History of Argyll & The Isles

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Argyll & The Isles is Scotland’s birthplace, where ancient kings were crowned in castles and forts which can still be visited today. No matter what part of this fascinating region you find yourself, you are bound to discover legendary tales which make this part of Scotland a pleasure to explore.

Discover Oban’s rich history and how it played an important part in the Second World War at the Oban War & Peace Museum. The ancient stronghold of Dunollie Castle is also a great place to find out about Argyll & The Isles' fascinating heritage, as is Bonawe Iron Furnace found close to Loch Etive.

Spend time on magical Mull, where you can explore colourful seafront buildings and a rich history at Mull Museum.

A short ferry ride from Mull is Iona, a spiritual isle considered to be Scotland’s ‘cradle of Christianity’. Explore the ancient Iona Abbey before learning about the Pictish heritage, which is still visible in a fascinating collection of carved stones.

On Islay you’ll find a striking Round Church at Bowmore, built in a circle in 1769 so that the devil couldn’t hide in a corner. Also in Bowmore is the oldest legal distillery on Islay, and one of the oldest in Scotland, set up by John Simpson in 1779.

Explore the Kintyre Peninsula via the idyllic Crinan Canal, a great way to explore the founding lands of Scotland. Discover the origins of a proud nation at the remains of Dunadd Fort, where the Dalriadic kings were crowned and the early Scottish nation was forged. Kilmartin Glen is home to the highest concentration of prehistoric rock art in Europe including cup-and-ring marks. There are more than 800 ancient monuments nearby Kilmartin, including burial cairns, rock carvings and standing stones.

In mid Argyll you can visit the magnificent Inveraray Castle, seat of the Campbell Clan and home to stunning gardens and a delicious tearoom. Take a tour round Inveraray Jail, where you can meet the warden, a prisoner and other costumed interpreters.

On the Isle of Bute is Mount Stuart, a dramatic Victorian gothic mansion which reflects the interests of the 3rd Marquess of Bute – astrology, religion and beautiful art. Step inside where the true splendour is revealed in the marble hall and staircase, horoscope room and breathtaking chapel.

A great way to explore Argyll & The Isles’ mesmerising history is at the many heritage and outdoor events held throughout the year. The Cowal Highland Gathering is known as the world’s premier Highland games, inviting competitors to Dunoon to take part in Highland dancing, pipe band contests and heavy athletics.

Why not read our history timeline of Argyll & The Isles? You can discover some of the region’s key moments including the beginning of Christianity in Scotland and the Second World War.

  • An artist painting at her easel at Ardminish Bay on Isle of Gigha, Argyll & The Isles
    An artist painting at her easel at Ardminish Bay, Isle of Gigha
  • Looking across the stage to competitors participating in the Highland Dancing at the Cowal Games in Dunoon, Argyll & Isles
    Competitors participating in the Highland dancing Competition at the Cowal Games in Dunoon
  • Looking throught the arches of the Cloisters to a sculpture in the restored Iona Abbey, Argyll & The Isles
    Looking throught the arches of the Cloisters to a sculpture in Iona Abbey
  • Looking over Loch Fyne to the ruins of Castle Lachlan on Lachlan Bay, Argyll & The Isles
    Castle Lachlan on Lachlan Bay at Loch Fyne
  • Castle House Museum set in beautiful gardens in Dunoon, Argyll & The Isles
    Castle House Museum set in beautiful gardens in Dunoon
A lone piper photographed in the evening sunshine framed against blue skye

Heritage and outdoor events

Soak up local history by taking part in the diverse outdoor and heritage events in Argyll & The Isles.

Inveraray Castle, Argyll

Historic attractions

Visit the historic attractions of Argyll & The Isles to get a real sense of the region’s mesmerising past.

Iona Abbey, Isle of Iona

History timeline

Follow this history timeline of Argyll & The Isles, where Christianity originated and castles stand guard on the coastline.