On the banks of Loch Awe sits one of the most peculiar churches in Scotland. Designed and built by Walter Campbell, a visit to St Conan’s Kirk will take you on an extraordinary journey through almost every era of Scottish architecture.
Towards the end of the 19th century, Walter and his family moved into a grand mansion on the small island of Innis Chonain. With a beautiful house on a serene loch, this was the perfect place for a quiet life. The only problem was that Walter’s elderly mother found it difficult to travel all the way to Dalmally every Sunday for the church service. Her son couldn’t move their house any closer to the church, so he did the next best thing.
A small church was built nearby to suit his mother’s immediate needs, but Walterwasn’t going to settle for such an ordinary building. He set about embellishing and expanding St Conan’s Kirk to include architectural features from different periods of Scottish church building. Norman and Saxon towers lead into Medievaland Gothic features. Walter was fast forwarding his modern church through all ofthe centuries that it had missed.
St Conan’s made up for its young age by incorporating historic materials into the fabric of the building. Stonework was recycled from the old church at Inchinnan, ornate windows were brought from both the holy island of Iona and South Leith Parish Church. Great granite boulders were collected from nearby Ben Cruachan and oak beams were even included from two salvaged Royal Navy warships.
To add to St Conan’s embracement of history, a chapel containing an effigy of King Robert the Bruce was included in the design. A fragment of the King’s boneis kept alongside the carving as if this was a medieval cathedral and the monarch was a saint. The chapel commemorates the Battle of the Pass of Brander that took place just a few miles away.