The Argyll Papers

The Argyll Papers are the estate and family archive of the earls and dukes of Argyll. The papers detail the lives and activities of the earls and dukes, their involvement in political and historical events, their management of their extensive estates in Argyll and across Scotland, and their families.

From the fourteenth century onwards the earls and, later, dukes of Argyll were closely allied to the Scottish crown and parliament, acquiring a host of official roles and responsibilities which were sustained and expanded after the union of the parliaments in 1707. Extensive personal papers, correspondence and accounts document the activities of the extended family in all of its endeavours, offering potential for many important historical themes and events to be explored.

Until the mid-20th century the Argyll estates covered most of Argyllshire, parts of Inverness-shire, Clackmannanshire, Stirling, East Lothian, and the family owned properties in Edinburgh, London and abroad. Many of their lands were acquired during the west highland clan wars of the 16th and 17th centuries, whilst acting as Crown mediator and overseer for confiscated estates. In the 18th and 19th centuries successive Dukes invested heavily in agricultural, industrial and urban development and the records of these endeavours provide an unparalleled insight into our landscape history and built heritage. Large areas of the estate lie in some of Scotland’s most marginal and fragile island environments (Tiree, Iona, Mull) which endured some of the worst periods of nineteenth century famine, emigration and land agitation. The history of all of these places and events, and of the people within them, is documented in detail in the archive.

Records in the archive date from the 13th to 21st centuries, forming an unbroken record of nearly eight hundred years of the family’s fortunes which closely reflects all of the key events in Scotland’s history. This depth of chronology is very rare for a Scottish family archive.

For a more detailed description of the content of the archive, please read the Argyll Papers Collection Description.

Visiting the Archive

His Grace the Duke of Argyll is happy to make his archive available to visitors and researchers from all over the world, who are interested in the history of his family or investigating a wide range of subjects including family and local history, Gaelic and Celtic studies, military history, political history, economic and social history, agriculture and industry, architecture and more.  

Individual research

The research room is open to visitors from 10.00am to 1.00pm and from 2.00pm to 5.00pm, or by specific appointment.

The research room is small and can only accommodate a very limited number of researchers alongside our regular volunteers. We therefore ask you to provide at least 4 weeks advance notice and to be as flexible as possible over the date and time of your visit. 

Please note that all researchers must be 18 years of age or older. If you are lucky enough to be younger than 18, you will need to bring a responsible adult with you. 

 The archivist will confirm with you by email whether the proposed date(s) are possible.

When you contact the archivist to arrange the date for your visit, please also provide as much information as possible about what you are hoping to discover.  The archivist will be able to advise whether there are records available that may assist you in your research and of any potential difficulties in accessing them eg. poor physical condition, language or handwriting.

Group visits
The archivist offers group visits to the archives which can take a variety of forms depending on the numbers of visitors.  A group visit may include an introductory talk about the history of the archive with a tour of the stores, a display of documents relating to a particular pre-selected theme or a workshop based activity (palaeography or specific research). 
Group visits are available for the general public, special interest groups, students and schools. It is also possible to deliver a talk or ‘virtual visit’ using Zoom or other platform. Please contact the archivist for further details.
  • Workshop style interactive events on a pre-selected topic or theme are available for groups up to a maximum of 10. These can be either skills or subject based eg. palaeography or a group research project.
  • ‘Walk and talk’ tours of the archive are available to groups up to a maximum of 5 people. These tours are delivered in the archive stores, with the archivist talking about the history of the archive and the family and picking records from the shelves to illustrate the stories. 
  • A more formal ‘introduction to the archive’ can be booked for groups of up to 12 participants. These include an introductory talk/PowerPoint presentation about the history of the family and the collection (a specific theme can be addressed if required), with a ‘walk through’ of the stores (no stopping/handling) and a small exhibition of documents. 
Fees and charges

Private research in the Argyll Papers is free of charge. We do however charge a fee for group visits, towards the costs of the archivist’s time in preparation and delivery. All income raised helps to meet the costs of preserving and maintaining the archive.

Individual research

There is no fee to undertake research in the archive.  Access is permitted to the original records or copies thereof (depending on their condition and availability), with assistance and guidance from the archivist.

There are separate fees for self-service photography or the provision of high resolution images.

Group visits
‘Walk and Talk’ tours for groups of a maximum of 5 people are charged @ £10 per person. 
‘Workshops’ (maximum of 10 people) or ‘Introduction to the Archive’ (maximum of 12 people) are charged @ £100 fixed preparation fee and then £5 per person. If your group includes more than the maximum 10/12 people, please consider splitting the group, with half visiting the Castle or grounds while half visit the archive and then swapping over. For a split group, the preparation fee would remain £100 to cover both halves of the group, with the appropriate per person fee.
All charges are exclusive of VAT if applicable.

If you are unable to afford our fees, please get in touch with the archivist as we may be able to come to some alternative arrangement.

How to book

To book an appointment for individual research or for a group visit, please email the archivist at:, with the proposed date, time and nature of your visit. The archivist will then get in touch to discuss your precise requirements.

© Friends of the Argyll Papers 2022
Friends of the Argyll Papers is a Scottish Charity SC045835