Spens of Wester Kames – Isle of Bute

Spens of Wester Kames – Isle of Bute

Wester Kames Castle and nearby Kames Castle, stand a mere quarter of a mile apart, just inland from Kames Bay, a mile or so northwest of Port Bannatyne. Although unusually close together, Kames and Wester Kames were entirely independent lairdships.

Allegedly, in the early 14th century, during the reign of King Robert Bruce, the lands now known as Wester Kames belonged to a family of MacKinlays. The laird had three sons, all expert archers. After an archery contest with members of the king’s entourage at Rothesay Castle nearby, at which the king’s men lost, the winning MacKinlays were raided by the bad losers. In the skirmish that followed, the accurate bowmanship of the three MacKinlay brothers resulted in the deaths of no fewer than seventeen royal archers. This apparently was too much for The Bruce and the MacKinlays were sent packing, fleeing eventually to Perthshire.

After chasing away the MacKinlays, King Robert gave the property to his butler, or dispenser or Spenser, who was a MacDonald but whose descendants took the name of Spens and called their lairdship the House of Spens. They were the clan who probably built this little tower, sometime in the late 16th century and retained possession until 1670, at which time it passed by marriage to the Grahams. It passed later, like most of the rest of the island, to the Stewarts of Bute, who probably had no use for it and allowed it to descend into ruin. The Spens lairds were prominent in the life of the community during the three and a half centuries they lived here and Bute records abound with their activity. In 1447 for example, a Finlay de Spens was Constable of Bute.

Wester Kames Castle underwent a major restoration in 1905 for the Marquis of Bute and is now in use as a private residence.