Kilchurn Castle is located on a rocky island within Loch Awe, but is usually accessible via a causeway. The setting is spectacular: A grey ruin surrounded by the beautiful loch and the rough mountains... What a scenery!!!
Kilchurn Castle was built in the 15th century and was once in possession of the Campbells. During the 16th century it was inhabited by the MacGregors, but then passed to the Campbells again who converted it into barracks. During the Jacobite riots in 1715 and 1745, the castle was used as a base for the governmental troops, and a few decades later it was destroyed during a storm, when it was hit by lightning. Since then, it has not been repaired, but more and more fell into disrepair.
The castle is open to visitors from April to September. Off season, you can still walk there, but cannot enter. Unfortunately the causeway was flooded when we visited, so we could only see the castle from afar. It was still a fascinating sight!
Picture 2 was taken during the walk to the start of the causeway - from the carpark, you need to walk along the banks under the railway bridge
St Conan's Kirk is a real gem - although you cannot see that from the exterior. The exterior is quite plain, but when you enter, you can hardly believe that the interior is so spacious and so beautiful. It really looks much smaller from the outside!
The kirk is quite young, being constructed from 1907 to 1930 by Walter Campbell who lived in a mansion on an island within Loch Awe. His mother found the long journey to the nearest parish church very exhausting, therefore he, a skilled hobby architect, decided to build a church for her closeby. The first church was finished in 1886, but he was not satisfied with it, tore it down and started a new church in 1907. Unfortunately he died in 1914, but his plans were carried out by his sister and later by a trust. He and his sister are buried in the church.
The church is a mixture of many different styles, but the predominant one is the Roman style. I enjoyed exploring it very much, there are so many nooks and crannies, so many side chapels and interesting art works, that you can easily spend a long time here. And there are the places outside of the church, too, providing great views of Loch Awe. Unfortunately, it was pouring down with heavy rain when we visited, so we did not really explore the exterior, but the glimpses I caught while running back to the bus were great!
The church has a special atmosphere, maybe because it is not that old and because of all the mixtures, and the love Walter Campbell and his sister put in when designing and building it. Of course the location is a huge factor, too. The kirk clings to the steep banks of the loch, in a very harsh environment, exposed to the rain and wind, being very remote and secluded. It really is special, and absolutely worth a stop if you are visiting this region!
Picture 2: Walter Campbell's mother was buried outside the church
Picture 3: A huge Celtic Cross erected on a hill nearby to the memory of Walter Campbell's mother
Picture 4: The cloister garth with beautiful lead roofs. The wooden beams were taken from two old battleships.
Picture 5: A marble bust of Queen Victoria, given by HRH The Princess Louise who was a friend of the family
There are four pictures of the interior in this travelogue.
The Bruce Chapel is located next to the chancel and the entrance to the crypt.
There is a wooden effigy of Robert the Bruce with his face and hands made of alabaster. There is also a relic which is said to be a bone of Bruce himself, brought here from Dunfermline Abbey where he is buried. It is kept in a small estuary.
The reason why the chapel was created is that a famous scene happened on a hill close to the kirk during the Battle of the Pass of Brander: It is believed that it was here where his friend Sir James Douglas led an outflanking column - this allowed Bruce to attack from two sides and to win the battle, just a few years before the Battle of Bannockburn that led to Scottish independence.
A certain Walter Campbell built a large house on Innis Chonain, and island at the north end of Loch Awe. And to save his mother the weekly trek to Dalmally, he built St Conan's Kirk, a marvellous but eccentric blending of church styles from across the ages. It was only begun in 1907 and not completed until many years later.
It is certainly a bit of an oddity, but it is well worth a look, as inside it is unusual too.
There are great views from the grounds of the loch and over to the castle.
Admission is free, but donations are most welcome.
The castle sits on a peninsular near the village of Lochawe. Although connected to a track, it is no longer accesable on foot due to Scotrail locking the level crossing gates. (thanks very much!) To get acces to the castle you now have to take a short ferry crossing from the pier in the village (summer only)
It is possible to get good photos from a vantage point on the A819, just across the loch from the castle, or from the church grounds in the village.
This castle served as home to the Campbells of Glenorchy, who later became the Earls of Breadalbane. The earliest construction on the castle was the towerhouse and Laich Hall (looks onto Loch Awe). A large part of the fortress was built in the late 1690's to house three companies of soldiers (about 200 men).
In the care of Historic Scotland - Admission free.
Near the church. next to the main road, is a nice war memorial, honouring the fallen of the two world wars.
In the church grounds, overlooking the loch, is a decorative sundial. It was not much use when we were there though!
The church as an unusual waterspout in the form of a rabbit. I have not seen this on a church before.
The church is unusual for its age in having monastic type cloisters. Whether these were ever used in a monastic sense by some brotherhood I do not know.