As I browsed my Historic Scotland Members’ Handbook (see previous post for full excitement), looking for a May bank holiday activity that didn’t involve shouting at the kids while Errol worked wood, my attention was caught by Castle Campbell. The guidebook said it was poised high in the Ochil hills, caught between two ravines through which tumbled, on one side, the Burn of Sorrow and, on the other, the Burn of Care. How awesome is that?! I love Scotland’s drama and melancholy, it’s so thrillingly depressing.
The Book said you had to leave the car in the car park and hike 40 minutes up through the Dollar Glen to get to the castle but you know what? I decided we were up to it. Despite the kids’ complaining that they didn’t want to go out, Errol returning grumpily from an abortive morning’s work and the rain which kept falling I decided to focus on the sun between the showers and simply pack some spare socks. That’s how hardy I am after 18 months in Scotland.
Well, my gamble paid off! The glen was extremely pretty, with the two burns rushing down through steep, mossy walls covered with wild garlic, ferns and other bright green vegetation. The steepness was mildly scary with Whingey, who doesn’t really have full control of his limbs, but we made it to the castle in the sunshine and inside just before the deluge. And it doesn’t get better than that up here.
The very welcoming chap at reception told us there was a picnic room next to the toilets and indeed there was: a lovely sandstone room with wooden tables and a very clean toilet (in a separate room, obviously). We devoured our sandwiches in the warm and dry while Errol went to get some hot chocolate and coffee sachets from reception, for there was also a hot water machine. This is living the dream when you’re visiting a draughty castle and I thank Historic Scotland for providing these things and only charging £1 for a decent hot chocolate.
The castle itself has a splendid tower with a spiral staircase and gorgeous views from the roof, and attractive lawns laid to the south, also with lovely views. It has some spooky cellars for the kids and a point of architectural interest called a Loggia (an unusual arch) for anyone who’s into that.
Thought to have been built for John Stewart, Lord of Lorn, it passed to clan Campbell – the earls of Argyll in particular – in the 1400s and sports the usual bloody history of murder, burning and clan rivalry. I must say, visiting castles is made all the more exciting by watching the Outlander series, so I’d recommend you do that first.
Mainly, this castle is very worth it for the lovely walk up to it, which you can carry on afterwards by going up and around the waterfalls, and its beautiful, open setting.
Castle Campbell, Castle Rd, Dollar FK14 7PP. Adult £5.50, Child £3.30, Concession £4.40. Info at www.historic-scotland.gov.uk. 01259 742408