple Castle tower
Range rear light
© Stephen Mackenzie

When the castle was demolished in 1957, one square tower was left standing, and used a mount navigational beacons and transit lights for the Royal Navy. The tower came to be known as "Ardencaple Castle Range Rear Light", with two green lights mounted on the southwest corner of the 45 foot (13.7 m) tower. Technically described as an active light, with a focal plane of 26 metres (86 ft), showing two continuous green lights, one mounted 3 metres (10 ft) above the other, with no lantern, on an unpainted 14 metre (46 ft) square stone castellated tower. The lights are mounted behind two protective square mesh grilles visible in the upper left quarter of the pictured tower.

The range front light is mounted on pilings in the Clyde, located on Castle Point on the west side of the entrance to Rosneath Bay, west of Helensburgh. For some reason, the location given on the web by sites listing lighthouses and beacons is incorrectly positioned on Rosneath Point, rather than Castle Point. For information, both are shown on our map below, and identified accordingly.


Having identified what is believed to be an error in the position of the range front light, it would seem that the light we have identified as the range front light is not correct either. The light shown is therefore a beacon, but not the the range front light, as far as we know.

We have identified a further light, which is located in the water on pilings in the Clyde, although the exact location is not known, nor is it marked on any Ordnance Survey maps we have checked so far.Arden [2]

Beacon on Castle Point, 2005
Beacon on Castle Pointt
© william craig


1 Ardencaple Castle and the Royal Navy Retrieved 4 February 2017.

2 Scotland / Schottland Retrieved 19 April 2011 17:27:16.

External links

Related Canmore/RCAHMS and ScotlandsPlaces (SP) entries:-



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