Dunolie Castle, Argyll and Bute
Ganavan Road, Of A85
Dunollie Castle is situated on top of near vertical rocks 70 feet high, located at the northern end of the bay of Oban.
This site is of ancient origins with an earlier fort called Dun Ollaigh (Olla's Fort) dating back to the 500's AD.
It was also of some importance being a principal seat of the ancient kingdom of Lorn, whose four successive rulers ruled territory stretching from the village of Tyndrum to the island of Mull.
The castle was a MacDougall stronghold, of Nordic origin.
The name Clan MacDougall explains the family origin. "Clan" means children of, whilst "Mac" means son of, and "Dou" means dark, in this context meaning Nordic and "gall" means foreigner. Therefore the Clan MacDougall's were children of the son of Nordic foreigners.
We first saw this castle on our first trip to Scotland through the mist on our ferry from Oban to the Isle of Mull. Only on a later trip did we explore this small ivy clad castle overlooking the bay of Oban.
The size of the castle itself is misleading as to its importance in Scottish history and the people who lived at Dunollie over hundreds of years, from Norse invaders through to 20th century wars.
~ History ~
698 ~ Dunolly, chief stronghold of the kings or Lorn, is captured and burnt. Its king Ainfcellach is carried off to Ireland as a prisoner of war.
701 ~ Ainfcellach's brother Selbach, regains Dunolly but in doing so utterly destroys the stronghold.
1155 ~ Dougal, eldest son of Somerled, Lord of and Lorne, is accompanied by his fearsome father on a military expedition against Godred II Olafsson, to push home their territorial claims for the Isle of Man.
1164 ~ Dougal becomes head of the family after the death of his father and brother at the Battle of Renfrew against King Malcolm IV of Scotland. Dougal proclaims himself as the King of the Southern Islands and Lord Lorn, from the Isle of Man to Alpin and Isle of Mull on the north.
1175 ~ Dougal along with his sons Duncan, Olaf and Stephen hold pilgrimage to Durham and the body of St Cuthbert, offering to the local monastery two gold rings. Later the same year the founder of Clan Dougall, Dubgall mac Somairle, the son of Somerled, the Nordic ruler of Lorne, dies.
1221 ~ The MacDougall's support the military expedition of King Alexander II against Aile mac Lachlainn, Ruaidhri mac Raghnaill and King Mann Olaf Dark. Duncan MacDougall is appointed Lord Lorn by King Alexander II.
1230 ~ Following a failed expedition of Norwegians, in which Duncan and his brother Uspak, on the Kintyre peninsula and the island of Bute take part, Duncan is confirmed as the only Lord of Argyll. Duncan MacDougall builds the monastery and the castle of Dunstaffanage.
1248 ~ Duncan's son Ewan with the granting of the Norwegian King Haakon IV, is appointed King of the Isles.
1249 ~ As a result of Ewan's tribute to King Haakon, King Alexander II of Scotland sets out to destroy the MacDougall's. In the course of the expedition Alexander falls ill and dies off the coast of the island of Kerrera.
Despite the failure of this Royal expedition against the MacDougall's, Ewan still loses his possessions in Argyll.
1250 ~ Ewan makes an unsuccessful attempt to conquer the Isle of Man. Defeat also ends his intended journey to Norway, where he hoped to regain the title of King of the Isles.
1255 ~ Thanks to King Henry III of England, Ewan is regranted his lost territory, as part of the English interventions to divide and conqueror the Scots. During the resulting campaigns, King Haakon of Norway takes up arms against King Alexaner III of Scotland.
This time Ewan refuses him his military service and support.
With royal favour from England to cause divide in Scotland, and royal favour from Scotland as loyalty against the Norwegian threat, Ewan MacDougall goes on to build the castles of Dunollie, Duntrune, Aros, Cairnburgh and Coeffin. These castles provide a solid MacDougall clan control over the lands of Argyll and the nearby seas.
1300 ~ Duncan of Dunollie, childhood friend of William Wallace, together with Clan Campbell, defeat King Edward's Irish mercenaries near a pass on Loch Awe.
1306 ~ Robert Bruce, in the church in Dumfries kills a rival to the Scottish throne, Sir John "Red" Comyn, Lord of Badenoch. The death of John Comyn, who was the nephew of the 4th Lord of Argyll, Alexandra MacDougall, who is also married to the daughter of another rival to the throne, John Balliol, causes a bloody conflict and civil war between clans MacDougall in alliance with the Balliol's and families, and Bruce in alliance with the MacDonald's, the MacDougall's main rivals in Argyll. The conflict escalates into the War of Independence, where King Edward I of England takes this opportunity to intervene to again divide, conqueror and subdue the Scots under his own control.
During the resulting clan conflicts MacDougall troops under the command of Sir John of Lorn are close to catching Robert the Bruce after their victorious Battle of Dail Righ in Strathfillan.
1308 ~ Robert Bruce defeats the MacDougall's army at the Battle of Pass of Brander. Then, after a short siege Bruce also captures Dunstaffnage castle. The power and influence of clan MacDougall is broken. John MacDougall flees to England where he enters the service of King Edward II of England.
1310 ~ Duncan of Dunollie receives Dunollie castle from Robert the Bruce for supporting his cause.
1315 ~ John MacDougall at the head of British troops takes the Isle of Man. Sir John dies in Kent, England the following year after finally taking back his family's ancestral home on the Isle of Man, having lost their territories in Argyle to King Robert Bruce.
1344 ~ The title of Lord of Lorn MacDougall is restored by Ewan MacDougall along with some of the previously lost territories by King Robert Bruce.
1368 ~ Ewan marries Joan Isaac, granddaughter of King Robert Bruce and niece of King David II with lands in Perthshire.
Their daughters inherit the title Lords of Lorn and through marriage to the Stewart's they in turn take this title.
1451 ~ Sir John of Dunollie receives lands previously held by clan MacDougall, in return for supporting the Stewart's claim to this title inherited through marriage to Ewan MacDougall's daughters.
1460 ~ Alan McCoula, a known criminal against the Scottish crown, and cousin to John of Dunollie, kidnaps his cousin and imprisons him on the island of Kererra, sentencing him to starve to death so he instead can secure leadership of clan MacDougal.
Colin Campbell, 1st Earl of Argyll, as liege lord to John of Dunollie, rescues his man from his captivity. During the attack almost a hundred of Alan McCoula's men are killed and his ships burnt. Somehow Alan McCoula manages to escape the massacre, with just five companions.
1463 ~ Sir John Stewart is murdered by the church at Dunstaffnage during the ceremony along with the mother of his illegitimate son Dugald. The reason for the murder committed by Alan McCoula was to prevent the legalisation of Dugald rights to the title of Lord of Lorn, as he wants for himself the leadership of clan MacDougall and with it the title Lord of Lorn. With his men he takes the undefended castle of Dunstaffnage and there he remains to consolidate his position and consider his next steps to push forward his claims.
1468 ~ After years of continued fighting Alan McCoul is finally killed in battle, close to Castle Stalker by Dugald, son of the murdered Sir John Stewart. The title Lords of Lorn passes to his liege lords, the Campbells.
1512 ~ Alexander of Dunollie sees his eldest son and heir killed during an attack on the castle.
1557 ~ John of Dunollie gets himself into a serious conflict with his
feudal superior Archibald Campbell, Earl of Argyll and as a result is imprisoned in Castle Campbell.
1571 ~ John's son, Dougall of Dunollie, is accused of killing cattle on Campbells lands.
1576 ~ Dougall is accused with the oppression of his tenants and the looting of their goods.
1577 ~ Dougall begins the construction of Castle Gylen on the island of Kerrera.
1589 ~ A Royal warrant orders the release by Dougall of two inhabitants of the island of Kerrera unjustly imprisoned in Dunollie Castle. A penalty of rebel to the Crown if he fails to comply and allow his two prisoners to be released unharmed.
1590 ~ Dougall of Dunollie dies.
1591 ~ Dougall's son Duncan, is accused together with his brothers of the murder of Sir John Campbell. The case falls apart due to lack of evidence and witnesses willing to give testament. Duncan, as an ardent protestant, is also cooperating with the English to secure the Scottish throne with King James VI of Scotland following Queen Elizabeth's death.
1596 ~ An English ambassador Cunningham visits Duncan in Dunollie Castle in order to obtain information about anti-British conspiracy in Ireland.
1622 ~ Sir John of Dunollie is charged with robbery of cattle and illegal collection of fees, looting goods and the use of force against the merchants running the ferry to the island of Mull.
1623 ~ Sir John complains of Donald Campbell, who along with 20 companions attacked his farm at Dunollie and stole cattle.
1631 ~ Sir John submits a complaint that clan MacLean have stolen his cattle.
1644 ~ Sir John's son Alexander of Dunollie marries Katherine, daughter of Sir Duncan Campbell of Glenochry. A period of peace with neighbouring clans lasts for the remainder of time as head of the family.
1645 ~ Clan MacDougall's fight in the Scottish Civil War under the command of James Graham, Marquis of Montrose on the side of the royalists at the Battle of Inverlochy.
1647 ~ During the siege of Dunaverty Castle on Kintyre, 300 MacDonald and MacDougallrs are massacred by Royalist troops. A few weeks later Royalist troops besiege and burn Castle Gylen on the island of Kerrera. Dunollie Castle is also captured.
1652 ~ Oliver Cromwell stations troops at Dunollie castle. At this time during occupation of the castle, one of the trusted men of Dunollie named Ian MacKichan hides in a safe place with all the documents certifying the ownership of the house MacDougall. After the advent of peace and the restoration of the monarchy lands, the castles of Dunollie and Gylen are returned to Ian of Dunollie.
1675 ~ Duncan of Dunollie is ordered by Royal Privy Council to maintain the castle of Dunollie as stronghold for Archibald Campbell, 9th Earl of Argyll against the clan Maclean's.
1676 ~ Armed MacLean's assault a tenant on the island of Kerrera stealing his cattle. This and many incidents results in Archibald Campbell by the Royal Council to solve the MacLean problem
"by fire and sword".
1677 ~ Dunollie castle is again forced to accommodate 100 government soldiers. They had to stay there until the restoration of the fort at Inverlochy can be secured.
1678 ~ Another garrison is deployed in Dunollie Castle to guard against Highland rebels.
1689 ~ A small contingent of MacDougall's fight on the side of the Jacobite's in the victorious Battle of Killiecrankie.
1715 ~ John Dunollie, during the Jacobite uprising, fights on the side of the "Old Pretender" James Stuart. Together with his brother and about 50 men they fight on the right wing of the Jacobite army at the Battle of Sheriffmuir. During this battle, John of Dunollie is injured.
During his absence Dunollie castle is attacked by government troops.
After the defeat of the uprising Dunollie John spends 11 years in exile in France and Ireland. Sometimes, however, he manages to secretly visit his wife and children forced to scratch out a living on a farm on the island of Kerrera since the loss of Dunollie Castle.
1719 ~ A Spanish fleet support the return of James Stuart. John Dunollie and his men take part in the Jacobite defeat at Glenshiel.
1722 ~ John Dunollie once again in exile, this time to Ireland, kills an infamous Irish robber and highwayman called the "Red Robber". He later takes amnesty to safely return home where he can build himself a house, near his castle, and there 15 years later he dies.
1745 ~ Alexander of Dunollie learning the lessons of the first Jacobite rebellion, chooses not to join to the second Jacobite uprising under the command of Bonnie Prince Charles "Young Pretender". His brother Duncan does however take part on the battles, dying at the Battle of Culloden and with defeat, the Jacobite cause is lost.
1802 ~ Sir John Dunollie enlists into the Royal Navy at the age of 13 and rises to the rank of Vice Admiral.
1812 ~ Patrick Dunollie dies fighting under the command of Duke Wellington in Spain at the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo.
Subsequent chiefs of Dunollie have fought in the Indian, Crimean, first and second World Wars.