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Castles of the Clan Campbell

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Castles of theClan Campbell

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Innis Chonnel Castle is situated on the island of Innis Chonnel on Loch Awe. While clan Chief Executive and author of the History of Clan Campbell, Alastair Campbell of Airds, believes Caisteul na Nighean Ruaidhe on Loch Avich to be the first castle of the Campbells, there can be little doubt that Innis Chonnel was the first prominent home to the clan.

Most probably built by the MacDougalls, after their defeat in the rise to power of Robert the Bruce the Lordship of Loch Awe reverted to the Campbells. Sir Neil Campbell, Robert’s brother-in-law, was confirmed in a free barony, and Innis Chonnel remained the chief place of the clan until Colin Campbell, 1st Earl of Argyll, moved his residence to Inveraray, on Loch Fyne.

For the next two centuries the Earls of Argyll used the castle as a prison for political and criminal prisoners.

The castle is now a ruin. It is privately owned by the Argylls and is not open to the public. It may be seen from the above vantage just off the road which runs along the east side of Loch Awe.

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Inveraray Castleis home to the Chief of Clan Campbell. Construction began on the castle in 1746. Famed Architects Roger Morris and William Adam worked on the design, which was completed in 1789 under the supervision of Adams sons. It replaced an earlier castle on the site.

In 1975 the castle was devastated by fire. Many local people rose to the occasion to help save items in the castle. Although some irreplaceable items were lost, many more were preserved.

We of the clan owe much to the 12th Duke and Duchess, who easily could have walked away from a ruin of a castle. Instead, they worked tirelessly to raise funds and restore the building, which stands as an icon of Clan Diarmid.

The castle is open seasonally for tours. Members of the Clan Campbell Society, North America, are admitted for free on producing their membership card.

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Castle Campbell

Situated above Dollar, this castle was the eastern home of the Earls of Argyll when they visited the royal residences of nearby Stirling and Falkirk. It lies at the head of a glen, between the Burn of Care and the Burn of Sorrow.

Now a ruin, it is owned by the National Trust.

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Dunstaffnage Castle

In 1308 Robert the Bruce had defeated the MacDougalls at the Pass of Brander and subsequently rewarded his Campbell and MacDonald allies with many of the Clan Dougall lands. Sir Arthur Cambel, a senior first cousin of Sir Neill of Lochawe, was granted the Constableship of Dunstaffnage in 1321-22. However after his death it was re-granted to the a MacDougall..

A descendant of the Ewen or John MacDougall who had escaped to the English court after the battle of the Pass of Brander returned to Scotland in the train of the English princess who was to become the bride of David II King of Scots, and received the grant to the castle. However, he had no sons but did have two daughters. Rather than leave the castle to his MacDougall cousins, he left the Lordship to his daughters, both of whom married Stewarts, one becoming Lord of Lorne and therefore taking possession of Dunstaffnage.

On the murder of John, the second Stewart Lord of Lorne, in 1463 by a renegade MacDougall in the pay of the English, the Lordship and castle passed to his brother Sir Walter. There was a dispute, since the murdered man was on his way to be married to his mistress so as to legitimate his natural son. Local sympathy seemingly favored the boy and for six years there was conflict in Lorne. Sir Walter, perhaps finding the lands more trouble than they were worth, exchanged the Lordship with Colin Earl of Argyll for richer and more peaceful lands in eastern Scotland. The exchange was ratified by royal charter in 1470.

This acquisition of the Lordship of Lorne by the Earl of Argyll was a most notable event in the history of Argyll and in the fortunes of Clan Campbell. Apart from the very strategic castle of Dunstaffnage, the charter of the lands of Lorne provided better westward and northward sea-access from landlocked Lochawe and more fertile valleys for oats and grazing than were offered by the its rocky shores.

The castle of Dunstaffnage has remained in Campbell hands for over five hundred years. The Campbells of Dunstaffnage lived in the castle until a disastrous fire in 1810. However most of the historic belongings of the family were saved, only to be lost in another fire at Dunstaffnage House before the Second World War. The castle is the seat of the Campbell Captains of Dunstaffnage who are hereditary Captains of the Castle for the Earls and Dukes of Argyll. The Captain spends one night each year in the Gatehouse as symbolic occupancy. The structure is in the care of the Department of the Environment and is open to the public.

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Loudoun Castle in Ayrshire was the home of the first of the younger houses of the clan, the Campbells of Loudoun. Following his marriage to the heiress Susanna Crawford of Loudoun, Sir Duncan Campbell, son of Donald Campbell, the younger brother of

Sir Neill Campbell of Lochawe, was granted the charter of Loudoun and Stevenson in a barony. Along with his marriage to the Crawford heiress, a descendant of the original Loudoun family, came the hereditary office of Sheriff of Ayr. The Campbell Earls of Loudoun ruled here for many years until the death of the fifth Earl. His daughter, Lady Flora Mure Campbell, 6th Countess of Loudoun, was six years old when she inherited the estates and titles. She later married, Francis, the 1st Earl of Hastings, and the titles and estates passed out of Campbell hands.

The castle itself is a ruin. It originally was a tower keep, which was later enclosed in a baronial palace. The building was huge, with an inner courtyard that contained a well. The great hall measured 70 feet by 30 feet, and four large columns held a gallery overhead. The was a large library containing over 10, 000 volumes, and an extensive art collections. For many years

The sword of William Wallace resided at the castle.

On the outside of the south wall is what is known as the “Auld Yew Tree of Scotland.” Sir Hugh Campbell signed the treaty of Union under its branches, and the 2nd Earl, in exile in Holland, wrote to his wife at the address, “The Guidwife, The Auldtoun, The Auld Yew Tree of Loudoun,


The castle burned in 1941. The property around the castle has been turned into an amusement park.

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Taymouth Castle

was the seat of the Campbell Earls and Marquises of Breadalbane. Located a mile east of Kenmore and Loch Tay, it replaced the old Balloch Castle originally built by the chiefs of the Glenorchy, later Breadalbane, Campbells.

The central and eastern wing of the old castle was demolished in 1799. The foundation stone of the central block was laid in 1801, and new central and eastern wings completed within six years. It wasn’t until 1838 that the old west wing was torn down to make way for a new wing. This was just in time for the visit of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1842. Of her visit, the Queen wrote: “There were a number of Lord Breadalbane’s Highlanders, all in the Campbell tartan, drawn up in front of the house, with Lord Breadalbane himself in a Highland dress at their head, a few of Sir Neil Menzies’ men, a number of pipers playing, and a company of the 92nd Highlanders, also in kilts. The firing of the guns, the cheering of the great crowd, the picturesqueness of the dresses, the beauty of the surrounding country, with its rich background of wooded hills, alltogther formed one of the finest scenes imaginable. It seemed as if a great chieftain in olden feudal times was receiving his sovereign. It was princely and romantic.”

At the time of the Queen’s visit John Campbell, the 2nd Marquis, was one of the wealthiest landowners in the country. His holdings stretched from Taymouth all the way to the west coast. However, debts incurred by the family led to the selling of the palatial castle and the estate. The grounds are currently a golf course.

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Kilchurn Castle was the original seat of the Glenorchy, or Breadalbane, Campbells. The castle stands upon a low plateau of rock at the end of a level spit of marshy land which juts into the northeastern end of Lochawe. On the northwest side of the spit, the River Orchy enters the loch. The water level

of the loch was originally higher, flooding the spit and forming an island upon which the castle stood. It is from this that the name Kilchurn is derived. In the Gaelic, “Kil” would normally denote a religious affiliation, as in cell, church, or burial place. In this name Kil is derived from the Gaelic caol, which means a narrows. The Kyle of Lochalsh, for example, is the point of land at the narrows between the mainlaind and the Isle of Skye. Another example is the fine Islay single malt, Caol Ila, which is distilled at the point of land at the narrows between the isles of Islay and Jura. In the case of Kilchurn, the meaning comes from the caol of the cairn, a narrows between the mainland and what was a small island, at which stood a cairn of stones.

The Glenorchy family moved from Kilchurn to their new home near Loch Tayside, and the castle was left unused, with the exceptions of being garrisoned in 1708, 1715 and 1745. Lightning destroyed the roof and the building was left un-repaired. It is now in the care of the Department of the Environment.

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Also known as the Black Castle of Benderloch, BARCALDINE CASTLE, lies west of the road between Oban and Fort William, near the township from which it takes its name. It was the westernmost of the castles built by Duncan of the Seven Castles, also known as Black Duncan, seventh Knight of Glenorchy.

Sir Duncan, who succeeded on his father's death in 1583 and was made a Baronet in 1625, constructed a string of castles stretching from Barcaldine to Taymouth Castle, just east of Killin. They were a defensive measure, due to unrest in the Highlands. The building of Barcaldine is recorded in the Breadalbane family’s Black Book of Taymouth.

The castle was built in an L shape, with four levels. The Walls are extraordinarily thick, not surprising given that the building was erected as a defensive measure.

Despite having deteriorated over the previous one hundred years, the castle remained in the hands of the Breadalbane Campbells until 1842. In 1896 it was purchased again by Campbells. Today, the Campbell of Barcaldine family have opened the castle for tourism, and two rooms are available as a bed & breakfast.

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Cawdor Castle

Home to the Earl Cawdor, Chief of the Cawdor Campbells. Legend has it that the Thane of Cawdor decided to build a new castle, and dreamt that he should load a donkey with gold and build a new castle wherever the donkey laid down to rest. This he did, and built a castle above the tree under which the donkey stopped.

The castle was built over the tree, which lies below in a vault, and which for years had been thought to be a hawthorn. Analysis has proven the tree to be a holly. However, the Cawdor toast continues to be, Flourish the thorn!

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Argyll’s Lodging, looking down from the car park outside of Stirling Castle.

While not a castle, ARGYLL’S LODGING was an important residence of the Campbell Chief’s. Like Castle Campbell, it lies in the east of Scotland, specifically on Castle Wynd near the center of Stirling, and just down the way from Stirling Castle. As court was frequently held at Stirling, this was an important location for the Campbell Chiefs.

The ninth Earl of Argyll, Archibald Campbell, purchased the townhouse in the 1660s. It is said to be the finest surviving 17th century townhouse in Scotland. It is presently owned by Historic Scotland, and is open for touring.

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