The Highland Parish Church is a strangely retiring building standing at the very top of Campbeltown's New Quay Street. Its belfry dominates the upper part of the street, but its fairly tight location and the encroachment into any view of it by trees means you need to get up close to gain any real sense of the building itself.
The Highland Parish Church was built between 1803 and 1807 to serve Campbeltown's Gaelic-speaking Highland population. They had previously attended services at a cruciform church built lower in the town on Kirk Street in 1642, but by 1800s this was in need of replacement: and added impetus was probably given when the imposing Castlehill Church was built for the town's Lowland (Scots-speaking) population in 1780.
Designed by the Greenock architect, George Dempster, the Highland Parish Church is a two storey building that is slightly wider than it is long.
Classical in style (like the Castlehill Church) the main building is five bays wide and four deep, though the design is made a little more complex by the two stair towers that broaden the front face of the building. As originally designed it had a belfry above the centre of its front face, but this was not imposing enough for the congregation, so a steeple was built instead. This had to be rebuilt after a lightning strike in 1830, and the belfry you see today replaced it in 1885.
Internally the church was built as a preaching box intended to ensure that the eyes and ears of every member of the congregation were focused on the minister in the pulpit, which stood against the centre of the north-west wall of the church. The interior you see today dates back to 1885, though the addition of an organ in 1954 meant that the pulpit was brought forward further into the body of the church.
The church is laid out on two floors. On the ground floor, seating faces in from the sides towards the pulpit, or forwards from the rear of the church towards it. A series of cast iron columns support the upper floor, which is a horseshoe-shaped gallery, with all seating again facing in towards the focal point of the church, the pulpit.