History and historic buildings in Strachur and District

Strachur Church before 1930Strachur

Strachur, the parish name before it became the village name, gets its name from being the strath of the River Cur and was the home of the Fergusson Clan. There is dispute about the derivation of "Cur" but the majority view is that it comes from the gaelic for heron. The earlier name of the village or clachan was Kilmaglas. This means ‘the church of St. Maglas' and, although this Celtic saint is obscure, the church site dates from the time of St. Columba or just after. A burial ground at Bernice on the east side of Loch Eck is well worth visiting to see the grave of a recent chief of the Fergussons.

The pass at Strachur is not just the lowest pass between Loch Fyne and the Clyde, but the lowest through the great mountain range, ‘the spine of Alba' that runs up the west side of Scotland. The south end of the parish around Dreip was the boundary area between the ancient kingdoms of Dalriada (Irish settlers) and Strathclyde (Ancient British). This accounts for the numerous duns or forts to be found in the area. Much later the area came under the hegemony of the Campbells.

Strachur Smiddy Museum, Cowal, ArgyllStrachur Smiddy Museum and Craft Shop

Strachur Smiddy is open as a small museum with a craft shop in the heart of the old clachan. It has a long history, at least since the 1790s, and it continued to perform a vital function in the community until it closed in the mid-1950s. The Smiddy at Strachur is probably unique in two respects. Firstly, for most of its operational life, it was in the hands of the Montgomery family, spanning four generations of village blacksmiths. Secondly, the contents remained virtually untouched from the day it closed until its restoration as a museum, so that it provides a unique record of the technology of the blacksmith and his craft.
As a museum, the Smiddy offers the visitor an interesting reminder of times past. For the young visitor, the implements, artefacts and photographs on display provide a valuable aid to learning and give a realistic insight into an important aspect of Scotland's rural history. Occasional open days include demonstrations of the smith's craft.
Go to the web site: www.strachursmiddy.org.uk

 

New Castle Lachlan, StrathlachlanStrathlachlan

Five miles to the south of Strachur on the B8000 one runs into the pleasant, deciduous wooded valley of Strathlachlan, ancestral home of Clan Lachlan. Driving down the single-track road, past the Church, past the ruins of Kilmorie Chapel, one debouches onto Lachlan Bay at Inver Cottage restaurant. From here one can look west to Old Castle Lachlan, 15th Century stronghold of the Chiefs of the Clan until 1746.

This castle was abandoned after the death of the 14th Chief at Culloden and in the 1790s a new castle was built half a mile to the north. This Georgian house with Victorian modifications is today the home of the 25th Chief, Euan Maclauchlan of Maclachlan and his family. Indeed, part of the Castle is available as highly prestige holiday accommodation.

Between these two castles may be seen Kilmorie Chapel, burial place of the Chiefs for 500 years. The Lachlan Trust, supported by Clan members, Historic Scotland, and the Heritage Lottery Fund is currently engaged on a £100,000 scheme to consolidate the walls as a memorial to the 24th Chief Margory Maclachlan of Maclachlan.

Half a mile further north, opposite the old Smiddy and Inn at Garbhalt (now derelict) is the Church of Scotland which contains, along with other memorials, the White Ensign and Union Flag flown by HMS Royal Oak at the surrender of the German fleet at Scarpa Flow in 1918 when she was commanded by Captain Crawford Maclachlan, the 23rd Chief's brother.

Still further up the Strath stands the Strathlachlan Community Centre, which, until 1975 functioned as a single teacher school for the children of Strathlachlan, Newton and Leachd.

For more information on Clan Maclachlan visit www.clan-maclachlan.org.uk
For more information about Old Castle Lachlan visit www.oldcastlelachlan.comFor more information about the churches and chapels, visit www.faithincowal.org/places-for-pilgrims/

More about the history of Strachur and District on the web site of the Strachur & District Local History Society at www.strachurdlhs.org.uk

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Website text and photos: © Strachur Memorial Hall Committee