Castle Campbell & Dollar Glen

We were gifted a Historic Scotland family pass last Christmas and decided we were going to visit as many Historic Scotland sites as possible over the year. That didn’t quite happen due to the whole pandemic thing, but one place we did manage to get back to was the spectacular Castle Campbell set at the top of the beautiful Dollar Glen.

Dollar Glen

The walk up to the Castle Campbell takes you through Dollar Glen, a beautiful wooded gorge with tall trees and little cascading waterfalls. The trail runs alongside a couple of wee burns, very romantically named the Burns of Sorrow and Care.

In summertime here the trees are greener than green, in autumn it is a glorious patchwork of colours, and if you go at the right time of year there are carpets of bluebells scattered around the woods. The waterfalls are really pretty too. The glen is honestly one of the most peaceful places I think I’ve ever been.

Dollar Glen has also been classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to its wealth of rare wildlife habitats and its unique geology.

The kids had a great time checking out all the bridges, climbing up and down the twisty wooden staircases, scrambling around on the rocks and where the trail meets the burn, splashing about in the water. They climbed a log bridge over the stream and they found a whole bunch of these stunning metallic blue beetles.

The walk through the glen up to the castle from the car park took us about an hour with lots of stops to check things out en route. The trail is quite a steep climb at some points but we managed it when I was about 7 months pregnant with a blind labrador and an almost 3 year old so it’s definitely not that bad.

It’s not suitable for prams or buggies, though if you can’t put your little one in a carrier of some sort, you could walk up the paved road instead of through the gorge. Last time we were there we had a 3 year old and a 6 year old and they both managed it easily.

The only word of warning I’d give is that there are some parts of the walk where there are drops to one side down to the little river. Most of them have railings but with a toddler and a blind dog I was a bit… clenched at times.

Castle Campbell

Castle Campbell is such an incredibly picturesque place. The cobblestone courtyard when you walk in, the towers and turrets, and that garden! The castle dates back to the 1400’s, and the Campbell’s stayed here for nearly 200 years. Quite a few famous visitors stayed here over the years including Mary Queen of Scots and John Knox.

The castle has lots of different levels and parts to explore. There are spiral staircases, fireplaces and lots of different rooms. The first time we went the toddler pretty much just stomped around the castle pretending she was a queen. The most recent time we went though there were a few exhibits that had been added.

The gardens here are so beautifully kept. They were in full bloom first time we were there and they were exceptionally pretty. The gardens are also very tranquil. (The kids game of hide & seek probably ruined the vibe somewhat for the few other folk in the garden. But they had a great time.)

Make sure you have a wee look at the Maiden Tree tree just outside the entrance to the castle. Local legend tells of it being named after a princess who was banished to the castle for falling in love below her station.

The Logistics

  • The gorge isn’t wheel friendly. No buggies. You can walk up the road though from the car park to the castle instead of going through the gorge, and this route is very buggy friendly.
  • Parking is available in a little car park on your right as you start up the hill, and you can start the walk up the gorge from just across the road. There are also a very limited number of disabled parking spaces up the hill just outside the castle.
  • The castle has no cafe. There are however plenty of lovely spots to sit and have a picnic; the grounds of the castle garden, grassy areas just outside the castle walls or anywhere in the glen itself. And there are a couple of nice cafes back down in the village of Dollar too.

The Cost

Dollar Glen is a National Trust for Scotland site but is free to visit. Castle Campbell is a Historic Scotland site. So if you are a Historic Scotland member you’ll get in free with your membership. This particular site has an agreement with the National Trust for Scotland. Thus if you are an NTS member you’ll get in free here too with your membership card.

If you aren’t a member of either, entry to the castle is £6 for adults and £3.60 for kids. Under 5’s go free.

The Verdict

Dollar Glen is a stunning walk through a beautiful wooded gorge and is a wonderful place for a day trip. The walk up the gorge through Dollar Glen is a reasonable walk for a little legs. But honestly with so much to explore on the way up they’ll hardly notice that it’s hard work. Castle Campbell is a very picturesque castle too and it’s well worth the walk there!

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