'An American Aristocrat's Guide to Great Estates': The 5 ghosts of Inveraray Castle, a Gothic paradise

Built in the 1740s, the mid-18th century castle is surrounded by 50,000 acres of land and is a popular tourist spot bringing in 130,000 visitors every year

                            'An American Aristocrat's Guide to Great Estates': The 5 ghosts of Inveraray Castle, a Gothic paradise
Inveraray Castle (Smithsonian Channel)

In the series premiere of 'An American Aristocrat's Guide to Great Estates', Julie Montagu, Viscountess Hinchingbrooke travels to the Scottish Highlands to explore the mid-18th century country house, Inveraray Castle. The castle is a popular tourist spot and brings in 130,000 keen visitors each year.


Dun Na Cuaiche in the Scottish Highlands looks down on the Inveraray and beyond, all the way across Loch Fyne to the Western Isles (Smithsonian Channel)

The Scottish Highlands is famous for its exquisite nomadic scenery and has enraptured people from foreign lands for centuries. Nestled on the shore of Loch Fyne, Scotland's longest sea Loch is the Inveraray Castle, home to the Duke and Duchess of Argyll. Inveraray Castle is one of the earliest examples of Gothic Revival architecture and is surrounded by 50,000 acres of land. It was also one of the first great estates of its kind to be built in this part of Scotland.

Archibald Campbell, 3rd Duke of Argyll (Smithsonian Channel)

The title of Dukes of Argyll was created for the chief of the Campbell clan in 1701.  the Inverary castle was rebuilt on ancestral land in the mid-1700s, which belonged to the clan since the 13th century. The country house was built by the 3rd Duke, who wanted a dramatic castle to reflect the rising power of the Campbell clan.

John Campbell, 5th Duke of Argyll (Smithsonian Channel)

In the late 18th century, the 5th Duke of Argyll, keen to impress his guests with the latest Georgian fashions decided to remodel some of the castle's 80 rooms in a decorative style. The dining room is incredibly elaborate with intricate design, that was handpainted by two french artists. 

Princess Louise, 4th daughter of Queen Victoria and the wife of the 9th Duke of Argyll (Smithsonian Channel)

The impressive walkway leading to the castle's entrance was built in 1871 to honor the wedding of Princess Louise, the daughter of Queen Victoria when she married the 9th Duke of Argyll.


The castle was first opened to the public in 1953, by the current Duke's grandfather.

Fire of 1877 (Smithsonian Channel)

Besides the gruesome clan wars that the Castle witnessed at its prime, it also survived through two devastating fires. The first one, in 1877, would have entirely decimated the castle, if not for the recent invention of fire extinguishers. The second fire tragedy struck in 1975 when the present Duke was a young boy. Some priceless treasures were lost to the fire, and it took a few years to restore it enough to make it re-habitable. The fire may have destroyed many archival documents that encompassed the clan's rich history.

Fire of 1975 (Smithsonian Channel)

On another note, the fire was so devastating that it almost ended the Campbells residency there. To stay out of the way during the renovations and save money, the family moved into the castle's basement. The family had been short on finances, and the then Duke traveled around the country, the world, and to America to gather funds and save their ancestry. The complete restoration of the castle was estimated at $1.1 million in 1975, which is equivalent to $9 million today.  

Torquhil Ian Campbell is the 13th and 6th Duke of Argyll and has a background in estate management. His wife, Duchess Eleanor is related to the Cadbury family, who began the Cadbury chocolate empire. The Duke is the chief of the clan Campbell, that comprises of almost 14 million people, scattered across the world, of which 10 million people are in the US, alone.


Pointy-horned Highland Cows (Smithsonian Channel)

In an effort to increase the productivity of the vast inhabited lands surrounding the castle, the Duke has rented parts of the forest grounds and farmlands to farmers for cultivation. The castle is visited by thousands of tourists every year, who also flock to these farms to behold one of its greatest assets — the pointy-horned Highland cows. They are allowed to approach the animals close enough to feed them. At least 40 percent of the castle's total income comes from annual tourism. The estate has also been a part of popular culture. In 2012, it became an imminent location in the special Christmas episode of the British television drama 'Downton Abbey' as the fictional 'Duneagle Castle', which inevitably put it on the American tourism market. 

Sustainable maintenance 

One of the Duke's most impressive projects was the installation of a bio-mass machine to regulate central heating in the castle. Prior to 2002, the castle never had any heating and the present Duke installed 120 radiators in the castle. As an eco-friendly way of substituting electricity for heat, the bio-mass machine is fed chips disintegrated in chipping contraption, which is procured from the estate's forestry. It helps fuel heat into the radiators in the castle as well as 12 hot water baths.

Ghostly tales

It goes without saying that a castle of such rich history, has to have stories of a haunting or two, and the Duchess of Argyll attested to that being true to the Inverary Castle. The mid-18th century castle is haunted by a total of five ghosts, who frequent themselves to visitors. However, the Duchess has never once been an audience to the same, in her some twenty years of living there. It is said that the castle is haunted by the ghost of a piper, a grey lady, a child who appears to be covered in blood and a laundry maid from the old kitchen downstairs who has been often spotted by the staff, standing in a pool of water and laughing her head off. 

The MacArthur room (Smithsonian Channel)

The most haunted room in the castle is the MacArthur room which got its name from the MacArthur bed and is home to the ghost of a murdered boy.  In 1644, the Earl of Argyll was made aware that he was going to be murdered by the Duke of Montrose. He made his escape, leaving behind his young Irish harpist, who was killed instead. The Montrose hung, drew, and quartered him — hung him outside of the window. Legend has it that when the  Duke of Argyll is on his deathbed, he can hear harp music. People that come into the MacArthur room, feel a strange sense of dread and heaviness in the atmosphere. The former Duke, and father of the present Duke, loathed a particular picture in the room, which Duchess Eleanor said fell off the wall when he passed away in a hospital in London in 2002. 

Highland Games

At the time the Viscountess Hinchingbrooke was visiting the Duke and Duchess of Argyll, Scotland was gearing up for its yearly anticipated Highland Games. The Highland Games is an age-old tradition, dating back a Millenium and held across Scotland, annually to celebrate the Scottish and Celtic cultures. Major festivities include a massive parade and a grand march, complete with several bagpipers and dancers, and various competitive games.

Caber Toss (Smithsonian Channel)

The Highland Games initially began as a way for chieftains to scour out the ablest soldiers. But between the several clan wars that were waged, there was also a need for entertainment. For the same reason, alongside the display of brute strength, competitions for music and dancing were also added to the Games, and are now considered a contest of high standards. Caber tossing, which is innate to Scottish tradition, is the finale for the day's event.

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