KILFINAN, a parish, in the district of Cowal, county of Argyll, 30 miles (S. S. W.) from Inverary; containing 1816 inhabitants. The name of this place, signifying the "church or burial-place of Finan," is derived from a saint of the seventh century, a disciple of St. Columba, to whom the church was dedicated. The parish is situated in the south-eastern part of the county, and is girt by water in every direction except on the north. The west and north-west sides are bounded by Loch Fine; the east by Loch Riddon and part of the Kyles of Bute; and the southern point by the sea, which, by a channel three or four leagues across, separates it from the Isle of Arran. It extends longitudinally about seventeen miles, from north to south, and varies in breadth from three to nearly six miles, comprising 50,000 acres, of which 4000 are arable, 2500 under natural wood, and plantations, and the remainder mostly hilly ground, fit only for the pasturage of sheep and cattle. The coast, which is of course of great extent, is in some parts a little rocky, but frequently varied and relieved by pleasant slopes, or level tracts of arable land; and it contains numerous headlands and bays. Among the former, that of Airdlamont is the most prominent, situated at the southern extremity of the parish; and the chief bays are, Kilfinan bay, below the church; Achalick bay, two or three miles more southerly; and Kilbride bay, still nearer Airdlamont. In the north is a sand-bank, of beautiful appearance at ebb tide, and measuring, it is said, above a mile from its margin to its termination at low-water mark.
   The surface of the parish, though in general hilly, rises in no part to any remarkable height. The greatest eminences are those of a ridge, of moderate elevation, forming the boundary between Kilfinan and the parish of Kilmodan, commanding beautiful views of the Kyles of Bute and part of Loch Fine, as well as of some of the Hebrides, and displaying on their bosom an agreeable variety of pleasant valleys, ornamented with arable lands. There are four burns, of inconsiderable size, but increased by numerous tributaries, which, when swollen in rainy weather, rush down from the mountains with great rapidity and violence. The fresh-water lochs are two in number: they extend about half a mile in length, and between 300 and 400 yards in breadth, and, though not of large dimensions, contribute to improve the scenery, and supply abundance of the common yellow trout. The soil differs to a great extent, according to the situation: that near the sea, on the more level ground, is a light fertile earth, somewhat sharp, resting on a fine gravelly subsoil, and, when well cultivated, produces excellent grass, as well as good crops of grain and potatoes. At some distance inland, upon the higher grounds, there is a mixture of moss covering extensive tracts, much of which is in tillage; and the whole of this description of soil is thought capable of being brought under profitable cultivation by good management.
   Agriculture is, however, in general, in a rather low condition. Many obstacles are presented by a variable, rainy, and stormy climate, and, in most places, a comparatively sterile soil; and all the crops, with the exception of the potatoes, show the necessity for the introduction of still further improvements in the system of tillage. The arable land on some farms is barely sufficient to supply the tenant with food for his family, and provender for his cattle during the winter; and deficiencies in draining and inclosures are observable in several directions. The larger tenants depend chiefly on their cattle and sheep. The sheep are generally of the black-faced breed, and of small size in consequence of the inferior character of the pasture, though latterly, by the construction of drains, and in other ways, attempts have been made to improve both the sheep and the cattle. The maintenance of the poorer tenants is in summer derived principally from the herring-fishing, in which most of them are engaged. The leases usually run only nine years, a circumstance unfavourable to the investment of capital for the improvement of the land. The rateable annual value of the parish is £5546. The rocks consist chiefly of mica-slate, mixed with white quartz; and whinstone is found, though in small quantities. Limestone is plentiful in the north, and is of good quality both for building and for agricultural purposes. Plantations are scattered in various directions, comprising oak, ash, larch, fir, and the other kinds common to the country; and there are several oak coppices, which are cut for sale every twenty years. Birch, ash, and hazel are also found growing in coppices; but they are entirely neglected.
   The parish contains several interesting mansions, the chief of which are, Airdlamont House, a plain structure, situated not far from the point of the same name, and ornamented with good plantations; Ardmarnock House, near Loch Fine; Ballimore House, a neat and elegant residence, also near the loch; and Otter House, on the bay of Kilfinan. All of these, except Otter House, have been built within the last few years. The only hamlets are the small clusters of tenements lying here and there, occupied by the farmers and cottars, and containing twelve or fifteen families each. The gunpowder manufacture has been pursued here since the year 1839, and has recently been much extended, now employing upwards of thirty persons, and producing from 8000 to 9000 barrels annually: the buildings are about six miles south of the church, near the Kyles of Bute. The herring-fishing on Loch Fine is prosecuted with activity; and upwards of 100 boats belong to the parish, each requiring three men, and producing from £50 to £60 per annum, a sum, however, far inferior to that formerly obtained, and found barely sufficient to meet the heavy expenses. Salmon-fishing is also carried on, in the Kyles of Bute. A post-office was established at Kilfinan about the year 1840, and is subordinate to that at Cairndow, thirty miles distant, with which it communicates three times a week. The roads are all kept in repair by statute labour, and are generally in bad order. There is a small pier at Otter Ferry, which was formerly an important point of transit for the people of this district of Argyllshire, in travelling to the low country; but since the use of steam-boats, it has been almost entirely neglected. Markets for cattle are held in May and October, near the ferry.
   Kilfinan is in the presbytery of Dunoon and synod of Argyll, and in the patronage of Archibald James Lamont, Esq. The minister's stipend is £200, with a manse, a glebe of four arable acres, valued at £8 per annum, and the privilege of grazing on an adjoining farm. The church is situated at a short distance from the head of Kilfinan bay, and, among other objects, commands a good view of Loch Fine, which, in this part, is five or six miles broad. It is a rather inconvenient edifice, low and narrow, supposed to have been built about the beginning of the 17th century; it was roughly repaired in 1759, and is at present underg further, and very considerable, alterations. An additional church, situated at the south end of the parish, was opened in May, 1839, and till lately was supplied by a missionary supported by contributions from the heritors and other parishioners. This church, which is eight miles distant from the parish church, was built by subscriptions from the district and various other quarters, aided by a grant of £174. 10. from the General Assembly's extension committee, making a total of £600, the cost of the edifice. The parochial school affords instruction in the ordinary branches, and in Gaelic; the master has a salary of £34, with the legal accommodations, but £6 of the salary are deducted, and divided between two branch schools. He also receives about £26 fees, and the interest of £95. 10., of which part was bequeathed for this purpose, about a century since, by a member of the Lamont family, and another part by John Lamont, Esq., in 1814. In addition to this school and its branches, in the upper district, there are three in the lower division, but all unendowed, with the exception of a grant of land to one of them by Mr. Lamont. On the border of one of the lochs stand the ruins of an ancient castle, a former residence of the Lamont family, which was destroyed by order of the Marquess of Argyll, in the reign of Charles II. The parish also contains several duns, consisting of rows of circular stones, generally on eminences; and there are remains of numerous cairns.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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