|Though more modest than Toward Castle, that of Ascog has no less of
interest. Its simplicity denotes an earlier date, and its picturesque appearance
is plain (see image page 1). In plan it is 42 feet square, with a courtyard
and the foundations of what may have been a round tower on the south
side where is now a cottage garden. The east wall, facing the water's
edge, is completely destroyed, one would think by gunpowder, but the
lave are in part preserved. They are six feet thick, and at the south-west
corner contain the stair leading to the three upper storeys. The two
lowest have been vaulted, and the springing of the arches can still be seen,
as well as the holes for cabers to support a loft over what was probably
the great hall on the first floor, where song and story would often be busy
at the fire ere the clarsach had given way to the pipes. These features,
together with the small window space, suggest the early 15th century as
the period of construction. There is no trace of the entrance door, no
doubt above ground level, or of the corbels to support the battlements.
The arms as at Toward would be erased by the Diarmaids in 1646. The
walls are of plain rubble, and the doors and window jambs without freestone
facings. The courtyard is perhaps of later date. It would, of
course, be necessary for the housing of cattle during siege. An internal
reinforcing wall on the north side is probably the last addition of all,
and may have been designed to restore the keep to some measure of use
after it was burnt in 1646, though there is no record of its occupation
afterwards by any of the old family.
One further feature has been the subject of comment. " An access in the basement of the north gable is alleged to be a door leading to a subterranean passage, which, local tradition asserts, communicated with an island some yards distant in the adjacent" loch, and which "was to be used by its garrison as a refuge in an emergency." As this isle is one of three, the most accessible of which has clearly been a crannog, and as the story is a common one, it seems likely that the real truth is as follows. In primitive times there would be a whole village of lake dwellings round about, one perhaps the home of SIR LAUMON's son Malmory, who gave his name as Achadalvory. These artificial island fortresses were built up on off-shore shallows, and reached by wading along subaqueous causeways zigzagged to mislead the unfriend, so that entrance was less easily gained than to the "Doom Castle" of Neil Munro's story. Probably that opposite the castle was last occupied, as it is highest above water-level though whiles submerged. Once a stone keep was "lifted," however, the old haunt would be soon left to the whaups. The notion of the access being "an arched culvert or drain, carrying the sewage from the castle" can be lightly dismissed, as sanitation was foreign to the proud highlands (at least since the time that "the birds had the Gaelic").
These lake dwellings from the dark of time are a field of inquiry to the antiquarian. The islet at the south end of the loch has been sporadically searched, and a number of relics unearthed. At Knockdow, for instance, are a stone hammer and a dirk, and many such must be in strange keeping. So far as is known none has rummaged the nearest isle. It would probably cast light on life in Ascog from the days of Fingal. But there is a task more pressing to be performed. Recently the ruins have begun to break up even further. When the Clan Society (todays CLS) paid a visit in 1898 they still sufficed to house animals (though of a humble species). It was decided to repoint the walls, but the outbreak of war in 1914 postponed the project. Since then in a hard frost the whole north-west corner crashed to the ground, raising an echo heard far in the hills. If steps are not taken to preserve the rest it will suffer the same fate, for wild ash trees are perched high in the masonry and their roots are riving the stones one from another. Gazing on the present shattered and neglected ruin only the liveliest imagination can depict it as it once was when the lords who raised it by the labour of their followers held wassail on their great occasions with wine from the wall of France, trout from the lochan without, and blackcock from the moor. If the walls are gaunt and silent now, on a day stools went back against them, "through ilka bore the beams were glancing, and loud resounded mirth and dancing."
©2011 The Clan Lamont Society of North America