Knapdale, South

   KNAPDALE, SOUTH, a parish, in the district and county of Argyll, 13 miles (N. by W.) from Tarbert; containing, with a portion of the quoad sacra district of Lochgilphead, 2223 inhabitants. The Gaelic term that gives name to this place consists of the two words knap, a hill, and daill, a plain, field, or dale, and is descriptive of the general appearance of the surface, which is marked by numerous hills and dales. The parish was formed at the same time as that of North Knapdale, in 1734. It is bounded on the east by Loch Fine, and on the west by the sound of Jura, a large arm of the Atlantic Ocean; and is computed to be about twenty miles in length, and in one part half that breadth, comprising chiefly tracts appropriated as sheep-walks and to the pasturage of black-cattle, the soil and climate being alike unfriendly to extensive agricultural operations. The parish approximates in form to a peninsula. On the south-east is a small loch, a branch of Loch Fine, called East Loch Tarbert, and having only the narrow isthmus of Tarbert between it and West Loch Tarbert, which latter borders the parish also on the south-east, and joins the Atlantic at the southern extremity of South Knapdale. The parish is washed on the west, as already stated, by the sound of Jura, its coast extending northward to Loch Chaolis-port, or Killisport, an arm of the sound, running into the land in a north-eastern direction for five or six miles; and thus the parish is almost encompassed by water, rendering it a peninsula, of which Loch Fine is the eastern boundary. The shore of the sound is marked by several bays.
   The north-western coast of Loch Killisport is much indented, and abrupt and rocky; but the south-eastern shore is gradual in its ascent. Both sides are richly ornamented with copse wood; and excellent anchorage is found in several of its bays, for vessels seeking refuge from the swell of the south-west and other gales. The shelter is especially good within Ellanfada, at the head of the loch, where the north winds are broken by the hills rising in that direction in the form of an amphitheatre. The islands of Ellanfada, Ellan-na-Muick, and Lea-Ellan, with others, are situated in the loch; and off the point of Knap, at the extremity of its north-western shore, is a dangerous rock called Bow-Knap, the summit of which is seen only at low water during spring tides. Near the north-west coast, also, is Ellan-na-Leek; besides which there are the islands of Ellan-More, Ellan-na-Gamhna, and Core-Ellan, all celebrated for the excellent beef and mutton produced on their pastures. The waters of the loch afford abundance of fish, comprising salmon, trout, whiting, ling, seethe, haddock, skate, halibut, turbot, flounders, and occasionally the John-Dory. Herrings formerly visited it, and large numbers were caught; but they are now seldom seen here in any quantity. Loch Fine is their chief resort in this part of the country; and between forty and fifty boats belonging to the parish are engaged in the fishery there during the season, each, in a prosperous time, making about £70.
   The interior of the parish is hilly and mountainous. The highest range is that of Sliabh-Ghaoil, stretching from Inverneill to Barnellan, a distance of twelve miles, and the summits of which command beautifully-diversified and extensive prospects, comprehending the Ayrshire coast, Bute, the Cumbray isles, and the serrated peaks of Arran, with Cantyre and Ireland, the isles of Rathlin, Scarba, Mull, and Jura, and many other interesting objects, both near and far. The heights also embrace a view of the Kyles of Bute, the mouth of the Clyde, the sound of Kilbrannan, the channel towards Ireland, West Loch Tarbert, the sound of Jura, Loch Fine, and other waters. Parallel with Sliabh-Ghaoil run subordinate ranges, with intermediate valleys traversed by numerous streams, of which those named Ormsary and Loch-head are celebrated for their fine trout. Salmon-trout, also, of good quality, are found in the different inland lakes, four or five in number. Some portions of the parish are subject to tillage; the farms are of small size, and the usual crops are, oats, bear, barley, peas, beans, turnips, clover, and rye-grass, with potatoes, the last raised in considerable quantities, and exported. The average rent of land, however, does not exceed one shilling per acre, in consequence of the very large proportion of moor pasture. On some of the best farms, the tenements and offices have been recently much improved; and on one estate a threshing-mill, worked by water, and at present the only one in the parish, has been erected. The sheep are all of the black-faced kind; and the black-cattle, many of which are of superior quality, and have obtained prizes at the cattle-shows in the district, are the West Highland. The wood, which is partly natural and partly planted, and of considerable extent, comprises oak, ash, birch, hazel, and holly, larch, spruce-fir, ash, beech, plane and willow: some of the plantations are of recent growth, and very flourishing. The rateable annual value of the parish is £5777. The mansion of Ormsary, one of the principal seats, is a beautiful residence, with a fine garden and shrubbery, from which plantations are intended to be continued in clumps to the north, and in belts to the shore on the south, for the shelter of this agreeable locality. The parish also contains the mansions of Inverneill, Erines, Drimdrissaig, and Achindarroch, the last situated on the bank of the Crinan canal, and surrounded with ornamental grounds; and a spacious mansion has been built at Barmore.
   An excellent road runs from Daill, the north-eastern extremity of the parish, to Barnellan, in the south, and for about twelve miles is called the Sliabh-Ghaoil road, on account of its route along the eastern base of the hilly range of that name. It was constructed with much labour and difficulty, under the superintendence, and by the persevering exertions, of Sheriff Campbell, and has proved of eminent service to this parish, as well as to several others, offering the only inland means of communication between the peninsula of Cantyre and the other parts of Argyllshire. The Crinan canal, begun in 1793, by a company, under an act of parliament obtained for that purpose, commences at the loch and village from which it takes its name, in the parish of Kilmartin, and, after a south-eastern course of nine miles, falls into the Loch Gilp branch of Loch Fine, in the north of this parish. It is a convenient and safe channel for vessels plying between the West Highlands and the Clyde: by it the dangerous course round the Mull of Cantyre is avoided; and it has been found highly beneficial to the coasting and fishing trade, for whose use it was chiefly designed. At its opening into Loch Gilp, a village has been formed since the commencement of the canal; it is called Ardrissaig, and contains about 400 people, who are chiefly supported by the herring-fishery: 100 boats are frequently in the harbour during the season of the fishery; and there is also much traffic by means of the Glasgow steamers, three of which in summer, and one in winter, arrive at the port daily, for the conveyance of goods and cattle, and passengers. The northern parts of the parish chiefly use Lochgilphead, a large village in the parish of Kilmichael-Glassary, as their post-town, and the southern district the village of Tarbert. To the latter place the mail-bag was formerly sent from Lochgilphead daily, upon its arrival from Inverary; but it is now despatched by steam from Ardrissaig, a change productive of some inconvenience. The village of Tarbert, situated partly in the parish, affords means to those residing in the south for the disposal of their produce; those in the north generally resort to Lochgilphead.
   The parish is in the presbytery of Inverary and synod of Argyll, and in the patronage of the Crown: the minister's stipend is £159, with a manse, and a glebe of fourteen acres, valued at £10 per annum. There are two churches, the one situated at Achoish, and the other at Inverneill, both built about the year 1775, and repaired a few years since; they are seated respectively for 212 and 300 persons. The incumbent formerly officiated at these churches alternately; but, since the erection of a church at Lochgilphead in 1828, and the annexation of Ardrissaig, and some parts adjacent, to the district of that church, he has performed public worship at Inverneill every third Sabbath only. There are four parochial schools, affording instruction in English and Gaelic reading, and the other branches of a plain education; and at two of the schools instruction is given in Latin, geography, and navigation. The masters each receive a salary of £12. 12., but no allowance is made to any of them for dwelling-house or ground; their fees amount respectively to £20, £8, £12, and £7. There is also an Assembly's school, the master of which is indebted for a house and some ground, and for the school-house, to the munificence of Mrs. Campbell, of Ormsary. The remains of three ancient chapels are still visible, one of which, in Ellan-More, was built by Mac-O-Charmaig; it is arched over, and in good preservation; and in the recess of the wall is a stone coffin, with the figure of a man cut on the lid. The same saint founded the church of Kilvic-O-Charmaig, the mother church of the two Knapdales, and, after many acts of devotion, was buried in his own island, where his tomb is yet to be seen. At Cove is a chapel in ruins, built, according to tradition, by St. Columba, before he took his departure for Iona to found his seminary there; the altar and fount remain in good order, and the former exhibits a well-sculptured cross. Near the Point of Knap is a rock on which was engraved, in Celtic characters, now no longer visible, the charter of the Mc Millans, declaring their right to the lands of South Knapdale, nearly the whole of which they possessed, and retained against the violent attempts of the Mc Neils, a powerful clan in North Knapdale, to wrest the property from them, until the year 1775, when it came by purchase to the Campbell family, who now hold it.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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