My 2nd favorite castle in all of Scotland, of the ones we got to see, was Cawdor Castle. I’m Campbell crazy. Anyone who has read my first book Highland Moonlight probably deduced that. But who wouldn’t be blown away by Cawdor Castle, Campbell obsessed or not? It’s very existence came about because of a dream.
The first Thane of Cawdor (Calder) was created in 1180 by William I. A Thane was the equivalent of a Baron and a traditional Scottish title. Thane Cawdor was appointed sheriff of the royal castle at Nairn. Soon after the original Cawdor castle was built on a marshy piece of ground about a mile from the current Cawdor castle. There is nothing left of it.
In 1310 the second Thane, William Cawdor, had his title confirmed by Robert the Bruce.
In 1370 the third Thane Cawdor, William, began a search for a location for a new castle. He had a dream that led him to load gold on the back of a donkey and follow it as it roamed the area. The donkey finally stopped and lay beneath a tree and went to sleep. That became the site of the current castle. But the most unusual aspect of the story is, the castle was built around the tree where the donkey slept. It protrudes from the floor of the cellar today though it died in 1372 from lack of sunlight. It is said to possess magic qualities that have protected the castle since its construction.
By the time the 7th Thane of Cawdor , another William, married Margaret Sutherland, of Dunbeath Castle, the family was very wealthy and influential. John, the 8th Thane of Cawdor died in 1498 and soon after, his daughter Muriel was born and became heir to all the power and wealth of Cawdor Castle.
Now, I never said the Campbells were always good guys. All through Scottish history they have been known for being ruthless warriors and politicians. I have even heard them referred to as Robert the Bruce’s SS soldiers.
Thus, it wasn’t surprising to learn that Archibald Campbell, the 2nd Earl of Argyll, ordered Muriel to be kidnapped and held at Inveraray Castle. She was held there for 10 years where at the age of 12 she was married to Archie’s youngest son, Sir John Campbell in 1510. With a beginning like that, you wouldn’t think the marriage would be either happy or productive, but in fact it was. Talk about fodder for a romance novel.
Lachlan showed up at the castle with a casket and was shown into the dining room for a meal where Catherine sat waiting. Nothing was said and Lachlan was allowed to escape without punishment, perhaps to allow him time to stew and become afraid, very afraid. In November of 1523, during a visit to Edinburgh, he was stabbed to death in bed.
John Campbell was suspected of the murder and he and his wife Muriel moved to Cawdor Castle, out of sight of those interested in the crime. Immediately, Muriel’s four uncles decided that no Campbell was going to take over and they laid siege to the castle. Two of them were killed and the other’s withdrew and the Campbell Clan settled in.
Cawdor Castle became a satellite property of the Campbell Clan as the real traditional homesite was the Argyll area, where my book Highland Moonlight is set.
John Campbell, the 7th Thane of Cawdor, acted as tutor and guardian of the 7th Earl of Argyll, Archibald. John was assassinated in a plot to overturn the power structure within the clan. The situation was settled by a series of marriages that followed the incident.
In 1612, the 12th Thane of Cawdor, John, purchase the Isle of Islay from the MacDonalds. It took troops and one of King James IV’s war ships for him to take possession of it. It proved a drain on the family finances until between 1680 and 1700 a cattle breeding program was put in place on the island by Hugh Campbell, the 14th Thane of Cawdor, It was fortunately a success, since Hugh had nine children and had to expand the castle to accommodate them all.
Hugh died in 1716 and his heirs became absentee owners. The 15th Thane, Alexander Campbell married a Welsh heiress. His son John, the 16th Thane was Lord of the Admiralty and Treasury. He sold the Cawdor estate and the Argyll holdings and moved to Wales.
The 18th Thane of Cowder, John (Jack)Campbell, became the first Baron of Cawder. In 1827, King George IV, promoted his son, the 2nd Baron of Cawdor, to the Ist Earl of Cawdor.
The castle under Jack and his son went through a series of repairs and is today as it was then. The Campbell family members that followed into the 20th Century went on to produce military men who distinguished themselves in battle earning, between the 12 of them, a total of 6 Military Crosses, 15 Distinguished Service Medals and 3 Victoria Crosses.
Today, the Baroness of Cawdor, stepmother to the 7th Earl and 25th Thane of Cawdor,Colin Campbell, still lives in the castle in the winter when it is closed to the public.
With all that facinating history who wouldn't be wild about the Campbells and want to write about them!!!
The castle grounds have extensive gardens that the public can wander. It is truly beautiful.
The dining room had beautiful tapestries hung on the walls as did several of the other rooms--the Tapestry Bedroom in particular. It had a beautiful four poster bed with a heavy canope that was gorgeous.
The Woodcock Bedroom had a beautiful bed layered with draperies.
My two favorite rooms were the Tower Room and the Yellow Room. They were cozy and welcoming and it felt like you could truly settle in with a book and a snack. They had thickly stuffed chairs and the furniture was arranged so you could enjoy the warmth of the fireplaces.
They had a collection of Victorian bicycles in one room that I was facinated by.
It was truly one of the loveliest places to which we traveled.
Tomorrow I'm going to take you to Fyve Castle. Write on, Teresa R.