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Scottish heritage attractions shortlisted as Britain's best romantic ruins

22 November 2010

Vote for Kilchurn Castle or Sweetheart Abbey to be named the UK's finest

Two of the outstanding heritage properties in the care of Historic Scotland - Kilchurn Castle in Argyll & Bute and Sweetheart Abbey in Dumfries and Galloway -  have made it onto a shortlist of the UK’s 10 most romantic ruins.  The two properties are the only sites in Scotland to be named by BBC Countryfile Magazine in its shortlist of Britain’s best romantic sites.

Countryfile Magazine and Countryfile TV series presenter John Craven set out to explore the appeal of the crumbling remains of our past and find out why so many of us love ruined historic sites. John Craven asked: “Is it by the impact they have on the landscape, the legends that surround them and the part they have played in our nation’s story, or is it simply the place they have in our hearts? How tumbledown should they be, how spectacular, how windswept, how threatening, how magical?”

The magazine asked the UK’s heritage bodies to name their favourite ruins and from the resulting list of 50 properties, a panel including John Craven whittled this down to just 10 sites.

Historic Scotland Head of Understanding and Access, Doreen Grove, said: “Kilchurn and Sweetheart are both stunning, wonderfully romantic sites, so I’m not surprised they’ve made it to Countryfile’s top 10 list.

“The story of Sweetheart Abbey is the epitome of romance.  It was founded in the 13th century by Lady Dervorgilla of Galloway in memory of her husband, John Balliol, and on her death, she was laid to rest there with her husband’s embalmed heart, hence the abbey’s name.  It’s an incredibly touching tale – the stuff of tragic legend.  The red sandstone masonry giving a mellowness to the walls, complemented by the colour of the pristine lawns from which they rise, all set within the superb conservation village of New Abbey.  

“And Kilchurn is a beautifully romantic site; set at the end of the stunning Loch Awe, its ruins are amongst the most picturesque in the country.  Sir Colin Campbell’s 15th century castle appears to rise from the waters as a craggy silhouette set against a magnificent Highland backdrop.

“It would be difficult to think of more fitting contenders for the title of Britain’s Most Romantic Ruin.”

Countryfile Magazine is now asking the public to vote for their favourite romantic ruin by visiting its website:  Voting closes on 26th November and the winning ruin will be announced in the February issue of Countryfile Magazine, which goes on sale from 11th January 2011).

All entries are entered into a prize draw with the lucky winner receiving five books about the British countryside.  So get voting – and support Scotland’s most splendid romantic ruins - Kilchurn Castle and Sweetheart Abbey!


  • Kilchurn Castle is situated at the north-east end of Loch Awe, 2.5 miles west of Dalmally.  It comprises a square tower, built by Sir Colin Campbell of Glencorchy around 1550. It was much enlarged in 1693 and incorporates the first purpose-built barracks in Scotland.  The substantial ruins offer spectacular views down Loch Awe.

  • The beautiful ruins of Sweetheart Abbey are situated in New Abbey village on the A710.  The abbey was founded in 1273 and was named by its monks to commemorate Lady Devorgilla of Galloway who founded the site in memory of her husband and is buried there alongside his embalmed heart.

  • Kilchurn Castle and Sweetheart Abbey are just two of 345 outstanding heritage properties and sites in the care of Historic Scotland.  Ranging from prehistoric dwellings to medieval castles, and from cathedrals to industrial buildings, these include some of the leading tourism attractions in the country. Among the most popular are Edinburgh, Stirling and Urquhart Castles, Skara Brae, and the Border Abbeys.  For further details of all of Historic Scotland’s sites visit:

  • Historic Scotland’s Mission is: to safeguard Scotland’s historic environment and to promote its understanding and enjoyment.

For further information, interviews and images

Ellen Drummond Ferroni
0131 668 8734 / 07801 820757