Located three miles from the steep granite cliffs of the coast and surrounded by empty moorland, the fortress at Ardsmuir was used as a prison for fifteen years, from 1741 to 1756. By early 1755, prisoners' labor was used to conduct renovations of the fortress, which would eventually house a garrison.
It housed an average of two hundred prisoners, divided into four main cells, with eighty-two guards in the barracks. Work crews, tasked with cutting peats or hauling stone for twelve to sixteen hours per day, consisted of eighteen men with three prisoners to a guard. By law, rations for each prisoner consisted of one quart of oatmeal parritch and a small wheaten loaf per day. Twice a week, they were allowed barley brose, and every Sunday ate a quart of meat stew.
In summer of 1756, the fortress ceased functioning as a prison when its inmates were transported to the American Colonies, with a few exceptions. Duncan Innes, having lost his arm years before, was unfit for labor and so was set free, to survive as he could. Jamie Fraser, a senior Jacobite officer who potentially had information about "the Frenchman's gold," was sent to Helwater in the Lake District of England, to serve his parole. Thereafter, the fortress housed His Majesty's Twelfth Dragoons.
Events of the Novels
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- Craigmillar Castle stands in for Ardsmuir Prison in the Outlander television series.
- While Ardsmuir is a fictional location, there is a town in the north of Scotland called Ardmair (Gaelic: Àird Mhèar), some 20 miles southeast of Coigach by modern roads.
- In Gaelic, muir means "sea."
- Augustus is the resident cat who keeps rats out of Lord John Grey's quarters at Ardsmuir prison.
- Voyager, chapter 10