Clans abound in Scotland and the two most important clans in Argyll are the Clans of Campbell and MacDougall – both with many stories to be told. Loch Melfort in its former incarnation as Arduaine House once belonged to a branch of the Campbell Clan.
Inveraray Castle is the current home of the Duke of Argyll, Chief of Clan Campbell. The castle that still stands today was created in 1743, replacing its earlier, 15th century building. The castle and grounds are open to the public and there is much to explore. The gardens measure over 16 acres, two of which are beautiful flowerbeds and the rest being woodland parks, you could spend hours wandering through, taking in all the beauty and learning all about the history in the castle – magnificent ancient weapons on display and stories to be told. There are also woodland walks around the estate and the opportunity to go deerstalking. This is all just an hour’s drive from Loch Melfort.
Clan Campbell have held several castles across Scotland over the centuries including Castle Campbell which sits in Dollar and was once the lowland seat to the Campbells, and Innis Chonnell Castle. Innis Chonnell sits on a small woodland island on Loch Awe. It was the seat of Sir Colin Campbell – who was killed at The Battle of Red Ford – and the earliest stronghold of the Campbells until abandonment during the 15th century.
Another in Argyll is Kilchurn Castle, an early 15th century castle built by Sir Colin Campbell and home to his descendants, the Campbells of Glenorchy. This was until abandonment during the 18th century. It can be found on a rocky peninsula of Loch Awe. The Campbells of Glenorchy became the Earls of Breadalbane, or Breadalbane branch of the clan. You can still visit the ruins to this day.
There was once an ancient district within what is now Argyll and Bute called Lorne, where a clan dispute between the Campbell’s and MacDougall’s took place – The Battle of Red Ford. The battle occurred in 1294 and although numbers weren’t noted, several people lost their lives here – including Sir Colin Campbell. The name of the battle is derived from the blood than ran through the ford at the battle site.
Clan MacDougall didn’t hold as many strongholds as Clan Campbell but the most important two are Dunstaffnage Castle and Dunollie Castle. Dunstaffnage was built during the early 13th century for Duncan MacDougall and was controlled by the MacDougall Clan until early 14th Century. It was taken over by Robert the Bruce in 1309 after defeating the MacDougall’s in the Battle of the Pass of Brander and became a crown property, which was later handed to the Campbells in 1470. The castle is open to the public so add it to the must visit list and admire the incredible stronghold.
Another site of the MacDougall Clan is Dunollie Castle which dates as far back as the Iron Age with connections with Dal Riata – a pre-historic overkingdom in the west of Scotland that lasted until the Viking Age. It became seat of the Clan MacDougall during the 12th century and endured bloody battles with Robert the Bruce.
The MacDougall’s became a target in the eye of Robert the Bruce and eventually, after fighting hard, lost much of their land to hum. They had to abandon the castle during the Jacobite uprisings. The clan used stone from the castle to build a new home for the chief during mid-18th century leaving the castle in ruins. Again, Dunollie castle, grounds and museum are open to the public and the castle is undergoing some restoration work.
Both Dunollie and Dunstaffnage are around a 40-50-minute drive from Loch Melfort.
The Campbell and MacDougall Clans are a vital part to the making of Argyll’s history. So many castles full of incredible history that still stand today, open to be visited by anyone that wants to learn about the amazing history of Scottish Clans.