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Issue 97 - The Castle Campbell

Scotland Magazine Issue 97
February 2018


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The Castle Campbell

Charles Douglas explores Castle Campbell, aka Castle Gloom

High above the scenic Dollar Glen in  Clackmannanshire and flanked by  two rivulets, the Burn of Care and the  Burn of Sorrow, is one of Scotland’s most  dramatically located fortresses. Yet, for some  reason it is often overlooked on the tourist  trail. Haughtily surveying the surrounding  landscape, Castle Campbell commands a truly  outstanding vantage point on a spur of the  Ochil Hills that boasts extensive views of the  surrounding countryside.

Begun as a fortified motte during the 14th  Century, the present four-storey tower was  built for John Stewart, 2nd Lord of Lorne, and  was originally (although rather misleadingly)  known as ‘Castle Gloom’. Contrary to what  might be assumed, the name allegedly derived  from the Gaelic word ‘glòm’, which means  ‘chasm’, in reference to the steep gorges on  either side of the outcrop upon which the  castle sits. The name ‘Gloom’, however, lends  a haunting and romantic poignancy to the  historic storyline of this most evocative of  medieval strongholds.

In the mid-15th Century, the castle was gifted  to Colin Campbell, 1st Earl of Argyll, on his  marriage to the heiress Isabelle Stewart, Lord  Lorne’s daughter. In 1470, the Lorne title was  exchanged with his wife’s uncle, who became  Lord Innermeath. Thereafter, the lordship  of Lorne became a subsidiary title for future  earls, marquises, and dukes of Argyll.

Colin Campbell was created Earl of Argyll  by King James II and although his fiefdom,  to all intents and purposes, embraced  Scotland’s western seaboard and islands,  Castle Campbell, as it was re-named for him  by an Act of Parliament in February 1490,  became the Campbell clan’s principal east  of Scotland, Lowland seat for the following  two centuries.

Over this period, it consisted first of a tower  house with other buildings arranged around  a courtyard. As a reminder of the times in  which it originated, the hall, on the first floor,  is magnificently vaulted and there is a hatch in  the floor leading to a prison that is contained  in the thickness of one wall.

In 1493 the 2nd Earl of Argyll inherited the property and gave instructions for a large south range to be built - an east range had already been added some time earlier. This south range included a suite of state apartments, including a hall, outer chamber, and bed chamber, with large south-facing windows overlooking the gardens and Devon Valley beyond.

For his loyalty to the Royal Stewart dynasty, Argyll was appointed Master of the King’s Household and Lord Justiciary of Scotland, south of the Firth of Forth, by James III. As a result, he was often dispatched on diplomatic missions. For example, he was sent to negotiate truces with Edward IV, Richard III and Henry VII of England. When James IV ascended the Scottish throne in 1488, Argyll was given the lands of Roseneath in Dunbartonshire. He died fighting for his King at the Battle of Flodden in 1513.

Colin, 3rd Earl of Argyll, succeeded to his father’s titles in 1513 and rapidly gained favour at the Court of James V, who created him Lord Justice General of Scotland. Colin’s son Archibald, 4th Earl, married three times and became one of the leading Protestant Lords of the Scottish Reformation. In 1556, he hosted the Calvinist preacher John Knox at Castle Campbell, prior to the founder of the Church of Scotland’s departure to Geneva, and there is a rocky knoll in the garden known as John Knox’s Pulpit from which, it is said, he preached a sermon. The 4th Earl died in 1558 and both father and son are buried at Kilmun Parish Church in Cowal.

Mary, Queen of Scots arrived to stay at Castle Campbell for the wedding of the 5th Earl’s half-sister, Lady Margaret Campbell, to James Stewart, Lord Doune, in 1563. However, Argyll joined other Protestant lords in a protest over the Queen’s own marriage to Lord Darnley and (following the 1655 Chaseabout Raid, in which Argyll supported Mary’s half-brother, the Earl of Moray) as a result Castle Campbell was surrendered to the Queen’s supporters. In 1573, the 5th Earl was succeeded by his own half-brother Colin, who was appointed Lord Chancellor of Scotland.

It was Colin’s son, the 7th Earl, who linked the east and south ranges of Castle Campbell with refurbished guest chambers in the tower, with galleries and new stairs north and south.

Continuing the family’s adherence to the Protestant cause, Archibald, 8th Earl of Argyll (1598-1661), supported the Covenanters against the Royalist faction commanded by the 1st Marquis of Montrose. This led Montrose’s soldiers to ravage neighbouring Dollar and Muckhart, although they kept their distance from Castle Campbell. After the execution of Charles I, Archibald, now created Marquis of Argyll, was instrumental in placing the Crown of Scotland upon the head of Charles II at Scone, but soon after switched sides to support Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth. In 1653, Cromwell’s troops garrisoned Castle Campbell and, in the year that followed, the castle was attacked and burned by Royalist soldiers.

After the Restoration of the British Monarchy in 1660, the Marquis of Argyll was executed and his titles confiscated. The earldom was restored to his eldest son three years later but, no doubt daunted by the task of repairing Castle Campbell, the 9th Earl used Argyll’s Lodging in Stirling as his southern headquarters. Castle Campbell was again briefly garrisoned during the Jacobite Rising of 1715, but thereafter abandoned by the Campbells in favour of Inveraray Castle (See: Scotland Magazine #07). By then, the 10th Earl had been created 1st Duke of Argyll for supporting King William and Queen Mary.

By 1805, Castle Campbell was mostly in ruins and was sold to Craufurd Tait (1765-1832). In 1859, the estate was sold on to Sir Andrew Orr (1801-1872) and Castle Campbell was thereafter abandoned and left to deteriorate into the romantic ruin we see today.

A century later, Dollar Glen was gifted to the National Trust for Scotland on the agreement that Castle Campbell would be placed in the care of the Ministry of Works.

With a new roof on the tower and numerous subsequent repairs, it is today managed by Historic Environment Scotland.

Further Information

Castle Campbell Dollar, FK14 7PP 

+44 (0) 1259 742 408


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