Dunoon and Kilmun

   DUNOON and KILMUN, a parish, in the district of Cowal, county of Argyll, 7½ miles (W. by S.) from Greenock; containing 4211 inhabitants. The early history of this parish is involved in great obscurity, and rests chiefly on tradition. Its castle, of which neither the date nor the founder is distinctly known, anciently belonged to the hereditary high stewards of Scotland, to whom Malcolm gave a grant of lands in the district in the eleventh century. During the contested succession to the throne, the castle was besieged by Baliol, to whom it surrendered in 1333; but in the following year it was re-captured by Robert Bruce, and placed under the custody of the Campbells, ancestors of the Argyll family, who were appointed hereditary constables, and also lords of Cowal. The Earl of Lennox, while seeking to become regent of the kingdom, appeared in the Clyde with a fleet, in 1554, and, having made himself master of Rothesay, proceeded to this place, and laid siege to the castle, which was held by his powerful opponent, Archibald, Earl of Argyll, whom he compelled to retreat with severe loss. In 1563, Mary, Queen of Scots, paid a visit to the Countess of Argyll, in her progress through the west, and, during her residence here, granted several charters to the inhabitants of the district, which are still extant. The castle continued in the possession of the earls of Argyll till the end of the seventeenth century, since which time it has been suffered to fall into ruin: the remains consist only of part of one of the towers, in a dilapidated state, affording but a very inadequate idea of the original buildings, which appear to have covered an acre of ground. Kilmun, formerly a separate parish, is supposed to have derived its name from the erection of a church dedicated to St. Mun near the shore of the Holy loch, upon the spot where a stranded vessel from the Holy Land, laden with consecrated earth for the foundation of the cathedral of Glasgow, deposited what portion of her cargo could be saved from the wreck. A collegiate church was subsequently founded here, and endowed for a provost and six prebendaries in 1442, by Sir Duncan Campbell, of Lochawe, first lord of Argyll, and grandfather of Colin Campbell, the first earl; the only portion now entire is the square tower, about forty feet in height.
   Dunoon is bounded on the south and east by the Frith of Clyde, and Kilmun by Loch Long on the east, and partly by the Holy loch, an inlet from the Frith, which on the south separates a portion of it from Dunoon: the districts were united about the year 1660, and are together 24 miles in length and from two to nine in breadth, comprising 144 square miles. The surface is boldly varied with hills and valleys, and towards the shores of the Clyde, along the greater part of it, slopes gently to a level plain; the interior is intersected with several mountainous ridges in various directions, of which that forming part of the range of hills in the vicinity of Benmore is the most elevated. These ranges are the boundaries of some extensive valleys which they inclose between their steep acclivities, and of which the principal are, Strath-Echaig, about two miles in breadth, and extending for nearly four miles to Loch Eck, which thence forms its continuation for about seven miles; Glenfinart, three miles in length, and, like the former, richly wooded; and Glenmassan; all abounding with romantic scenery. Numerous mountain streams, many of them having pleasing cascades, traverse the parish; but the only one that can be called a river is the Echaig, which issues from Loch Eck, and, after a course of about four miles through the vale of Echaig, in which it receives the Massan and another stream, falls into the Holy loch. Loch Eck, of which about one-half is within the parish, is nearly seven miles in length, and half a mile broad; the banks are precipitous and well wooded, and the scenery around beautifully diversified. The soil is generally a light sandy loam of no great depth, and in some parts of the valleys deeper and of richer quality. The crops are, oats, a very little barley, potatoes, and turnips; wheat was formerly raised but has been abandoned: the pastures are good, and great attention is paid to live stock. The system of agriculture is improved; the lands in cultivation are well drained, and considerable tracts of waste have been reclaimed and rendered productive. The cattle are of the West Highland breed, with the exception of some of the Ayrshire on the dairy-farms; and the sheep of the black-faced kind, with a few of the Leicestershire and Cheviot breeds. The substrata are chiefly mica and clay slate, sandstone of the old red formation, and in some parts limestone, but of very inferior quality; there are quarries of slate and freestone, but they are not extensively wrought. The rateable annual value of the parish is £15,754.
   The principal seat is Castle Toward, a handsome mansion in the later English style, erected by the late Kirkman Finlay, Esq., and situated in an ample and richly-wooded demesne, commanding extensive and varied prospects. Hafton House is in the Elizabethan style, and beautifully seated on the western shore of the Holy loch, in an extensive park embracing fine views of the Frith. Glenfinart House is a spacious modern building in the old English style, erected on the site of a mansion occupied by the late Earl of Dunmore, on the shore of Loch Long, at the opening of the valley of Glenfinart: Benmore House, Bernice, and the Castle House, near the ancient castle of Dunoon, are also handsome mansions beautifully situated. The village of Dunoon is on the margin of the Clyde, and is much frequented during the summer months by parties on excursions of pleasure; the houses are neatly built, and numerous pleasing villas have been erected. The small village of Kilmun, on the northern shore of the Holy loch, is also a place of favourite resort. Though not recognized as a port, a pier or jetty has been constructed at Dunoon for the accommodation of passengers by the steam-packets which touch at the place; and a substantial quay has also been erected at Kilmun. The only trade is the shipping of cattle, sheep, and agricultural produce, for Liverpool and other English markets; a schooner of eighty tons' burthen was lately built here, and is now employed in the foreign trade. There are post-offices at Dunoon, Kilmun, and Ardentinny, the first having two daily deliveries in winter and three in summer, and the others one delivery each; facility of communication is afforded by good roads, and by the steamers from Glasgow, Greenock, and other ports in the Clyde. Fairs are held on the second Wednesday in January, February, August, and October, and the third Tuesday in November (O. S.).
   The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Dunoon and synod of Argyll. The minister's stipend is £275, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £36.17. per annum; patron, the Duke of Argyll. The church at Dunoon was erected in 1816; it is a handsome structure in the later English style, with a square embattled tower, and since its enlargement in 1834 contains 793 sittings. The present church at Kilmun was erected in 1841; it is also a handsome building, with a tower of loftier elevation than that of the ancient church, which is still remaining. Chapels of ease have been built at Toward and Ardentinny, partly by subscription, aided by grants from the Church Extension fund; they are under the charge of missionaries, who receive from £70 to £90 each from funds subscribed for that purpose. A third missionary has a similar stipend for assisting the minister of the parish, who officiates alternately in each of the two churches. There are places of worship for members of the Free Church and the United Associate Synod. Parochial schools are supported at Dunoon, Kilmun, and Toward; the master of Dunoon has a salary of £30, of Kilmun £25, and of Toward £22, each with a house and garden, in addition to the fees. Two schools are maintained by the General Assembly, of which the masters have salaries of £25 each, one at Dalilongard, and the other at Ardentinny; and a female school of industry, of which the mistress has a salary of £30, with a house and garden, is supported by an association of ladies. There is also a school in connexion with seceders. Some vestiges remain of what is supposed to have been a Roman camp, on the farm of Ardinslat; Druidical remains still exist, and various stone coffins of rude formation, containing skeletons in a perfect state, have been found. There are also ruins of the castle of Toward, the ancient baronial residence of the Lamonts.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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