Sitting upon a spur of the Ochil Hills and protected by the Water of Care and Burn of Grief, the site of Castle Campbell occupies a naturally strong position. Coupled with its strategic location, on a key communications route to Fife, the site may well have hosted an earlier fortification. Interestingly the current castle sits atop of a man-made grassy mound, which may have originally been a motte, and there are also traces of a defensive ditch nearby. However, the fortification seen today dates from the early fifteenth century when it was built by John Stewart, Lord of Lorn. It was originally known as Castle Gloom, a name derived from the Gaelic term meaning chasm. The Tower House was built at this time in the form of a four storey (plus attic) rectangular structure. The ground floor consisted of a vaulted store, the first floor was an elaborate hall and the upper storeys provided the lordly accommodation. A rectangular barmkin (curtain wall) enclosed the ancillary buildings associated with such a residence including bakehouse, brewhouse and stables.
In 1465 the castle passed by marriage to Colin Campbell, Earl of Argyll when he married Isabel, eldest daughter of John Stewart. The Campbells had come to prominence following the Wars of Scottish independence including marrying into the Scottish Royal family in the aftermath of the Battle of Bannockburn (1314). Thereafter they were promoted by successive Kings as a means of controlling, and later destroying, the MacDonalds who held sway over vast tracts of western Scotland. The marriage between Colin and Isabel was a major step in their advancement as it allowed them to extend their influence into areas closer to the centre of power. Of note Castle Gloom was just ten miles from the major Royal fortress at Stirling and Campbell was soon to reap the benefit when he was appointed Master of the Household for James III - a post requiring his regular presence at court. Thereafter Colin made Castle Gloom his main residence.
Despite the marriage, relations between the Campbells and Stewarts were not always amiable. Walter Stewart, Lord of Lorn resented the rise of the Campbells and attacked the castle in 1465 seemingly causing significant damage. However at this time Colin Campbell was present in Rome on official business and the following year he engineered a Papal bull criticising Walter for destroying the "Place of Glowm situated in the territory of Dollar". The castle was clearly repaired and was further enhanced by the Campbells over the subsequent years. In 1489 Colin Campbell had the name of the castle changed to Castle Campbell by an Act of Parliament.
Colin Campbell died in 1493 and was succeeded by his son, Archibald. He had been appointed as Chancellor of Scotland in 1483 and, following his father's death, he reflected his status with a wave of upgrades at Castle Campbell. Most notably the two storey South Range was added circa-1500 to provide enhanced state apartments. Archibald died alongside James IV at the Battle of Flodden (1513).
The Campbell's status inevitably saw important visitors come to the castle. In 1556, four years before the Scottish Reformation, John Knox preached to a large audience there. The castle also hosted a Royal visit in January 1563 when Mary, Queen of Scots visited to attend the wedding of James Stewart, Lord Doune to Margaret, sister to Archibald, Fifth Earl of Argyll. Two years later Mary was back but this time at the head of an army following Campbell's decision to support the rebels opposing her. She formally took the surrender of the castle but it was soon back in the Earl's hands.
Castle Campbell underwent further upgrades in the late sixteenth century. The Tower House was remodelled into an L-plan configuration with the addition of a Stair Tower around 1590. Also constructed at this time was the East Range which was a particularly elaborate structure with a loggia (series of arches) at a ground level. The barmkin gatehouse was also upgraded around this time with gunloops added to provide additional defence.
In 1641 the then owner of the castle - Archibald Campbell - was created Marquis of Argyll by Charles I. However this brought the King little loyalty from Archibald, who was an influential Covenanter, and who was ultimately instrumental in Scotland joining forces with the English Parliament in the civil war against the Royalists. In response the King appointed James Graham, Marquis of Montrose as his Captain General in Scotland and he targeted Campbell's estates. Castle Campbell itself was attacked in 1645, although minimal damage was caused, but Archibald Campbell himself suffered a humiliating defeat at the Battle of Inverlochy (1645). Ultimately though Graham was defeated.
The execution of Charles I in January 1649 created a schism between the English Parliament and Scotland. The latter, after extracting extensive religious concessions, proclaimed Charles II as King. Archibald Campbell initially supported this but, when English forces invaded and secured a decisive victory at the Battle of Dunbar (1650), he switched sides to support Oliver Cromwell. By December 1653 Castle Campbell was being used to garrison English troops but in Summer 1654 it was attacked by Royalists and gutted by fire. Following the Restoration of Charles II the treasonous Archibald Campbell was promptly executed. His son, when allowed to inherit several years later, opted to live in Stirling instead and Castle Campbell was never repaired. It passed into State care in 1948.
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Castle Campbell was a fifteenth century fortification originally constructed by the Stewarts but adapted, renamed and rebuilt by Clan Campbell. Situated in the Dollar Glen it is set within stunning scenery.
Castle Campbell. The Campbells had benefited from the tensions between the King and Clan Donald. They took over Castle Gloom, including renaming it as Castle Campbell, when they needed a residence nearer to the centre of power. Of note the name Campbell was originally spelt Cambel and derived from a Gaelic phrase meaning 'of twisted mouth' - a not very flattering reference to one of the early chiefs!
Castle Gloom. The castle was originally called 'Castle Gloom' which derived from the Gaelic word 'glom' meaning 'chasm'.
One of Scotland's best preserved tower houses, Castle Campbell was built in the fifteenth century and extended the influence of Clan Campbell south from their Highland strongholds. Attacked by Mary, Queen of Scots it was ultimately destroyed during the conflict of the 1650s.
Castle Campbell is well sign-posted and has a dedicated car park albeit with a short walk to the actual castle itself. Access is also possible to unpaved footpaths giving access to the hilltops overlooking the site.