Landmarks & Places of Interest

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1. Historic Kilmun

Historic Kilmun is based at Kilmun Church and includes the Argyll Mausoleum, resting place of the Clan Campbell chiefs and the Dukes of Argyll. Open from April to October (Thursdays to Sundays 10am-4pm) and at other times by appointment.

Entry fee / 07887856514 /

2. Faith in Cowal

Faith in Cowal, based at Historic Kilmun, is an extensive network of pilgrim paths and trails that criss-cross the Cowal peninsulas taking in many landmarks and sites established by religious pioneers dating back to the sixth century.

No fee / /

3. Benmore Botanic Gardens

Benmore Botanic Gardens feature 7 miles of trails across 120 acres leading to beautiful locations such as the magnificently restored Victorian fernery, Monkey Puzzle forest, Japanese Valley and the Tasmanian Ridge. Open from March to October.

Entry fee / 01369 706261 /

4. Puck's Glen

Puck’s Glen is an enchanting wooded ravine with a range of walks. Its name comes from the mythical sprite in Shakespeare’s ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and it was originally part of the Benmore Estate.

No fee /

5. Kilmun Arboretum

The 180 acre Kilmun Arboretum, established in 1930, is home to more than 150 tree species from around the world and features a number of trails aimed at all abilities including the John Jackson Trail, Conifer Trail and Eucalyptus Trail.

No fee /

6. Jubilee Point

Jubilee Point is an idyllic and tranquil spot on the banks of Loch Eck that played host to paddle steamers in the Victorian era including the “Aglaia”, a steamship built by prominent local engineer David Napier.

No fee /

7. Laird's Grave

The Laird’s Grave, a short walk from the road, is the resting place for wealthy sugar and cotton merchant Archibald Douglas who died in 1860. Douglas benefited from the slave trade and his grave provides a fantastic viewpoint over Loch Long.

No fee /

8. The Lauder Memorial

The Lauder Memorial, overlooking Glenbranter just off the A815, was erected by legendary global entertainer Sir Harry Lauder and dedicated to his son Captain John Lauder after his death in the First World War.

No fee /

9. Ardentinny Beach

Ardentinny Beach features a network of woodland trails suited to all abilities including a 4 mile coastal hike to the historic Carrick Castle. Washed by the waters of Loch Long, it’s the longest sandy beach in Cowal and played host to naval commandos preparing for the WW2 Normandy landings.

No fee /

10. Glenbranter Forest

Glenbranter includes a number of trails suited to all abilities from short strolls among ancient oaks to challenging all-day bike rides. A section of the 57 mile Loch Lomond and Cowal Way passes through Glenbranter.

No fee /

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11. 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.

12. 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.

13. 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.

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

14. Dunselma Castle

The Grade A listed Dunselma Castle overlooking Strone is an impressive private residence that was built in 1886 for James Coats who had earnt fortune with Paisley-based textile manufacturer J.P.Coats and Sons.

It is a great example of Scottish baronial style architecture and has had numerous uses over the years.

15. 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.

16. 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.

17. 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.
Ariel photo of Glenfinart Walled Garden.
Credit: Image courtesy of Glenfinart Walled Garden.

18. 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!

The garden is open to the public on Saturdays (12pm-4pm). Check them out on Facebook.

19. 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.
Artist’s impression of a typical hillfort.

20. 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.

21. 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.

Please contact Benmore Outdoor Centre for more information

Documents were hidden in barrels like this to prevent them from being lost.

22. Glen Massan

The road through Glen Massan leads to some magnificent mountain views, impressive waterfalls and a myriad wildlife. There’s also the spectacular golden gates at Benmore, an example of exceptional wrought iron work that date back to 1871.

They feature elaborate Rococo-style decoration with handles in the form of female mythical figures.

23. Grave of Archibald Kerr

Hidden in a copse of trees at Stratheck, between the trail up the Eastern side of Loch Eck and the road by the caravan site is the grave of the Baron of Inverchapel (1882 – 1951). Archibald Kerr had a colourful life and was a man at the heart of the political elite and the key events of World history in the mid 20th century.

He was a suitor to the Queen Mother, was friends with King George VI and was also Britain’s ambassador to the Soviet Union 1942-46. He knew Stalin personally and attended the Potsdam conference that defined the post war world. Kerr had the ear of Churchill and helped to shape western policy in the opening months of the Cold War. His closeness with the Russians led to rumours during his lifetime that he a Soviet sympathiser.

He was created Baron Inverchapel in 1946 in recognition of his war service and died in 1951.

Clach A’ Bhreatunnaich (© David Dorren 2010
Clach A’ Bhreatunnaich (© David Dorren 2010

24. The Stone of the Britons

The Clach a’ Bhreatunnaich, or Stone of the Britons, is a giant glacial erratic the size of a house.

Until the fall of the Britonnic kingdom of Alt Clut in 870AD, when a Viking fleet sailed up the Clyde and sacked Dumbarton Rock, it is believed that this geographical feature was a border marker between the Britonnic speaking lands of Strathclyde and the Gaelic speaking lands of Dalriada in the west. Lochgoilhead would’ve been an Old Welsh speaking settlement then and there are still some Welsh-origin placenames in the area that linger on as clues. 

The stone of the Britons is part of a frontier called the Druim na h’Alban, or the spine of Britain, the southern end of which is believed to divide Cowal. The frontier separated Dalriada from the Britons and (further north) the Picts

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