Explore the heritage all around you in East Cowal

Demerara rebellion of 1823

Laird's Grave

This is the resting place of Archibald Douglas who died in 1860.

Archibald was a wealthy merchant. He made his living from sugar and cotton plantations in the Guianas and West Indies, including Demerara (where the famous sugar comes from). Slavery was rife at these plantations until it was made illegal by the 1833 Slavery Abolition Act. Despite abolition many wealthy families were offered compensation as the plantations made up a large proportion of Scotland’s trade.

Together with his brothers (John and Thomas) they formed the merchant house of J. T. And A. Douglas & Co and Douglas which took advantage of a booming sugar trade. Douglas was also partner in Douglas, Brown and Co. cotton spinners. Around 1836 the brothers purchased Glenfinart Estate, which you can travel to as part of the trail.

Paper Caves

The caves are difficult to access and not suitable for families, but you can still get to them as you adventure around Loch Eck. Once you reach the location on the map you can make your way up a trail in the woods.

The archives at Inveraray Castle now house the historic documents kept by the Dukes of Argyll. Inveraray Castle and Carrick Castle were both often used to house important items.

During the conflicts of the 17th century secret locations for documents needed to be found. The vast majority of these locations were within Cowal, with the Paper Caves being one of them. The documents that were hidden here included Charters and Titles which showed proof of ownership of land and property. At risk of being damaged by water, the documents were stored in barrels, with the staves from one of the barrels being previously found by a local resident.

Documents were hidden in barrels like this to prevent them from being lost.
Artist’s impression of a typical hillfort.

Dun Daraich

A “dun” is an ancient or medieval fort, or roundhouse. Dun Dariach was as series of stone buildings contained within a circular stone wall. It was likely built during the stone age and subsequently changed over time. It would have a contained a family and community who farmed the adjacent land.

This was an ideal location as the surrounding land was flat making it perfect for farming. Flat land is a rarity in Cowal so this location was a perfect stronghold.

The actual location of the fort is hard to access, however you can look down to it from the path as you make your way around.

Glenfinart House

Glenfinart House and its surrounding lands were originally owned by the Earls of Dunmore.

Ardentinny was a hive of activity during World War Two. Glenfinart House was adapted as training facilities for the Royal Navy Beach Commandos and given the name ‘HMS Armadillo’. During conflict, Commandos were often the first to go ashore in landing craft prior to setting up a base.

During the 1930s the house and its surrounding lands contained unemployment camps occupied by workers from the West of Scotland. These were established in response to the Depression from 1929 which severely impacted Scotland’s shipbuilding industry.

The house burnt down in 1968, leaving behind its tower. The lands are now used as a holiday park. You can see the tower from the path as you walk down the track.

Glenfinart House photographed in the 1950s. Only the tower survives today.
Kilmun Pier buildings opposite Younger Hall
A steamer boat docked at Kilmun Pier
A steamer boat docked at Kilmun Pier
A view of the thriving businesses on the shore from Kilmun Pier
A view of the thriving businesses on the shore from Kilmun Pier
Glasgow Herald, September 3, 1852

Kilmun Pier

Due to it being quicker and safer to travel by water, the Holy Loch has seen ferries for centuries. This meant it was perfectly situated to take advantage of the arrival of steam and tourism in the 19th century. Major developments included the opening of Greenock Railway connected to Glasgow and links across from Greenock to Dunoon and Cowal.

Engineer and landowner David Napier had a holistic approach to developing the Holy Loch area including his development of new piers, steamboat connections
and luxury summer villas. These villas stretched from the head of the Holy Loch to Strone Point (“Strone” is Gaelic for nose, which visualises its position adjacent to the Holy Loch).

The construction of the pier at Kilmun began in 1827 including the building of a small pier cottage and making it the first pier on the Cowal peninsula. Adverts from the 1840s highlight the connections to local summer residences and hotels via “Railway Boats”, which were essentially small steamer ferries.

Both Strone and Kilmun piers had a chequered history with lease arrangements leading to many a dispute, complications around railway connections, and competition between ferry providers up until the early 20th century.

Strone Pier

The original Strone Pier was build between by 1845 – 1847. Although Napier had left the area some 15 years prior to this, he was still involved in construction of what would prove to be a lucrative venture due to the extension of housing along the shore.

Napier retained control of both piers and was at the centre of many a dispute about landing fees as he was asking for a twopenny landing fee, which was double that of other piers on the firth of Clyde. This was one of the reasons that spurred Campbell of Monzie to build a pier at Blairmore.

During the 1920s the Caledonian Steam Packet Company took up the majority of itinerary of steamers calling at Strone. In 1930 wooden part of pier was replaced with concrete construction. It then saw a succession of popular steamers before the outbreak of World War Two. Strone Pier was subsequently closed in September 1956.

View of Strone from the pier at dusk.
Credit: subtle sensor
Strone Pier with a docked steam boat taken in 1920
Credit: John Valentine & Sons
Paddle steamer ‘Caledonia’ at Blairmore Pier.

Blairmore Pier

Blairmore Pier was built in 1855 by Campbell of Monzie at a cost of £300. Its main purpose was encouraging economic development along the North of the shore, including the transport of livestock, goods and people.

The pier welcomed steamers around the Holy Loch as well as Lochgoil and Arrochar, which connected passengers to Loch Lomond. In addition to tourists, Drovers used the pier to transport their cattle to the Falkirk Trysts (cattle markets).

During the summer months Blairmore Pier can be seen welcoming the famous ‘Waverley’ paddle steamer. The Waverley was built in 1946 by A&J Inglis in Glasgow. It was often seen visiting Blairmore Pier as part of its cruise along Loch Long to Arrochar and Loch Goil.

After closing in 1976 the pier fell into steady disrepair. After being rescued by a local resident the pier was reopened in time to celebrate its 150th
anniversary, coupled with a visit from the Waverley.

Carrick Castle

Prior to industrialisation this would have been a strategic spot for trade and commerce when lochs and water were the main way to move across Scotland. Carrick Castle dates from the 15th century. It’s built on rock extending out into Loch Goil.

Built by the Campbells it replaced an earlier structure which served as a hunting lodge for the adjacent forest of Argyll as a popular hunting ground used by royalty. Robert the Bruce captured during the 1307 rebellion against Edward I. It was then recaptured by the Lamont family prior to being lost to the Campbell family in 1368.

During the Argyll’s Rebellion of 1685 (led by Archibald Campbell), government forces attacked Carrick Castle using HMS Kingfisher and left it in ruins. The ruined castle was passed to the Earls of Dunmore. Little was done to rescue it until the late 20th century when efforts were made to restore it into a private residence as seen today.

Carrick Castle on Loch Goil
Credit: subtle sensor
Carrick Castle and paddle steamer 'Caledonia'.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of St Andrews Library.
Ariel photo of Glenfinart Walled Garden.
Credit: Image courtesy of Glenfinart Walled Garden.

Glenfinart Walled Garden

This walled garden was part of the grounds of Glenfinart House which was built around 1837. The garden was described as having “extensive and beautiful plantations” by the New Statistical Account of 1845.

Today Glenfinart Walled Garden is a community garden which grows flowers and vegetables planted by local residents, groups and schools. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to purchase some homemade jams and chutneys to take home with you!

Check them out on Facebook.

Puck's Glen

Puck’s Glen is an extensive river-formed wooded ravine with a range of walks, including a trail beside the Eas Mòr stream (“big waterfall”). Its name comes from the mythical sprite in Shakespeare’s ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’.

The glen was originally part of the Benmore Estate. This estate held a range of forest tree plantations in addition to extensive hunting grounds. The forest tree plantations began in the 1820s. In 1849 the estate was purchased by John Lamont who made his fortune by from sugar plantations in Trinidad.

James Duncan, who also had interests in the sugar trade, purchased the estate before developing trails in the Glen between 1870 and 1889. This included the trail up to Eas Mòr. From 1889 onwards the Harry George Younger, a brewer from Edinburgh, took ownership.

In commemoration of the improvements James Duncan had made to the estate, Younger built the Bayley Balfour Memorial Hut in the glen in dedication to the botanist Sir Isaac Bayley Balfour. The hut was designed by Sir Robert Lorimer with wood showcasing the varieties of timber grown at Benmore.

In 1924, Harry George Younger sold the estate to the Forestry Commission. In 1925 The Royal Scottish Arboricultural Society made a visit in and described Puck’s Glen as “a striking example of how man, working hand in hand with nature, has made what was once a bare hillside ravine into one of the most lovely walks imaginable.

Inside Puck’s Glen.
Puck's Glen by Bill Higham
Puck's Glen by Stephen Mackenzie
Original plan for the Balfour Memorial with inscription.
Credit: Image courtesy of HES (Lorimer and Matthew Collection)
Map of trees in Kilmun Arboretum circa 1965.
Credit: Image courtesy ofNorman Davidson
Close up photograph of the Eucalyptus Gunni.

Kilmun Arboretum

The arboretum is home to more than 150 tree species from around the world spanning across 180 acres.

Before becoming an arboretum, a small croft stood at the head of the Kilmun entrance, with land likely being cultivated and formed into small fields. This is shown by archaeological evidence of previous walls and sheilings, which were areas in higher ground used to look after livestock.

The first plot was established in 1930 by staff at the Forestry Commission’s West of Scotland Conservancy. Plots of various sizes were then established, steadily growing to contain over 260 different species.

Many of the trees didn’t like our climate or soils, but many have done amazingly well, growing faster and larger than they would from their country of origin. Today, Kilmun Arboretum is a tree collection of international trees. You can explore a number of trails including the John Jackson Trail (named after a local forester), Conifer Trail or Eucalyptus Trail.

Historic Kilmun

The Argyll Mausoleum is located adjacent to Kilmun Church in the village of Kilmun, Argyll, Scotland on the shores of the Holy Loch. The history of Scotland has been associated with this area for thousands of years. The earliest known peoples settled here around 3500 BC; the 6th century Columban monk Fintan Munnu (Mun) built his chapel here; the Vikings explored here; there was a thriving mediaeval community; and the Victorian wealthy built their villas. People have been making their mark here for centuries.

The Argyll Mausoleum was built in 1790 to house the remains of the Dukes and Earls of Argyll, Chiefs of the Clan Campbell, and their families. The current building replaces an earlier chapel and records indicate that Clan Campbell chiefs have been buried here since the 15th century. The last
burial was of the 10th Duke in 1949.

Several famous people are buried here, including Elizabeth Blackwell who was the first women to be registered as a licensed doctor in the UK, Lewis Fry Richardson who pioneered modern weather forecasting and David Napier, marine engineer and entrepreneur.

Inside the church building is Historic Kilmun Visitor Centre, which boasts a small museum of carefully preserved artefacts and a modern touch screen information point. Here you can learn all sorts of things about the site, the ECHO trails and the Faith in Cowal pilgrim sites.

Kilmun Church building
Argyll Mausoleum
Historic Kilmun Visitor Centre
View of Loch Eck from Jubilee Point.
Credit: subtle sensor

Jubilee Point

Famous marine engineer David Napier built the boiler for the first steamboat, the ‘Comet’. David established his own steamship, the ‘Aglaia’ which transported passengers from the south to the north end of loch Eck. From this point you would have seen the Aglaia making its way up the loch.

Aglaia in Ancient Greek means “splendour, brilliant, shining one”. It’s also the name of several figures in Greek mythology including one of the three charities and the goddess of good health.

Often referred to as one of the first ‘iron steam ships’, only the bottom of Aglaia was actually made of iron, while here sides were wooden above water.

Latterly the ‘Aglaia’ was joined by a coal powered steamer called the ‘Fairy Queen’ in 1878. Like many other closed loch steamers, she was first assembled at a shipyard in Glasgow then taken apart in sections, transported across and then reassembled on the shores of Loch Eck.

Napier’s Tea Caddies

Also known as ‘The Pepper Pots’ or ‘The Numbers’, Napier Tea Caddies are an iconic set of six cottages which can be seen in the western part of Kilmun. They earned their nickname due to their uniform appearance and originally carried numbers rather than names. They are rectangular in form with steep terraced gardens towards the shore.

They were built by marine engineer, David Napier in 1828 on land purchased from General Campbell of Monizie. Napier was a shrewd businessman and saw huge potential to develop tourism in the area. He advertised the Tea Caddies as holiday lets in addition to a range of ferry services.

Despite offering huge potential, the Tea Caddies only existed as Napier’s holiday-lets for 10 years, prior to being sold. It was around this time that Napier returned to his interest in marine engineering, acquiring a shipyard on the River Thames in 1839 and continuing with experiments in steamboat technology.

Napier’s Tea Caddies at Kilmun.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of St Andrews Libraries and Museums
Kilmun Pier buildings opposite Younger Hall
The Younger family’s Abbey Brewery, Canongate, Edinburgh.

Younger Hall

Kilmun Village Hall (Younger Hall) was built in 1911 by architect Angus Cameron.

The architecture of the hall is in the style of Arts and Crafts. This architectural style involves traditional building craftsmanship and examples typically involve asymmetry, clear angles and built using locally sourced materials. Its design includes a central tower with features which can be seen in other baronial buildings within the local area.

The hall was built in the memory of the Younger family of Benmore. This family ran Younger’s Brewery (William Younger & Company) which was formed in 1749. Henry Younger bought Benmore estate in 1889 and in 1924 the estate was passed to the Forestry Commission.

Today the hall is managed by the Kilmun Hall and Recreation Association to host events and functions.

Ardentinny Church

Ardentinny church was built in 1839 by the Douglas Family (lairds of the Glenfinart estate) at a cost of £500. It was built to accommodate local residents and workers of the laird’s estate. The laird and their family would have occupied the first two pews closet to the alter.

The church has a preacher’s sounding board which is a structure which helps project the sound of the speaker. To the left of this is the pulpit which was a later addition to the church.

Ardentinny means “headland of the fire” in Gaelic, referring to beacons used in ancient times. The 1869 Ordnance Survey shows the village as having a church, school, post office, inn and various dwellings.

Ardentinny Church
Communion tokens used at Ardentinny Church admitting families to receive communion. Credit: Ardentinny.org