The castle was the lowland stronghold of the powerful Campbell earls of Argyll, who were seldom far from the major political and religious events of late medieval Scotland.
Everyone is awe-struck by Castle Campbell. The imposing ruin stands in solemn isolation upon a narrow ridge, overlooked by a crescent of the Ochil Hills. Two precipitous ravines hem it on either side, through which thunder the Burn of Care and the Burn of Sorrow. The setting couldn’t be more dramatic.
The oldest part of the stone castle was built in the early 15th century. At that time it was called ‘Castle Glume’. Around 1465 it passed through marriage to Colin Campbell, 1st Earl of Argyll. This powerful Highland chief needed a secure but impressive Lowland seat at the heart of the realm, within easy reach of the main centres of the royal court. Castle Glume fitted the bill perfectly. In 1489, the earl changed the name to Castle Campbell. And there the Campbells stayed for the next 200 years, until they tired of all those steps and relocated to Argyll’s Lodging, a fine townhouse beside Stirling Castle.
Castle Campbell is one of Scotland’s best-preserved tower-house castles. The tower house itself served as the family residence. Standing 20m high, it dominated the courtyard. The service access was at ground level, but the main entrance was at first-floor level, the norm at this date. Inside were four floors of accommodation – a storage cellar at ground level, a hall on the first floor and private chambers on the two upper floors. These latter were altered around 1600, and the fine vaulted ceiling at the top, with its two grotesque carvings representing the Green Man, dates from then.
Across the courtyard, the Campbell’s added a two-storey range. On its first floor was the great hall, for use as the principal reception and banqueting suite. A withdrawing chamber lay at one end and the court kitchen at the other. Below was a row of vaulted storerooms. In its overall appearance, this range bears a striking resemblance to the royal lodging in Stirling Castle, known as the King’s Old Building, built for James IV in the 1490s. The earl would have been a frequent visitor to the royal castle, and clearly wanted to follow suit. It is likely that the hall and chamber range superseded the tower house as residence for the Earls of Argyll. The reception room and the accommodation at its east end were certainly on a much grander scale. Sadly this part of Castle Campbell now lies in ruins.To the south are terraced gardens.
For more information telephone 01259 742 408 or visit the Historic Scotland website at http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk
Castle Campbell is about an hour’s drive from any of Cooper Cottages self-catering holiday cottages and would provide an interesting family day out for those interested in the history of central Scotland.