it’s a far cry to Loch Awe

Kilchurn Castle, Loch Awe
Kilchurn Castle, Loch Awe

thrice holy ground

The origin of the Campbells of Cawdor lies on thrice holy ground at Kilbrandon in Nether Lorn, an intriguing story of love, hate, betrayal and greed has survived for over 500 years. The famous “It’s a far cry to Loch Awe!” is still very much part of the Scottish heritage and folklore. One place played an important but mostly unknown role in that story – Kilbrandon churchyard.

Kilbrandon churchyard (37)
old Kilbrandon churchyard
Kilbrandon churchyard (23)

Muriel’s abduction

It was the last year of the 15th century and the four-year old Muriel of Calder, daughter of the 8th Thane of Calder, an heiress not only rich but potentially powerful , the thanedom was her father’s, it would go to her offspring.

Archibald Campbell, the second earl of Argyll, was appointed warden or tutor to the young Muriel and possibly her sister Janet whose existence and fate is far more hazy than that of the famous Muriel. Janet just disappears from the records.

Kilbrandon churchyard (25)

Archibald Campbell’s interest I her fortune and title was high, he schemed to marry her to his third son John. So Archibald Campbell commissioned Campbell of Inverliever to take the young girl from the care of her uncle in Nairn, away from her mother’s family and bring her to Loch Awe for safe keeping.

A wild chase and a bitter fight took place. The alleged cry for help from Inverliever to his the clansmen became famous.  “It’s a far cry to Loch Awe!” He was too far away from Loch Awe to get any help but he sorted the problem with cleverness. Inverliever took to the hills, young Muriel concealed in a basket. He lost his eight sons but saved the Thane of Calder’s daughter.

Loch Awe (65)

claim to grace

“Ten years later, the young heiress suffered a forced marriage to Sir Colin Campbell at Inverary, the Cawdor branch of the Campbell’s was formed, and their claim to grace staked on thrice holy ground, at Kilbrandon.” (Murray, p. 123)

Muriel died of old age in 1573, her line, the Campbells of Cawdor, bear the motto “be mindful” on their crest, the Earl Cawdor as the head of the clan (it has no chief) a galley and a hart’s head on their crest. Even though the infant Muriel might have been abducted by force and married et fourteen to a man she did not choose, she seems to have had a long  and happy live. At least acconding to the History of the Campbells.

Muriel’s marriage

“…of what was clearly a long and very happy marriage which was in due course to leave Muriel as a formidable matriarch of her ancestral lands.” (Campbell, page 156)


The old graveyard of Kilbrandon is hidden behind the new one a few hundred yards away from the church.

The very kind minister there offered advice and help as to how to find the graveyard.

Kilbrandon is situated on the Isle of Seil (one of the Slate Islands) which is connected to the mainland by the Clachan Bridge.

Sources and further reading

Alastair Campbell: A History of the Clan Campbell: From origins to Flodden, Volume 1, Edinburgh University Press, 2000

H. Murray: The Companion Guide to The West of Highlands of Scotland. London, Collins; 1968

Kilbrandon church

A Far Cry From Loch Awe 

Liked the post? There’s more here…

Inverness graveyard

Scotland is a country full of history, stories and secrets. Often, the three cannot be separated. That is what makes this country so wonderful and unique. These stories have been discovered and gathered for Erkenbach’s blog, Graveyards of Scotland, over many years. Her main sources were historical travel guides from the 18th and 19th centuries, where the finds were scary, beautiful, funny, and sometimes, cruel. This unusual approach to a country’s history has produced amazing results. You don’t have to share the author’s passion for cemeteries to enjoy this book; only a small number of the stories in this collection take place in graveyards, though they do all end in them, so perhaps it helps.

The fairy hill in Inverness, a nitrate murder on Shetland, a family of left-handers, wolves, Robert the Bruce and William Wallace shown in a new light, the secret bay of the writer Gavin Maxwell, a murdering poet and everything about Scotland except whisky, sheep and tartan.

Scotland for Quiet Moments is available as ebook and paperback on Amazon.

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