Here’s a fun little fact: I have a mild case of arachnophobia, spiders specifically. It all started in the corn fields when I was a kid. Running down the rows of corn I would inevitably hit an orb spider, but not just one, it was always two or three or more. And then I would try another row and there were more. Always the same height as my head, hitting me in the face as I ran. It was like a bad horror movie! Just looking at that picture creeps me out. Nowadays I’m a little more cool and collected when the little one points out a spider on her wall. But after reading this story my suggestion would be a big boot for the spiders in the castle! *Note: No spiders were harmed during the writing of this post.
One of Scotland’s most romantic and historic ruins is to undergo a £1 million restoration programme – without disturbing the residents.
Dunollie Castle, which sits on a rocky crag above Oban Bay, is the iconic spot where the kings of Dalriada ruled the Western Isles in the seventh and eighth centuries and which later became a Clan MacDougall stronghold.
It is now home to an unusual colony of European cave spiders, which have made their nest in an opening in the eight-foot thick medieval castle walls.
The MacDougall of Dunollie Preservation Trust says its £1.1 million project to save Dunollie from the elements and the ravages of recent vandalism will make sure that the spider colony is protected.
Project director Catherine Gillies said: “We are going to have an ecologist with us and we need to decide what we do about our cave spiders. They are one of the largest spiders in the UK and are living inside a window opening, in the seven to eight feet thick castle walls. We hope we can leave them in peace.”
European cave spiders are shiny satin black to reddish brown in colour with adults reaching roughly a five centimetre legspan and 15 millimetre body length. They usually live in caves and tunnels away from the light.
Stuart Hine, a spider expert at The Natural History Museum, said: “Deep dark cellars, often those of historic buildings, are very much their preferred habitat. They do not like disturbance, though if works are completed quickly and with an awareness of the spiders’ presence they should not suffer too much. When spotted by workmen they often cause a bit of concern, though they are completely harmless.