Dunollie Castle Spiders To Be Given Protection
European cave spiders, also known as Meta menardi, need very dark places to live, usually being found in caves and tunnels away from the light, but a colony have made a home for themselves in an 8ft opening within the 15th century castle’s walls. The conservation work on the former Clan MacDougall stronghold will take a number of years to complete. The ruins have suffered badly over the years from both the weather and the ivy that covers a large part of the exterior, but there is a strong desire to leave the spiders in peace.
Mike Robertson, secretary of the MacDougall of Dunollie Preservation Trust which is overlooking the restoration, said, “We are talking about work that could take six or seven years and the spiders will have to be specially protected.
“Basically it’s the darkness that they need, we can’t put bright work lights there. They will have to be kept in the dark, but it’s for the experts to decide how best to protect them.”
European cave spiders are one the UK’s largest spider species, reaching several centimetres in size, but they are completely harmless to humans.
The current ruins of Dunollie Castle, which sits looking over Oban Bay, was built in the 1400s. However, it’s believed that the third chief of the MacDougall clan, Ewan MacDougall, built a castle on the same site sometime in the 1200s, and there was even a known fortification there well before the unification of Scotland.
The MacDougalls lost Dunollie a couple of times over the centuries; forfeiting the land after siding with their allies the Comyns against Robert the Bruce, and again in 1644 when the castle was captured by the Marquis of Argyll, though it was returned in 1661. Dunollie Castle was finally abandoned by the clan in 1746 and they built Dunollie House not far from the castle ruins.