Nestled below the dramatic Ochils mountains sits the imposing Castle Campbell. This weekend, after threats of thunder thwarted our Munro climbing ambitions, we decided to explore the tropical Dollar Glen and find out why this castle is better known as Castle Gloom.
Welcome to Castle Campbell
Just north of the Firth of Forth lie the Ochils hills which stretch across the country from Stirling to Perth. While not as dramatic as those mountains you will find further north, the hills act as a gateway to the Highlands, historically protecting the lower lands along the Firth of Forth from the north. Oh and the north from the British. A rather good spot for a clan castle don’t you think?
Castle Campbell’s location high up above the deep and wooded glen is formidable and you can see why it was once called the ‘Place of Gloom’. Inherited by Clan Campbell from the Stewarts by marriage, the family changed the tower house’s name to Castle Campbell, to give it all the prestige the ‘castle’ name brings. Castle Campbell was used mainly as a base for attending parliament in Edinburgh; and as the Campbell’s Lowland country home. The main seat of the chief of Clan Campbell, otherwise known as the Duke of Argyll, is now at Inveraray and the Castle is now managed by Historic Scotland.
I think the name ‘Gloom’ is rather an apt for this castle; not just because of its brooding nature, but because gloum is Scottish Gaelic for chasm, and deep in the Glen beneath the castle are two chasms, carrying two burns, the Burn of Sorrows and the Burn of Care, worn out of granite rock. Such beautiful names, don’t you think?
Follow the path down into Long Bridge Gorge and you will find yourself utterly surrounded by green; tropical ferns, rich mosses, twisted branches and squawking wildlife. The glen is laid out with a serious of bridges and raised walkways which dip you down into crevices, revealing the tumbling Hempy Falls, and glimpses of the castle.
As you explore, the gorge feels very other-worldy; almost magical, rather than gloomy. The sun makes the tumbling waterfalls sparkle and the light catches you through the trees when you least expect it, revealing bursts of colourful flowers growing in the undergrowth.
Just like its more famous neighbour, Puck’s Glen, the gorges and chasms below Castle Campbell are very atmospheric; you can imagine the stories of faeries and pixies that were told at night in the candlelit rooms of the castle above, and just how intimidating the path would have felt to any invaders!
Today, thankfully, apart from a few invading midgies, it is just a rather beautiful place to explore!
Visit Castle Campbell
Love from, Scotland x
We walked the Dollar Glen circuit which is managed by the National Trust for Scotland. Free parking is available at the Quarry car park. The circular walk took about 1.5 hours, although it would be less if you don’t climb the steep Bank Hill! Leave plenty of extra time to explore the castle. Entry to the glen is free and the castle is £5.50 or free for Historic Scotland members. We had a great brunch before our walk at the Bridge Street Kitchen in Dollar.
I’m Kate – a travel writer and photographer living in Scotland. Love, From Scotland is the Scotland travel guide that shows you where to stay and how to get outside in Scotland.