The most powerful clan in Scotland, Clan Campbell with its many branches once held a great swathe of land across and beyond the top end of today’s National Park –from the east end of Loch Tay, to the west as far as the seaboard. They also held extensive grounds in Cowal. The traditional burial place of the Campbell chiefs is at Kilmun.
An early Campbell, Sir Colin of Lochow, helped in the recovery of the castle at Dunoon in the 14thcentury from Edward Baliol. The family played a prominent role in supporting the Stuart monarchy. In the 15th century, another Sir Colin founded one of the greatest of the Cambpbell branches: that of Glenorchy and Glenfalloch, whose head was the Earl of Breadalbane.
Such a far-spreading clan built many castles, including for example, Finlarig at Killin and Edinample by Loch Earn, as well as the important seat of Taymouth, at the east end of Loch Tay. They acquired lands from the Macgregors, as this clan scorned the legal processes represented by feudal tenures. Clan Gregor preferred to hold its land by the ‘right of the sword’. Consequently, when disputes arose with the Campbells, the Macgregors had no documentation, and subsequently lost out!
The Campbell Earl of Argyll was sanctioned in law, as the King’s lieutenant, to keep a close eye on the unruly Macgregors. This was the situation at the time of the Battle of Glen Fruin (1603), when Clan Gregor defeated the Colquhouns. However, some writers unkindly suggest that the Campbell Earl was satisfied with the outcome, which saw the defeat of his enemies, the Colquhouns, yet also allowed him to then punish the Macgregors in the name of the King –such was the murky politics of the time!
One of the most famous Campbells was Sir Duncan Campbell (Black Duncan or Duncan of the Cowl) (born c. 1545) He actually was an enlightened landlord, an early conservationist and tree-planter and, besides the places mentioned above established strongholds at Finlarig, Loch Dochart, Achalader and others, earning himself the further description of ‘Duncan of the Castles’.
Though the title Marquis of Breadalbane became extinct in 1922, the Clan itself remains prominent, with the clan chief’s seat at Inveraray Castle, west of the National Park.
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