Castle Campbell, Dollar – Clan Campbell
Situated in a stunning location between two narrow gorges in the historic county of Clackmannanshire, Castle Campbell is the former lowland seat of the great Clan Campbell of Argyll.
Originally known as ‘Castle Gloom’, it is unknown when the structure was built, however, an artificial mound on the north-east side of the castle suggests that the site was used as a defensible position as early as the 1100s and the first records of a castle can be traced back to 1466 when Walter Stewart of Lorne is said to have attacked after it had passed to the Campbells the year before.
While the castle which the Campbells inherited was likely no more than a small tower house, they would waste no time in expanding the structure and it would quickly become the chief lowland seat of the family. The changes wouldn’t be solely cosmetic either, with the building’s name being officially changed from ‘Castle Gloom’ to the more recognisable ‘Castle Campbell’ in 1490 by an act of parliament approved by James IV. This illustrates the power of the Campbell clan, even in the late 15th century.
As the clan grew in size over the following 200 years, so too did the castle as the family intended to use it as a statement of their extreme wealth. This opulence would lead to the castle being deemed a fitting residence for some of the era’s senior nobility with Mary Queen of Scots and John Knox both staying there during the 1550s.
The Campbells would thereafter climb to their position as the most powerful clan in the western Highlands and would quickly begin to occupy many positions of power within the government, however, by the middle of the 17th century, Castle Campbell would become a target for Scots after the Marquis of Argyll declared his support for the Englishman, Oliver Cromwell. The stronghold would be sacked in retaliation and despite the Campbells regaining their position as one of Scotland’s most prominent families, they would abandon the structure in 1688 after the ‘Glorious Revolution’ never to return again.
Abandoned for 400 years (other than a brief spell during the Jacobite Rising of 1715) the castle would remain in an unfinished state with the 6th Duke of Argyll selling the building to Crawford Tait of Harviestoun, the owner of a nearby estate, at the beginning of the 19th century. The Castle would change hands again in 1859 when it was sold to the former Lord Provost of Glasgow, Sir Andrew Orr. Orr’s son would carry out excavations on the castle and found fragments of stained glass from the former south range during his search for artefacts from the castle’s past.
Castle Campbell would finally be given to the National Trust for Scotland in 1948 and restoration works have since been completed to add a new roof to the tower while further excavations have uncovered charred timbers from the sacking of 1654. Today, the castle is managed by Historic Scotland and is a scheduled ancient monument. It can be visited by tourists and is open throughout the year.