Five Argyll attractions that reveal Scotland’s history

Argyll and the Isles is packed with fascinating visitor attractions. From ruined castles to highland townships, you’ll find the landscape dotted with historical sites that tell us a huge amount about Scotland’s past. Visit these five Argyll heritage attractions and Scotland’s rich history will be revealed. Enjoy the journey! These attractions are located amid some of Argyll’s most stunning scenery. 

Iona Abbey

The beautiful Hebridean island of Iona may be small but it played a big role in Scotland’s history. It’s home to Iona Abbey, one of Scotland’s most historic and sacred sites. The abbey was founded by St Columba and his Irish followers in AD 563 and became the cradle of Christianity in Scotland. Iona is also the final resting place for many of the kings of Scotland. Reilig Odhráin, the cemetery that sits next to the Abbey, was a royal burial ground between the 9th and 11th centuries and it’s thought that over sixty kings are buried here. This was a time of struggle between the Picts, Gaels and Vikings; the period that saw the Kingdom of Scotland formed.

Dunadd

If you’re interested in the early history of Scotland, a visit to Dunadd Fort in Kilmartin Glen is a must. It was the royal power centre of the Gaelic kings of Scotland from about AD 500 to AD 800. It lay at the centre of Dalriada, the kingdom that included parts of western Scotland and northeastern Ireland. Near the top of the fort there’s a footprint carved in stone, thought to have been part of the coronation ceremony for the kings of Dalriada.  

Auchindrain

Auchindrain was the last inhabited Highland farm township, communal, tenanted farm settlements that once dotted the Highlands. Modern farming practices and the associated clearances put paid to these places by the hundred, but Auchindrain uniquely survived. It’s the most complete and well-preserved example that you can visit today. Explore the longhouses, byres, stables and fields. The experience of wandering through the site will give you a fascinating insight into a lost way of life and an understanding of Scotland’s rural history.

Inveraray Jail

Inveraray Jail is a fascinating example of a Scottish Victorian prison. Step back in time to experience what life was like for the men, women and children that were locked up here. Life in Inveraray Jail’s Old Prison was full of hardship. It was cold, damp and dark, and disease, violence and hunger were rife. This all changed with the Prison Reform Act of 1839. Built in 1848, the New Prison was a model prison in its day, with twelve individual cells, a water closet on every floor, a washroom, heating and lighting. For the first time female prisoners at were given their own cells, away from men. Food was provided for free and all physically fit prisoners had to work in their cells for up to ten hours a day. Inveraray Jail tells an absorbing story of an important period of reform in Scotland.

Crinan Canal

The Crinan Canal is a nine-mile waterway steeped in history. Opened in 1801, it's one of Scotland’s most enduring feats of engineering. Linking Ardrishaig on Loch Fyne and Crinan on the west coast, it opened up an important transport route between the west coast and the industrial heartland of Scotland, cutting out the need to go around the Mull of Kintyre. Clyde puffers, small coal-fired cargo ships, used to steam up and down the canal delivering supplies. Today, you can take a trip up the canal onboard the Vic 32, a refurbished puffer. Take a walk or cycle along the canal path, passing harbours, locks and bridges and catch a glimpse of the canal’s past.