Torosay Castle was sold in 2012 and is no longer open to the pubic. The remainder of this page is as written before the sale took place, and is inevitably out of date as a result. The gardens are sometimes open.
Torosay Castle occupies a beautifully sheltered south-facing location on the north west side of Mull's Duart Bay. It lies just a mile and a half south east of the terminal for the Oban Ferry at Craignure. It can be reached by road or - uniquely on a Scottish island - by rail. The Isle of Mull Railway connects a station close to Torosay Castle with another on the point of land around Craignure Bay from the ferry terminal. Torosay Castle is one of the most welcoming and friendly of Scotland's great houses: and the combination of stately home and surrounding gardens (the subject of a separate feature page) mean that a visit to Torosay Castle is an essential part of any visit to Mull.
For many centuries all the land in this part of the Isle of Mull belonged to the Maclean's of Duart. However they forfeited their estates after backing the losing side during the first Jacobite uprising in 1689 and the Maclean lands ended up in the hands of the Dukes of Argyll. In the 1820s the then Duke of Argyll sold off some of the more far-flung parts of his landholdings, and Torosay and Duart ended up in the ownership of Colonel Campbell of Possil Park in Glasgow. Colonel Campbell immediately started to develop his new estate here, and work began on gardens and on a Georgian house that in 1829 stood on the site now occupied by Torosay Castle.
In the 1850s Colonel Campbell's son John inherited the estate, demolished the Georgian house, and commissioned Edinburgh architect David Bryce to produce something on a much grander scale. What was called at the time Duart House was completed in 1858, but John Campbell was forced to sell it in 1865 after his business interests had been damaged by the American Civil War.
The house and estate was purchased by Arbuthnot Charles Guthrie, the great-great-great-uncle of today's 5th Laird of Torosay, Christopher James. The property proceeded to move around successive generations of the family, first to Arbuthnot Charles Guthrie's youngest nephew, Murray Guthrie, the great-grandfather of the current laird. His response was, briefly, to try to sell it before visiting and falling in love with Duart House.
In 1911, shortly before he died, Murray Guthrie sold the ruin of Duart Castle and Duart Point, on the far side of Duart Bay from Torosay, to Sir Fitzroy Maclean, 26th Clan Chief of the Clan Maclean. Sir Fitzroy immediately started work to restore Duart Castle to what you see today. Because of the confusion that would arise from having a Duart House so close to a separately owned Duart Castle, the Guthrie family called upon the pre-Reformation parish name of the area and renamed Duart House as Torosay Castle, which is what it has remained ever since.
Torosay Castle briefly became a hotel, The Tangle of the Isles, after World War II, but it was not a great success. In 1972 the family were faced with the choice of allowing the castle to slide into terminal decay, or open its doors to visitors and use the proceeds to fund the restoration of the castle and the gardens.
The outcome can be judged from the pictures on this page. Work on a building of this size and complexity is never-ending, but Torosay Castle has been restored to a condition that would please both its original owner and its architect. And the surrounding gardens have actually been extended over the intervening years, though again, work is ongoing and ceaseless.
The visitor to Torosay today can wander at will through the main, first, floor of the castle. Here a suite of contrasting, fascinating and superbly presented rooms really allow you to appreciate it as a living, family home. What really makes Torosay Castle stand out however, are the many small signs and labels, handwritten by the 5th Laird of Torosay, Christopher James. You might expect these to be primarily of the "please don't..." variety. But the majority are typified by the small sign in the Central Hall, inviting you to "please sit down if you wish" in the comfortable chairs and sofas the room has to offer.
Elsewhere, flashes of humour really help bring your visit to life. In the Dining Room we are told that the large sideboard is the only piece of furniture to have stood in the house since it was built. The 1st Laird of Torosay's widow "departed in a huff" taking everything else with her after his death: the sideboard was simply too large to move.
In the Front Hall, the expected display of stags' heads are kept company by a very unexpected tiger's head. A note tells us that this was shot by the current laird's grandmother in India in 1922, who at the time didn't know that tigers were dangerous. The note goes on to tell us that in later life the lady concerned went on a camera safari to see tigers again, and came away ashamed that she had once shot such a magnificent - and by this time rare - creature.
Everyone will have their own favourite room at Torosay Castle. For us it is the Library. This is by no means the largest room on the first floor, but it is without doubt the one we would most want to spend time in. The Library is flanked on one side by the large Drawing Room, and on the other by the Dining Room, accessible via the Central Hall.
One of the many paintings in the Dining Room shows an entire squadron of 1890s Royal Navy vessels at anchor in Duart Bay, a location visible from the Dining Room windows. It seems that the then Laird of Torosay invited Admiral Lord Charles Beresford to come to Torosay for some shooting. The Admiral accepted the invitation, but brought his whole squadron of warships with him.
Having completed your tour of the first floor of Torosay Castle, the best way out is down the main staircase to the welcome, and welcoming, tea room. Once refreshed, make sure that you don't overlook Torosay Castle's magnificent gardens before concluding your visit.
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See note at head of text.