Rosneath Peninsula West Coast Heritage Trail
This fantastic trail celebrates Rosneath Peninsula’s remarkable Victorian heritage, highlighting the architecture of Cove and Kilcreggan.
In 1848 the 8th Duke of Argyll feued (the right to the use of land in return for a fixed annual payment) the south and west coasts of the Rosneath peninsula for housing developments and built steamer piers at Cove, Kilcreggan and Coulport to encourage the project. Feus were quickly taken-up and in the following decade many prestigious villas and castles were built as summer residences for Victorian Glasgow’s well-to-do businessmen.
Cove and Kilcreggan is thought to have the largest concentration of Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson-attributed architecture outside Glasgow, and Historic Scotland’s website lists a remarkable total of 88 listed buildings in this small area. Follow the trail to discover Kilcreggan’s Pier, the Thomson-designed Dhualt bridge, Knockderry House Hotel, several of the Victorian mansions which are such a feature of the area and more. As well as Thomson, there’s information about architects Campbell Douglas, James Chalmers, James Sellars, John Honeyman, William Leiper and William Motherwell.
You can download the Rosneath Peninsula West Coast Heritage Trail leaflet or pick up copies locally, including Cove Shop, Cove Burgh Hall, Cove Library, Knockderry House Hotel, the Commodore Hotel in Helensburgh, the Ardencaple Hotel in Rhu and Helensburgh Railway Station.
The trail is about 4.5 miles long. You can create a longer loop by following a forest track back to Kilcreggan.
Kilcreggan to Cove
Start your heritage trail at Kilcreggan Pier, where you’ll find car parking. It’s a scenic 16-mile drive from Helensburgh to Kilcreggan Pier via the A814 and B833. The first essential requirement in the plan to feu the area was to provide good transport links. Kilcreggan pier was opened in 1850 and was described as “a substantial pier with commodious waiting-rooms and other conveniences”. It’s the oldest wooden pier on the Clyde still in regular use and still has the original signal discs dating from 1888 which regulated the order of steamers racing for the pier. In its heyday up to 39 ferries a day would call here.
Kilcreggan village comprises five blocks of houses with shops at ground level. The first tenement was built in 1876. Donaldson Brae leads up to Kilcreggan Hotel originally called Woodbine, the summer residence of Peter Donaldson who was an iron and steel merchant from Glasgow. His uncle built Heathfield further east on Argyll Road.
Head west along Shore Road until you reach the Italianate Auchendarroch and next to it the small Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson villa, Ardsloy. Continuing west, the Victorian rock art on the shore was re-painted in 1922 to celebrate Tutankhamen and named Tut-tut. At the east end of Silver Bay are four identical villas originally named after the royal houses of Windsor, Holyrood, Carleton and Claremont although Windsor and Carleton were renamed Rockliffe and Lovedale.
Shortly before School Road and set back against the cliff is the Italianate Balgair. Beyond School Road Glentrae is a mirror image of Ardsloy. Some of the next houses were named after hymn tunes, Winton, Greenhill, Kenilworth, St Vincent Park and Rockingham. Just a bit further along, you’ll find Cove Burgh Hall, one of Chalmers early works and his first public building. His work is typified by classical, Arts and Crafts and Glasgow Style. Between Cove Burgh Hall and North Ailey Road are four villas which include Kirklea and Glen Eden. A little bit further on still is South Ailey Road. On the right are the gate piers for Hartfield Castle, which was demolished in 1967. On the left is Craigrownie Castle in Scots Baronial Style attributed to Thomson. Further up on the left is Craig Ailey, one of the first Thomson villas being built in 1851. Shortly before reaching Cove Village is Cragowlet, four apartments designed by Thomson.
Cove Village to Barbour Cemetry
Cove Village is a series of tenement-type buildings built in 1876 with shops on the ground floor. North Ailey Road leads up to Barbour Road for scenic walks. This was the original peninsula highway.
Carry in walking along Shore Road towards Cove Bay and you’ll pass Clevedon, once the home of the Cayzer family, owners of the Clan Shipping Line. The houses along Cove Bay are imposing Victorian villas. Cove Castle, designed by James Sellars in 1867, looks down over the bay. You’ll also find the remains of Cove Pier demolished in 1958. Seymour Lodge built 1850 is an authentic very early Alexander Thomson.
Further on, opposite the car park, a lane leads to The Linn, built in 1859 by W Motherwell for Mr Martin who had a boot and shoe factory in the Vale of Leven. It is now a botanical garden and nursery open to the public. The Dhualt (Dowall) Bridge at the end of the bay was designed c1873 by Thomson. In the vicinity are more distinctive houses. For example Woodside, Armadale and Cragdarroch. Above to the North sits the Thomson designed Knockderry Castle built c1851. During WW2 it was used as a Free French Hospital.
Carry on along Shore Road (take care as there are no pavements on this section), until you see a sign on Shore Road points uphill to Barbour Cemetery. The cemetery contains the graves and impressive monuments to many notable families of the Victorian era who lived here.
Retrace your steps or follow Peaton Road up to Peaton Hill near Peaton Community Nature Reserve where you can pick up the forestry track that will bring you all the way back to Kilcreggan. The views are magnificent.