History of Ardgour Estate

The Maclean family, which owns Ardgour Estate, have lived here from the 1430s. The first Maclean of Ardgour, ‘Strong Donald the Hunter’, was the son of the 7th Chief of Clan Maclean from Duart on Mull.

Young Donald was a favourite of the MacDonald Lord of the Isles, who at that time ruled the Western Seaboard of Scotland like a king.
When Donald asked him for land, the Lord of the Isles said somewhat elliptically ‘jump where the dyke is lowest’.
Donald took this to mean the lands of Ardgour, which were in the hands of Clan MacMaster, a weak, impoverished clan.

Donald set sail from Mull with three galleys. Among his followers was a group of Boyds; descendants of this family live in Ardgour today.
The galleys beached just before the Corran Narrows, and the invaders began their slaughter of the hapless MacMasters.

The MacMaster Chief escaped the carnage, and ran down to the ferry. The ferryman, out fishing in the loch, refused to acknowledge his Chief’s desperate calls.

When Donald arrived in search of MacMaster, the ferryman announced proudly that he had refused him passage. Donald said ‘any man who is not loyal to his chief is not worthy of life’, and the ferryman was hanged from his own oars.

“It is said that the Macleans will leave Ardgour when the waterfall which falls from the corrie above the ferry, ‘Maclean’s towel’, dries up. The rainfall in Ardgour has never  failed the family yet”

The subsequent continuity of ownership for six hundred years was due in part to an almost continuous male line. The present Maclean of Ardgour is the 18th Laird.

Over the centuries the family were deeply embroiled in West Highland politics. For example:

  • Ewen 2nd of Ardgour was Chamberlain to the Lord of the Isles, and fought at the great sea battle of Bloody Bay off Mull.
  • John, 4th, was arraigned for piracy in the Solway by King James V in 1543.
  • Ewen, 6th, was murdered in his galley by the MacDonalds of Keppoch, and his son Allan fought for Montrose.

The family managed however to retain control of the lands of Ardgour; they were always loyal followers of their Chief at Duart, for instance, but when Clan Maclean lost most of its lands to the Campbell Earl of Argyll in the late 17th century, Ardgour was distant enough from Mull not to be invaded.

Also, at the time of the Jacobite rising in 1745, when Ardgour men left to fight for the Jacobites, the Laird was a child and the lands were never forfeit.

By 1766, Hew, 12th of Ardgour, had returned from Glasgow and built the present Ardgour House.

It was under his son Alexander that the villagers moved out of the glens onto crofts created from the farms on the raised beaches of the Loch-side.   Alexander declared to them that he ‘had an aversion to you leaving your native country’.

“Although sadly Ardgour House itself was sold in 1996, the rest of the estate is still owned and managed by the Macleans of Ardgour, and the family continues to be staunch supporters of their Chief at Duart and of the Clan Maclean Association.”