Amid a dazzling landscape of water and mountains on the west coast of
Scotland sits the town of Lochgilphead. As its name suggests, the town
is near the shores of Loch Gilp, in the district of Argyll and Bute.
And while Lochgilphead is only 50 miles from the metropolitan area of
Glasgow, a traveler must navigate 85 miles of road from point to point
due to the contours of the famous lochs. But then again, the sea is the
reason the ancients picked this site. They found that the sea followed
the line of the river right up to the base of the hill, making it a highly
symbolic location as well as one that could serve as a useful look-out
point in the event of attack.
In fact, it was the area now known as Argyll that became the birthplace
of the new Scottish nation. Around A.D. 500 the tribe of Scotti arrived
from Ireland and established the Kingdom of Dalriada. A hilltop fort at
Dunadd served as their initial capital, and from there the Scottis
expanded their political power, using the fledgling Celtic church as a
means of spreading their spiritual influence as well. In 843, the Dalridian
king, Kenneth MacAlpine, was created the first King of Scots. At the top of
Dunadd Hill you can still see the anointing bowl and a carved footprint,
into which each heir apparent to the Scottish throne would have stepped
while swearing a sacred oath. According to legend, only the foot of a
rightful king of Scotland will fit the imprint.
To the north of Lochgilphead is the Kilmartin Glen, whose ancient landmarks
and cairnsmounds of standing stones erected as memorialscomprise what is
arguably the most important set of prehistoric sites on mainland Scotland,
dating from around 3000 B.C. One of the most striking remnants from this time
is the linear cemetery stretching for some two miles to the south of Kilmartin.
Until the beginning of the 19th century, however, Lochgilphead was just a
small fishing village. Construction in 1801 of the Crinan Canal, whose mouth
lies just south of the town, changed that. The canal was designed to save ships
the long haul around the Mull of Kintyre and to provide direct access to the
North Atlantic. But actually building it was a struggle. The hard rock and the
remote site made it difficult to attract workers, but the pioneer spirit won
through in the end. With the canal, the town began to gain popularity as
a vacation spot for the wealthy. Ironically, however, by the time the canal
was up and running properly, it was no longer technically neededships had
become more powerful and could easily sail around the Mull.
A planned town in similar style to Inveraray and Bowmore on the island of
Islay to the west, Lochgilphead today serves as the administrative center
for Argyll and Bute, and remains one of Scotland's popular tourist destinations.
To learn more about Lochgilphead and the western coast of Scotland, visit: