Ardmaddy Castle as it is now is somewhat evolved from its original design – like houses today are extended and renovated, the same has happened here. Built as a medieval tower house in the 15th century, the original inhabitants, the Macdougalls of Raera, abandoned their earth castle at Raera in favour of this coastal location probably for its defence potential. The MacDougalls in that period were powerful and influencial with their leaders often having positions of great importance. They were also the principal landowners of Netherlorn. This power and influence brought its own problems with marriages, divorces, bigamy, various family allegiances, defections and murders!
Ownership of the Castle came to the Earl of Argyll, a Campbell, in 1649, and twenty or so years later, partial rebuilding took place. The date 1671 and the initials VK can be seen in the north gable. In 1676, the roof was replaced. Great resinous inch-thick planks of wood taken from the old Caledonian Pine Forest were used as sarking and slates from the Easdale quarries were fastened to this wood using oak pins about 3 inches long. During the centuries which have passed since this work was done, little repair work has been required; the wood is as fresh and the slates as blue and hard as on the day the roofing was completed.
However, after an uprising led by the Earl of Argyll in 1685 ended in dismal failure Ardmaddy was sold to the Breadalbanes in 1692. The Earl of Breadalbane intended to use Ardmaddy as his principal residence in the west, but in 1728 the house was reported to be quite ruinous - mice everywhere which were even eating the gunpowder bags. It was then repaired somewhat, with the Palladian Entrance crest dated 1737.
In 1772 Ardmaddy was visited by Thomas Pennant, a natural historian and author, on his tour of the Highlands and Islands. He described the house as a most pleasant dwelling set amongst fine wooded slopes with gardens and stone bridges - all of which remain today. A drawing of that time shows the house, a milking house and outhouse. The drawing also shows the Terrace door and small window adjacent, which were later opened in the rebuilding of 1978. The sill of the small window was completely worn away in two crescents. It can only be surmised that the sandstone sill was used to sharpen the knives from the kitchens during the 18th century. In 1790, as the house became increasingly important to the Breadalbanes, the milk house and byre were taken into domestic use to provide additional public rooms and a kitchen.
In 1837, extensions were added to create a more fitting residence - minor improvements were made to the 1790 additions and courts of offices were built below the rock to house the horses and coaches. These were modified again in 1862 when a Neo Jacobethan wing was built. The estate remained in the Breadalbane family unitl 1933 when Lady Alma Breadalbane died. The family had no direct descendants to inherit the Estate and so Executors broke up the lands that were left. Ardmaddy was sold to Miss Kathryn McKinnon, who invested much money in the fabric of the Estate with the building of a Hydro-electric power station, providing running water to the cottages, building proper barns for the storage of grain and farm implements and many other improvements. She died in 1938 and is buried on the Estate.
The Estate was once again sold, this time to Major Jim Struthers formerly of Bonawe Quarries, who had known the place well in the 20’s and 30’s when he had taken shootings there. The war subsequently caused a complete arrestment of any improvement works and until the 60’s the estate was maintained as a home with all the land tenanted to farming tenants. Then in 1962, Charles Struthers inherited the estate, but the status quo remained until 1972 when he and his wife Minette gradually took over the running of the estate, building up the holiday cottage business in disused or derelict former farm workers cottages and buildings. The Neo Jacobethan wing was pulled down in 1976 and the functional living wing built in 1978. After the majority of building projects were completed, Minette turned her attentions to the garden which was improved to what it is today, and opened to the public in 1988.
The Estate employs one couple, living on the estate, a gamekeeper, and additional part time help from a few local people to assist in maintaining the grounds and the buildings and the servicing of the 5 holiday cottages. Sheep farming now occupies all the former tenanted ground although cattle are grazed in the summer. Some 200 hectares of commercial and amenity woodlands are managed and provide an income through sport.
The future of the estate relies on the continuing diversifications into viable business projects providing a living for the family and those who gain employment from those activities. The land is now owned by 6 members of the family who are all working together to achieve the aim of the preservation of the beauty and viability of the estate.