Argyll Invades Scotland

5 to 31 May 1685

Where did Argyll land in Scotland?

The Monmouth Rebellion starts when the Earl of Argyll invades Scotland. After leaving Holland on May 2, 1685 Argyll’s fleet quickly reached the Murray Frith in Scotland on May 5. From here the fleet headed north to the Shetland Isles, arriving the following day. Hoping to send messages to his supporters the Earl sent two men ashore, unfortunately they were identified and arrested. In an attempt to rescue his men Argyll took hostages from a nearby village but after two days Argyll left the Isle’s and headed west. The race was now on before word reached Edinburgh of his arrival. By the time Argyll reached Dunstaffnage to light the fire cross, on May 15, a Scottish Army of 20,000 was being mobilised to be commanded by the Earl of Dumbarton. 

Argyll Invades Scotland

Argyll Sails to Bute

At Dunstaffnage, Argyll sent his son Charles across the mountains to raise the clans, while he took the fleet south. After chasing off Government forces from Islay, Argyll reached Campbeltown on May 20, with an enlarged fleet, but still lacked recruits. During the day, the Whigs set up a printing press, and as soon as the ink was dry, the Whig Declaration of War was first read to the crowd. Then messengers carried the fresh sheets of paper out across the Scottish Highlands and into the Lowlands. Unfortunately, the expected Whig recruits still did not appear, but his son had more luck rising nearly a thousand men to join forces with his father at Tarbert. It was here on May 26 that the Whig Army of 1,800 was modelled into three Regiments of infantry and a Squadron of dragoons. After raiding the coast around Largs, the Whigs landed on the Isle of Bute on May 29, 1685.

The Government Reaction

Even before Argyll invades Scotland, the Scottish Government had started to move highlanders into Argyllshire. After this the Earl of Dumbarton assumed command of the Scottish Army on May 25, 1685 and quickly order his combination of regulars and militia to stand-off from Argyll. The closest Government Army was under the Marquis of Atholl at Inveraray, and by May 31, this numbered nearly 5,000 with a core of 300 to 500 regulars.  While heading south-east from Aberdeenshire was Lord Gordon with after force of possibly 3,000 to cut-off Argyllshire. The next force, under Dumbarton himself, contained soldiers from the Scottish regiments and the Ayrshire Militia, again close to 3,000. Finally, five Royal Navy warships were heading to the River Clyde to blockage the Whigs.


Go to Argyll’s next move in Scotland


This account is based on a more detail description of the Earl of Argyll’s campaign in Scotland available from Helion & Company in my Book Fighting For Liberty.