Sunday, October 11, 2009

Castle Calvay

It's one of Scotland's less well known castles but next time you sail into Loch Boisdale on South Uist, look out for the island of Calvay off the south shore near the mouth of the loch: it's the island with the little light beacon at its western end.

Image Copyright Colin Wheatley and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

At the west end of the island, you'll see the fragmentary remains of Castle Calvay. I think this is the second biggest medieval castle in the Outer Hebrides after Kisimul Castle on Barra (which obviously stands head and shoulders above the rest of the competition). It's not much of a claim to fame as there's really not much to see of Castle Calvay - just a few low, jagged, broken walls:-

Image Copyright Peter Barr and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Image Copyright Colin Wheatley and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

This is a picture of the castle from the landward side from the RCAHMS website, although it's hard to see it against the background.

You begin to get a slightly better picture from above as seen from Google Earth (By the way, what did armchair explorers do before Google Earth and Geograph had been invented?):-

The only history I can find about Castle Calvay is also on the RCAHMS website as follows:-

Calvay Castle, date uncertain, ruin of an islet fortification at the mouth of Loch Boisdale, from the roughly mortared stones of which it is possible to define an irregular curtain wall and the foundations of a small tower on the south-west corner. Fragments of the buildings that stood against the inner face are just discernible (there was a two-storey hall on the north side), as are gun slits, and the main entrance to the south. The history of this Outer Hebridean castle of enclosure - South Uist's answer to Kisimul - is shadowy. It is possible that it was built either by the MacRuaries of Garmoran or their successors, the MacNeils of Barra, to whom the Earl of Ross granted a charter of the lands of Boisdale in 1427. Bonnie Prince Charlie hid here in June 1746, after his sojourn in Glen Corodale.
From the above info, I attempted a plan of the castle traced from a close zoom-in on Google Earth:-


  1. Who gave them the name CALVAY to the islands? What is the origin of the word CALVAY?, Was there any family with the surname CALVAY?

    Please respond is important to me

  2. Julio - the name is Scandinavian for "Calf Island", it was not a family name.