The Argyll Papers, Inveraray Castle

Identity area


GB 3452

Authorized form of name

The Argyll Papers, Inveraray Castle

Parallel form(s) of name

Other form(s) of name

  • Inveraray Castle Archives


  • Private

Contact area





Street address

Argyll Estates Office Cherry Park Inveraray



Argyll and Bute

Country name

United Kingdom

Postal code

PA32 8XE


01499 302698





Description area


The Argyll Papers are the archive of the Campbell family, earls and then dukes of Argyll. The archive reflects the historically important role of the Campbell family in Scottish, British and international affairs. From the fourteenth century onwards the Earls and, later, Dukes of Argyll were closely allied to the Scottish crown and parliament, acquiring a host of official roles and responsibilities which were sustained and expanded after Union. Extensive personal papers, correspondence and accounts document the activities of the extended family in all of its endeavours, offering potential for many important historical themes and events to be explored. Records in the archive date from the 13th to the 21st centuries, forming an unbroken record of nearly eight hundred years of the family’s fortunes which closely reflects all of the key events in Scotland’s history.

Geographical and cultural context

Until the mid-twentieth century Argyll Estates covered most of Argyllshire, parts of Inverness-shire, Clackmannanshire, Stirling, East Lothian, as well as properties in Edinburgh, London and abroad. Many of their lands were acquired controversially during the west highland clan wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, whilst acting as Crown mediator and overseer for confiscated estates. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries successive Dukes invested heavily in agricultural, industrial and urban development and the records of these endeavours provide an unparalleled insight into our landscape history and built heritage. Large areas of the estate lie in some of Scotland’s most marginal and fragile island environments (Tiree, Iona, Mull) which endured some of the worst periods of nineteenth century Highland famine, emigration and land agitation. The history of all of these places and events, and of the people within them, is documented in detail in the archive.

Mandates/Sources of authority

The archive has recently been awarded conditional exemption from inheritance tax and as part of this agreement has become available to researchers for the first time. HMRC and the National Register of Archives for Scotland maintain an interest in the development of the collection.

Administrative structure

The Argyll Papers remain the personal property of His Grace the Duke of Argyll and are managed on his behalf by the Argyll Estates Factor. Argyll Estates employ an Archivist to manage the archive, its preservation and conservation.

Records management and collecting policies

The Archive acquires ongoing deposits from Argyll Estates and the Campbell family, dukes of Argyll.
Acquisition of related collections is subject to the approval of the Duke and the Factor.
There is no budget for acquisitions. Deposits must be freely donated to Argyll Estates for permanent preservation in the Archive. Copyright and other Intellectual Property Rights and any restrictions on use of the deposit must be clarified in the deposit agreement.
Acquisitions Process
Collection administration
All new deposits are logged in the accessions register and a rough list compiled as soon as reasonably possible. Where deposits are received from members of the public, an acknowledgement is sent by the Archivist to thank them for their donation.
For donations of significant collections, a deposit agreement is signed by donors and Argyll Estate staff. An electronic file is created to preserve the deposit agreement and additional paperwork which assists the Archivist in the decision making process.
Archival Assessment
All offers of additional material that is deemed to be relevant to the history of the Campbell family, dukes of Argyll or related Campbell families is considered by the Archivist and the Factor. Each offer is considered on a case by case basis, taking into account eligibility and suitability for the collection, quality, authenticity, historic importance, value to the Archive, and current resources.
Potentially acceptable donations are researched by the Archivist (including an investigation of provenance, the assurance of good title and copyright agreements) and a report prepared for comment and decision by the Factor. Where relevant, questions concerning copyright are also explored at this stage.
Themes and priorities for future collecting
The Argyll Papers acquires documents and related items which relate to the Campbell family, dukes of Argyll, the history of the Clan Campbell, to the dukes’ estates or to related Campbell families.
The Archive is particularly interested in acquiring documents relative to key gaps in its holdings, for example, papers relating to the earls and dukes of Argyll or to geographical areas of Argyll which are less well represented in the catalogue and provide insights into the history of the family and their estates.
Priorities for rationalisation and dispersal
Where additional material is routinely deposited by the Duke or the Estates Office, the Archivist will be responsible for determining, in collusion with the Duke or the Factor, which material should be preserved and which destroyed or otherwise disposed of.
Unsolicited deposits will be assessed as to their informational and historical value to the Argyll Papers and preserved or disposed of accordingly.
Organised deposits will be preserved in the Archive according to the agreement made with the depositor(s).



The collection extends to approximately 0.33 of a linear mile. It includes a large collection of writs and charters relating mainly to the transfer of land and titles, but also including marriage agreements, commissions and appointments, contracts of friendship, inquests, gifts of ward and non-entries, assize herrings and more, 13th – 20th centuries. The principal collection of approximately 500 charters is arranged chronologically, 1315-1784. This is an important collection as it includes many early royal charters which record the progressive expansion of Campbell lands and influence from the 14th to the 16th centuries. Many other charters are listed in groups and individually, throughout NRAS 1209, and a there is a further substantial collection of un-listed and largely unsorted charters.
Records relating to the Earls and Dukes of Argyll’s official roles and responsibilities, 16th – 20th centuries, including three collections of political and personal correspondence from important royal, military and noble figures with whom the Argyll Family were closely associated, 1543-1800 (‘Royal Letters’ and ‘The Argyll Letters’ Volumes 1 and 2). These collections also include commissions to the Earls of Argyll, 1460-1646.
Military papers, 16th – 20th centuries, including militia lists, muster rolls, accounts and correspondence relating to military and political matters, with much on sixteenth and seventeenth century west highland unrest and on the Jacobite Rebellions. Also, records relating to the Argyll Militia, Territorial Army and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, 19th - 20th centuries, and some papers relating to the First and Second World Wars (also see personal and estate correspondence).
Personal and business papers of family members, 16th – 20th centuries, including personal correspondence of the Marquess of Argyll and Margaret Douglas, 1660 and 1673, papers of the 8th Duke of Argyll relating to his term as Secretary of State for India, 1860s - 70s, and letter books and press cuttings of the Marquis of Lorne (later 9th Duke) as Governor General of Canada, 1878-1883. A large and interesting collection of family correspondence exists for the 8th Duke and Duchess and their extended family, including the Dukes of Sutherland, Northumberland and the Royal family, along with personal diaries, photograph albums, sketch books and other personalia. A very complete personal archive for the 10th Duke also exists, comprising extensive correspondence and an unbroken series of detailed personal diaries, 1892-1945. Personal papers also exist for other generations of the family, but are currently listed very piecemeal.
Transcripts of The Argyll Papers and related archives, compiled by Sir William Fraser, the 10th Duke and others: approximately 250 volumes and 100 bundles or folders. The most important collection, ‘The Argyll Transcripts’, contains handwritten copies of many of the earliest records in the archive (24 volumes).
Genealogies of all branches of the Campbell Family, mainly compiled by the 10th Duke and his contemporaries, 19th – 20th c, but including some earlier records.
Extensive estate archives for Inveraray; Rosneath; Kintyre; Campbell; Tiree; Mull, Iona and Morvern; Lismore and Scammadale Estates, 16th – 20th c. These include accounts, rentals, tacks, correspondence and other papers relating to the administration of the estates, including rural industries (kelp, salt, wool, lint, coal, quarries, woods) and infrastructure. They also include name lists, such as the Argyll Estate Census of 1779 (recording the names and ages of every person living on the Argyll Estate) and smaller scale census for Tiree (1776), and Campbeltown and Kintyre (1792). A large collection of estate maps, plans and written surveys also forms part of the estate archive and is described more fully below under ‘Maps and Plans.’
Amongst the personal, family and estate papers described above are surveys and accounts for buildings of national importance, with which the family was associated, 17th – 19th c, including: Argyll’s Lodging and Gardens, Stirling; Argyll’s Lodging, Holyrood House; General Register House, Edinburgh; Castle Campbell, Dollar Glen.

There is an extensive collection of maps and plans, including architectural plans and specifications relating to family homes, estate buildings and county towns, including Inveraray Castle and policies. The original plans and elevations by Roger Morris, John Adam, and Robert Mylne, 1746-1789, including Roger Morris’ book of ‘Letters and Instructions for building Inverara Castle, 1744-47’. Also, plans of alterations made by Anthony Salvin and Ian Lindsay following extensive fires in 1877 and 1975; plans and correspondence relating to the policies by William Nesfield, 19th century (incorporating 17th century formal avenues and plantations); and plans of estate buildings and follies within the policies, by various architects.
For Rosneath Castle, there is a large volume containing over 100 annotated plans and specifications by Joseph Bonomi and correspondence with the 5th and 6th Dukes of Argyll, 1802-1806.
For the Royal Burgh of Inveraray, 18th – 20th centuries, there are drafts for the town layout (Inveraray was one of Scotland’s first planned towns, built under instruction of Archibald, 3rd Duke of Argyll in 1751), plans and elevations of the principal public and residential buildings by Roger Morris, John Adam and Robert Mylne.
For Campbeltown and Oban, 1740s-1900s: detailed street plans, house plans and written surveys containing detailed descriptions of properties, building styles and their occupiers.
Estate plans and surveys, relating mainly to estates in Argyllshire, 17th - 20th centuries, including: William Douglas’ map of Iona, 1769. This is the earliest detailed map of the island and is accompanied by a written survey. Many other records relate to the island’s history, including correspondence describing the 8th Duke’s efforts to manage the landscape and antiquities, his appointment of Sir Robert Rowand Anderson to repair the abbey in 1874 and his decision to gift the ownership of the abbey buildings to the Church of Scotland in 1899.
George Langland’s Survey of Kintyre, 1770-77. This is one of the most important landscape surveys ever undertaken by a single surveyor and patron, containing detailed descriptions of 204 Kintyre farms, with recommendations for their modernisation and improvement. The process of improvement was embraced over a period of thirty years and is recorded in a very large collection of estate records recording the amalgamation and abandonment of marginal settlements, the division of shared tenancy farms into modern farming units, and the introduction of new families, technologies and industries into the peninsula, which by the middle of the nineteenth century had become the industrial and agricultural heartland of the Argyllshire.
James Turnbull’s Survey of Tiree, 1768/9. A large, gloriously illustrated and highly coloured map depicting the Tiree landscape before the modern crofting landscape was created in the nineteenth century. It shows densely packed clusters of large farming townships separated by rigs of infield and outfield cultivation, common grazing, ‘old danish forts’ and other antiquities. It is accompanied by a detailed 111 page written survey describing each township in detail, with minutely recorded observations on farming practices, fishing and the way of life of the island’s inhabitants. There are many other eighteenth and nineteenth century surveys for the island, which appears to be particularly well documented owing to its geographical location and circumstances of its acqui
Twentieth century maps of Auchindrain and Auchnagoul townships, near Inveraray, demonstrating the rare survival of traditional shared farm tenancies long after the practice had died out elsewhere. These maps and supporting estate records could enable further research to be undertaken on the history and cultural significance of these its history than has been possible to date, and most importantly, help us understand its significance in the wider landscape.

Finding aids, guides and publications

The archive was surveyed by Sir William Fraser for the Historical Manuscripts Commission in the 1870s and his reports provide a very useful overview of the historical context of the archive and the earliest records within it: "Historical Manuscripts Commission 4th Report" (1874), pages 470-492 and "Historical Manuscripts Commission 6th Report" (1876), pages 606-634.
The archive was surveyed by the National Register of Archives of Scotland in the 1960s (NRAS 6) and again in the 1980s (NRAS 1209), and these survey lists currently act as catalogues for the archive. NRAS 1209 partly replaces NRAS 6, but not entirely: researchers must, therefore, consult both surveys in order to obtain a full overview of the archive.
A separate maps and plans list was compiled by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCHAMS) in 1986. This replaces NRAS 6 pages 159-164 and 276-291. Other parts of NRAS 6 were also re-surveyed during the 1980s and 90s, but the extent of this work was not fully documented.
A comprehensive stock-check and condition survey of the archive was undertaken, June 2012 – December 2013. This has enabled the extent of the re-listing between NRAS 6 and NRAS 1209 to be identified and sections of the two survey lists mapped to each other, where relevant – further information is given in Introductory Notes to the archive, which are designed to help researchers navigate these and other issues, pending further cataloguing.
Some records were not accounted for during the stock-checking process and these are marked as ‘missing’ on the survey lists. It is anticipated that most will become available in the future, as further work is undertaken on the archive, therefore, researchers should ask for an update on the status of any affected items which relate to their research.
In addition to the survey lists described above, the following interim lists also exist:
• Index of Sealed Argyll Charters, 1315-1708
• Rolled Plans Survey
• Plan Volumes Survey
The archive was heavily used by Ian G. Lindsay and Mary Cosh to inform their history of Inveraray and the Dukes of Argyll (Edinburgh University Press, 1973). This publication remains the standard work on the history of the Dukes of Argyll and the development of the new castle and town of Inveraray, covering the period from 1746 until the mid-20th century. It is well-referenced, both with regard to the Argyll Papers and other related archives.
A small number of records from the archive have been published:
• Inhabitants of the Argyll Estate in 1779, edited by Eric Cregeen, Scottish Record Society, Old Series, 91 (1963)
• List of Inhabitants on the Duke of Argyll’s Property in Kintyre in 1792, edited by A.I.B. Stewart, Scottish Record Society, New Series (1991)
• Argyll Estate Instructions: Mull, Morvern, Tiree. 1771-1805, edited by Eric R. Cregeen, Scottish History Society, Fourth Series (Edinburgh, 1964)
• Kintyre Instructions: The 5th Duke of Argyll's Instructions to His Kintyre Chamberlain, 1785-1805, edited by Eric Cregeen and Angus Martin (The Grimsay Press, 2011)

Access area

Opening times

The archive is open Mon to Fri, 10.00am to 5.00pm. The archive is closed weekends and bank holidays.

Access conditions and requirements

The archive is staffed on a part time basis and research access is strictly by appointment, only. If you wish to undertake research please provide details of the records you wish to consult by providing references from our archive survey lists, NRAS 6 and NRAS 1209. Researchers must provide at least 4 weeks advance notice of their proposed visit.
There is no charge for access, but we welcome donations to help support the running of the archive and our research service.
Reading Room Regulations:
All visitors must read and comply with the Reading Room Regulations.
We do not offer a reprographics service, but permit self-service photography for personal research purposes. Permission is subject to the condition and content of the records and is granted at the discretion of the Archivist or Estates Office staff. A fee will be charged and conditions apply – please see our Photographic Guidelines and Charges for full details.


The ground floor research room is accessible and there is parking nearby. Researchers need to bring their own laptops.

Services area

Research services

Enquiries and remote research:
The archivist will reply to all enquiries. Where the information you want can be found reasonably quickly and within one hour, that information will be provided free of charge.
When the archivist will need to spend more than one hour investigating the records to answer your enquiry, she will need to charge for her time. You will be advised of potential charges before the archivist undertakes any chargeable research.
Please note that archives are, by their nature, ‘survivors’ and rarely complete. The particular information you want may not have survived and results cannot be guaranteed. The archivist will however provide a summary of the search undertaken on your behalf.
The hourly charge for distance research is £50.00 plus vat where applicable.

Reproduction services

With the permission of the Archivist or Estates Office staff, researchers may copy records in the archive for personal research purposes, using a camera or mobile phone.
Terms and conditions:
Permission is subject to the condition and content of the records and is granted at the discretion of the Archivist or Estates Office staff. A limit may be placed on the number of photographs taken from a single record or group of records.
Photographs may be used for personal research purposes only.
If researchers wish to publish the images, or disseminate them in other ways, they must obtain prior written agreement from Argyll Estates. Requests for permission should be submitted in writing to the Archivist.
Researchers must provide the archive with digital copies of the images which they have taken, along with a list of the images. The images may be used as surrogates to prevent wear and tear on original records, and to promote the work of the archive through talks, reports, exhibitions, etc. We will not sell researchers’ images and we will not reproduce researchers’ images without prior consent.
£10 for the first ten images (minimum charge) and £5 for every five images thereafter.
Charges will be calculated by rounding up the number of images to the nearest five.

Public areas

Wireless internet is available.
Toilets in the Estates Office are available for researchers’ use. For extended research visits, the staff kitchen may also be used for making teas and coffees.
During the Castle open season (April – October) light lunches are available in the Castle tea-room which is located a few minutes’ walk from the archive. Inveraray also has a good selection of tea shops and restaurants which are open all year round. We do not have indoor facilities for eating packed lunches, but researchers may be able to use the Estates Office small meeting room if it is not in use - please ask if required. N.B. No food or drink may be taken into the archive.

Control area

Description identifier

GB 3452

Institution identifier

Inveraray Castle

Rules and/or conventions used



Level of detail

Dates of creation, revision and deletion



  • English



Maintenance notes

Access points

Access Points

  • Clipboard

Primary contact

Argyll Estates Office
Cherry Park
, Argyll and Bute