There is a minor single track road that turns off the B8025 to Tayvallich at the head of Loch Sween, and then follows the south east shore of the loch to Castle Sween, and to Kilmory Knap Chapel. We suspect that very very few of those travelling this road take the turning for the short detour to the hamlet of Kilmichael of Inverlussa, and not just from the evidence of the strip of greenery growing along the centre of the road that leads there.
Kilmichael of Inverlussa comprises a scatter of houses, many now used as holiday lets, together with North Knapdale Parish Church. This is sometimes referred to as Kilmichael Of Inverlussa Parish Church, but we've simply gone for "Inverlussa Church" on the basis of the signboard describing it as such next to the gate into the churchyard.
The church lies towards the top end of the hamlet, and it is possible to park on the broad verge beside the road before making your way into the churchyard. Externally, Inverlussa Church is not the most obviously attractive of churches. It is surprisingly large for the location, and imposingly square. The overall impression is not helped by what seems to be a fairly urgent need of a fresh coat of whitewash.
The interior of the church inevitably reflects the "square box" theme of the exterior, but the warm woodwork used for the pews and ceiling, and to line the lower parts of the walls, gives a much more welcoming feel. It still has the sense, however, of a church built for a different age, when the population of North Knapdale would have been very much larger than it is today. The upper level windows (those on the south wall are now blocked) around three walls of the church suggest that when it was originally built, the interior space was more fully used, with galleries around three sides, all focusing attention on a high level pulpit set between the two long windows on the north wall.
This turns out to be the case. The church was built in 1820, to a design produced by Edinburgh architect Alexander McDougall. The interior seems to have been realigned and the galleries removed at the end of the 1800s, and much of the woodwork you see today was installed in the late 1980s.
Although the church you see today is less than two centuries old, the history of Christianity in the area dates back considerably further. One obvious indication of this is the presence, against an interior wall at the back of the church, of a Christian cross slab dating back to the 700s and originally found within the churchyard. Meanwhile, still in the churchyard, there is at least one recumbent stone that looks as if it long predates the church, though encroaching moss makes the detail difficult to make out.
If this suggests that there was an earlier church on the site of the one built in 1820, then there is evidence nearby of an even older heritage. A quarter of a mile north of the church are the slight remains of an ancient chapel with, nearby, a spring that is referred to as "The Priest's Well".
Visitor InformationView Location on Map
Grid Ref: NR 775 859