Kilchrenan Parish Church stands on a steep hillside above the road just north of the hamlet of Kilchrenan, some six miles south of Taynuilt and less than a mile from the remote western shore of Loch Awe.
Kilchrenan Parish Church was built by Donald Campbell of Sonachan in 1771. It is probable that the church reused the foundations and possibly some of the structure of an earlier medieval church on the site thought to date back to the 1200s. This earlier church served a parish which included land on both sides of Loch Awe, and in some sources it is referred to as "the Church of Lochaw".
A track leads up to the church, but you are best advised leaving your car in the extended layby beside the single track B845 found just beyond the church if coming from Taynuilt, and from here a set of steps leads up to the church itself. At the right time of year look out for the beautifully sweet wild raspberries growing in the hedgerow beside the road.
Your first clear sight of the church is of the south wall, partly obscured by a burial enclosure that may be built on medieval foundations. In the middle of the south wall a remarkably uneven external stone staircase leads up to to the blank wall of the church, and other signs of change during the life of the church include the outlines of two blocked windows in the south wall.
As originally built, the focal point within the church would have been a pulpit placed mid way along (unusually) the north wall. Pews in the ground floor of the church would have been aligned to face in towards the centre or across the church towards the pulpit. At first floor level there were originally three galleries, at the east and west ends and along the south side. The church is recorded as being in need of urgent repair by 1807, and work carried out then and in 1842 respected the original layout of the building.
The church you see today largely dates back to a major refurbishment undertaken in 1904 by the architect James Edgar. The focus of worship was moved to the east end of the church, and the east and south galleries were removed. The old windows in the south wall, which had been sized to sit below the gallery, were replaced by higher windows, the doorway to the south gallery was blocked, and the set of external stairs at the north east corner was removed. Meanwhile a new door was inserted in the west gable of the church, and a large window was inserted in the east gable.
The churchyard is home to a number of West Highland graveslabs, thought to date back to the 1300s or 1400s though now very indistinct and overgrown by moss and turf. The best are on display near the south east corner of the church. To the north is the rather dumpy McIntyre Monument, but in many ways the most interesting monuments are at the east end of the church. Here you find a graveslab carrying a carved inscription and a sword, which has been set vertically into the gable, while projecting out from its base is a more modern recumbent memorial in polished stone, also carrying a large sword and an inscription.
Most sources suggest that the vertical graveslab dates back to the 1500s, and that the inscription translates from the Latin as "Collinus, son of Angus, made it". What we've not seen mentioned anywhere is the fairly obvious thought that the recumbent memorial was intended to be a more modern interpretation of the older graveslab immediately above it. The inscription on the recumbent memorial reads: "Cailean Mor, slain on the Streang of Lorne, A.D. 1294. Erected by George Douglas Campbell, 8th Duke of Argyll, Baron of Lochow, 1866." In other words, although the vertically positioned graveslab may only date back to the 1500s, it seems clear that the 8th Duke of Argyll believed it was much older, and that it commemorated Cailean Mór ("Big Colin"), also known as Sir Colin Campbell.
Cailean Mór was an ancestor of the Dukes of Argyll who held a royal appointment as Ballie of Loch Awe. He was killed in 1294 at what is referred to as the Battle of Red Ford or the Battle of the String of Lorne. This was fought over a land dispute between Clan Campbell and Clan MacDougall at a location which probably lies in the remote upland area between Loch Avich and Loch Scammadale, some seven miles south west of Kilchrenan Parish Church.
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Grid Ref: NN 036 229