St Conan’s Kirk is an inconspicuous church that stood partially hidden in the trees adjacent to the A85 Tyndrum to Oban road on the banks of Loch Awe. In fact we had passed by for many years, as it was truly hidden by copious amounts of trees and we were really never sure what it was, until 2013. On this occasion many of the trees had been felled and there stood a Church, quite a remarkable building, which on stopping the car, I realised with delight was open and what a gem to discover. Not an ancient Kirk, but a truly marvellous one mans dream, of how he wanted his Kirk to look like.
This man, Walter Douglas Campbell, the younger brother of the First Lord Blythswood, bought from the Marquis of Breadalbane, the Island of Innischonam, on Loch Awe, where he built a large house for his Mother, sister Helen and himself. As an architect and builder, he built a simple church for his mother to attend on this site, as it was too far for her to travel to Dalmally, the nearest church. He wasn’t happy with the building that was started in 1881, which took five years to build and was complete in 1886. He then set about on a more grand project that started in 1907, but the slow labour of love that included locally resourced stone from the nearby hillside, rolled down the hill, split and shaped on site took its toll. He died in 1914 and the work was continued by his sister Helen who subsequently died in 1927. The trustees finally finished the project in 1930.
Walter Campbell had an unorthodox approach using styles from as many different generations of architecture that he could possibly use to create a hybrid building of great beauty. I have split the post into two, the interior and exterior, as they each have an enchanting beauty of their own.
One of the most intriguing features of the church is the Bruce Chapel, dominated by a larger-than-life effigy of King Robert Bruce, with the hands and face made of alabaster and the remainder carved from wood.
The effigy of Walter Campbell himself is in St Conval’s CHapel, and both he and his sister are buried in a family vault beneath the chapel.