Campbell of Breadalbane History

The Campbells of Breadalbane are the leading family after the House of Argyll.


A 19th century depiction of a Campbell of Breadalbane clansman by R.R. McIan


Sir Duncan Campbell, Knight of Lochow, 1st Lord Campbell, had a son Colin, known as ‘Black Colin of Glenorchy’, by his wife Lady Marjory Stewart. Sir Duncan gave his son Glenorchy, after throwing the MacGregors off it. Sir Colin married one of the daughters of Lord Lorn.

This union gained him a third of the Lorn estate. For his bravery during a Crusade to Palestine he became a Knight of Rhodes. In 1440 he built Kilchurn Castle for the family seat. The subsequent family were exceptional in their procurement of land and property, expanding into the lands of Finlarig, Glenlyon, and areas of Argyll and Perthshire.

Sir Colin of Glenorchy, in 1603, used foul play and aristocratic influences to bring on the proscription of the MacGregor family, clearing them off Glenstrae in front of Kilchurn.

In 1625, ‘Black Duncan’, 7th of Glenorchy, was created a baronet, and in 1681, Sir John, 11th of Glenorchy, who was described as “cunning as a fox, wise as a serpent, and slippery as an eel”, was created the 1st Earl of Breadalbane.

When William of Orange arrived in London as Sovereign in 1688, a party from Scotland went to him to offer the crown of Scotland. With Argyll administering the oath, William swore ‘to root out all heretics and enemies to the true worship of God that shall be convicted by the true Kirk of God of the aforesaid crimes, out of the lands and empire of Scotland.’

The Campbells already had the slaughter of their neighbours, the Catholic MacDonalds of Glencoe, in mind. Dalrymple of Stair persuaded King William to sign the order, while the 1st Earl of Breadalbane was given a purse of public money to buy off the other Highland chiefs, though a measure of coercion was also required. The Earl skilfully concealed from the courts his part in the slaughter, but the Breadalbane line has suffered ill luck since then.

The original family seat is a ruin and the more recent Taymouth Castle was sold off.