Innis Chonnel, Argyll
Loch Awe, East of Ford
The massive walls of Innis Chonnel crown a rocky southwestern end of a small island half way down the eastern shore of Loch Awe. The island and adjacent shore are now heavily wooded, shielding it from the road.
To find Innis Chonnel is not so easy and requires careful map reading.
There is a waste bin by the roadside on the loch side, which to our knowledge is the only one. This serves as the only visible point to give you a clue where the castle lays hidden by the trees on the island loch.
Parking with consideration, head through the trees towards the loch and within a few minutes you will soon see it as you arrive at the loch.
Located in the strategically important position in the loch near the shoreline, the castle was an important, and indeed one of the earliest, strongholds of the Clan Campbell, dating from 13th century.
Within the enclosed courtyard, lean to thatched wooden buildings were protected by walls and towers up to 8 feet thick built on solid rock.
The construction of Innis Chonnel is similar in time as Dunstaffnage castle, on a plan similar to that of Castle Sween which had been built a century earlier and is significant in the history of Argyll.
~ History ~
1296 - The relationship between the neighbouring Campbells of Loch Awe and the MacDougall's of Lorne is severely strained to the point of conflict following the killing of Sir Cailein Mor (Campbell two years earlier at the Red Ford.
1308 - The castle is in the hands of John of Lorne (MacDougall), on behalf of Edward II.
1315 - Following the defeat of the MacDougall's, the Lordship of Loch Awe reverts to Neil Campbell, son of Colin Campbell, by order of Robert the Bruce.
1445 - Sir Duncan Campbell, great-great-great-grandson to Sir Cailein Mor, undertakes major reconstruction of the castle. He is raised to the peerage as first Lord Campbell. He dies in 1453.
1453 - Colin Campbell moves the traditional family seat away from Innis Chonnel to Inveraray Castle.
1490 - Angus MacDonald and his rebellious clan fight both against the Crown and his own father for Lordship of the Isles, achieving many victories until he is assassinated by his Irish harper.
1493 - Angus's father, John, the fourth and last Lord of the Isles submits to King James IV. The Lordship is dissolved, and its vast lands forfeit to the Crown. He spends his final years as prisoner to the crown.
1484 - Donald Dubh, the infant heir to the powerful Lord of the Isles, is kidnapped by Colin Campbell from his home in Islay, following the MacDonald's disastrous civil war Battle of Bloody Bay, off the coast of the Isle of Mull.
He is bought to the Campbell island fortress of Innis Chonnel into the care of his Campbell relatives on his mothers side.
1501 ~ A band of MacDonalds from Glencoe, secretly cross Campbell country and row across to the castle and free their the nineteen year old chief from his uncle, Archibald Campbell, Earl of Argyll.
He is taken to the island of Lewis and kept under the protection of another uncle, Torquil MacLeod and his aunt, who is also a sister of the Campbell chieftain.
Meanwhile Donald's grandfather dies in a boarding house in Dundee, and so he is acclaimed Lord of the Isles by the growing rebellion amongst the disinherited MacDonald's and the clans who were their formal vassals.
1506 - Donald and his rebellious MacDonald followers are finally captured following extensive efforts by the Crown to suppress this uprising. He is taken to Edinburgh Castle where his is held captive for the next thirty-seven years. During his long imprisonment his close kin continue the rebellion in his name. This leads to King James V to set sail around the Western Highlands with twelve ships armed with canon to collect Highland chieftains as prisoners. Although he eventually allows some chieftains to substitute other hostages to guarantee their good behaviour, he keeps the most troublesome offenders in Edinburgh Castle.
Donald, now an old man of sixty and who has spent all bar a few years of his life imprisoned, he manages to contrive an escape. Once again, the Isles rise in rebellion. King Henry VIII of England sends the exiled Earl of Lennox to aid him. The rebellion is once again crushed but this time Donald escapes capture and flees to Ireland where he dies shortly afterwards, allegedly a broken man.
The Campbells later move their seat from Innis Chonnel to their rebuilt castle at Inveraray. Innis Chonnel gradually falls into decay as a result.