The MacIains’ loss of Ardnamurchan at the beginning of the 17th century was part of a steady encroachment by the Campbell Earls of Argyll upon the lands of the MacDonald Lordship of the Isles and can be said to have started in the late 15th century when, John MacIain, chief of the MacIains, married into the Argyll family. However, it was the disaster of the battle of Creag an Airgid in 1519, when another John and his two older sons were killed, that gave Colin Campbell, 3rd earl of Argyll, John’s brother-in-law, the chance to secure a royal grant of the wardship of John’s remaining son Alexander and, thus, de facto control of Ardnamurchan.
in 1538, when Alexander died, his sister Mariota resigned her rights to Ardnamurchan into the hands of King James V, and in 1550 the Argylls’ continuing support of the Scottish kings was rewarded when Archibald, the 4th earl of Argyll, was given a royal grant of Ardnamurchan.
From 1550 onwards the MacIains occupied Ardnamurchan under the superior lordship of the Earl of Argyll, but this didn’t seem to prevent the MacIains from behaving with considerable independence, so from the early 1600s Argyll began moves to tighten his control, starting in 1602 with a contract between himself and John mac Alasdair MacIain which involved the resignation to Argyll of all the Ardnamurchan properties. The 7th Earl followed this up by securing royal confirmation, which was given in 1610. In 1612 Argyll’s brother-in-law, Donald Campbell of Barbreck-Lochow, was given possession of Mingary Castle and Ardnamurchan. The MacIains tried to regain their lands by force but Argyll, with the backing of the Privy Council, resisted this, and for the next decade the remaining MacIains became outlaws and pirates.
In 1619 Donald Campbell was confirmed in possession of Mingary, and in 1625, Archibald Campbell, Lord Lorne, son of the 7th Earl of Argyll, received a charter from James VI granting him the barony of Ardnamurchan.
Sir Donald Campbell of Ardnamurchan was one of the leading figures in the Argyllshire committee when, in 1643, the Covenanter government established the Committees of War in the shires. MacColla’s force landed in Ardnamurchan and took Mingary Castle, and then went on to win a string of victories over Argyll and other Covenanting leaders until he was finally defeated in 1645.
In the period which followed, which included the overthrow of King James VII and II in 1689 and the later succession of King William III and Queen Mary II, Ardnamurchan remained in Campbell hands. In 1696 Archibald, 10th earl of Argyll, granted Ardnamurchan and Mingary Castle to Alexander Campbell, 6th of Lochnell, and his son Duncan.
It was Alexander Campbell who, in April 1716, was at Mingary Castle to receive the arms of all those who had taken part in the 1715 rebellion. At the time, some 210 men lived on Ardnamurchan in 28 settlements, of whom 107 were either rebels or suspected of being so. In 1722, Alexander Campbell sold the estate, comprising the lands of Ardnamurchan and Sunart, to the first of the Murray family, three of whom were to hold it over the coming decades.