St Conan’s Kirk sits on the shore of Loch Awe, Scotland’s longest Loch. As well a creating amazing views to and from St Conan’s, there is a lot to see and do on Loch Awe.
Loch Awe Geography
Only 36m above sea level the waters of Loch awe used to flow to the south, but now flows to the west. The loch is 25 miles (41km) long and the longest loch in Scotland. The route driving around Loch Awe is over 60 miles and for many miles the road is single track and quite undulating.
The level of Lochawe is affected by the River Orchy which drains a large area of West Scotland all the way to Rannoch Moor and flows into the North east end of Loch Awe. The outflow is through the Pass of Brander into the River Awe. There is a barrage that diverts water to the Inverawe hydro scheme generating up to 30.5 Mw of electricity.
Loch Awe is home to Cruachan Hydro scheme. This amazing plant pumps the water from Loch Awe several hundred metres up to a small Loch below Ben Cruachan where it is stored and can allowed to flow back to Loch Awe to generate power when needed. A visitor centre allows access to the giant cavern that houses the generators. Loch Awe is so big the level of Loch Awe only changes by 25mm (one inch) when filling or empty the high level reservoir.
Loch Awe History
The South End of Loch Awe lies only 7 miles from Dun Add Fort, the historic fort where kings of the ancient Scottish kingdom of Dal Riata were crowned. This area has been inhabited since the Iron age.
Loch Awe has 4 castles, Kilchurn castle, Innes Chonnel, Fraoch Eileen and Fincharn Castle. Innes Chonnel and Froach Eileen are on islands). Innes Chonnel was the original seat of Clan Campbell until the 15th Century, whose slogan “Cruachan!” refers to the mountain Ben Cruachan that sits at the north end of Loch Awe
The Pass of Brander at the West end of Loch Awe was the site of a battle in 1308 (or 1309) fought (and won) by Robert the Bruce during the Scottish wars of independence.
There used to be a ferry connecting the middle of Loch Awe from Portsonachan to Taycreggan which is only 500 metres wide. Often cattle would swim the crossing when being taken to market.
The arrival of the station in 1880 at the north end of Loch Awe led to steam ships beginning to ply the loch, delivering supplies and allowing people to people to build grand mansions. Although no steamships serve Loch Awe a miniature steamer can sometimes be seen!
Loch Awe and Artists
Loch Awe, especially the ruins of Kilchurn castle have inspired numerous painters including Turner.
Loch Awe Fishing and Boating
The largest pike caught in Loch Awe was 35.5 Lbs. In his book: Angling and Art in Scotland (1908) Ernest E Briggs spends a chapter detailing his experience fishing Loch Awe. The whole book is available here (very large file) but to read the Loch Awe section click here or the click the image below.
There is a fish farm at the north end of Loch Awe which contains thousands of Rainbow trout. Rainbow trout are not native to Loch Awe anglers are encouraged to not return any rainbow trout. which have escaped from the fish farm.
Loch Awe can be dangerous and needs to be treated with respect. Following fatal accidents on Loch Awe Lochwatch was formed to enable local residents to keep an eye out for trouble and raise an alarm. A fast vessel run by volunteers can provide aid.
Loch Awe is now part of the 3 lochs kayaking challenge and welcomes thousand of people each year prepared to canoe or kayak the 24 mile length of the loch, either in one tough day or over 2 or even 3 days.
Loch Awe Wildlife
Some of the more common sights around or on Loch Awe are: Ospreys, Deer, red Squirrel and even Golden Eagles in the mountains above the loch.
Loch Awe Maps
To get the most from your visit the 1:50,000 Ordnance Landranger . South end is in the map titledLochgilphead and Loch Awe #55 / North End is in te map Glen Orchy and Loch Etive #50. You can access OS maps online at : walk highlands (in this case showing a route to Ben Cruachan but can move the map to cover all of Loch Awe).
Loch Awe Walks
The amazing walk highlands site has many Walks around the Loch Awe area and is highly recommended. To the north of the loch are four munro’s (mountains over 914metres/3000 feet high). To the south the hills are more low lying but include access to lovely walks in Glen Nant and Loch Avich.
Loch Awe Islands
Loch Awe has many Islands including Innis Chonnain, which had the home of the Walter Douglas Campbell, the founder of St Conan’s Kirk. As well as Islands there are number of Crannogs (man made or partially man-mde Islands unique to Scotland) on Loch Awe.
Loch Awe Historic Buildings
The highlight of any visit to Loch Awe is a visit to our own St Conan’s Kirk but there are many other buildings. We mentioned the castles earlier however the Chapel on Inishail (an Island) is very tranquil.
Loch Awe Accommodation
There are many places to stay with a view of Loch Awe. Most are rural or in small towns and villages. Some of our favourites are: Ben Cruachan Inn in the village of Lochawe and local to St Conan’s Kirk. Corrie Bank B&B is only 200metres from teh Kirk and offers B&B accommodation. Nearby hotels include Glen Orchy Lodge Hotel in Dalmally, Brander Lodge near Bridge of Awe and the lovely Ardanaiseig hotel can be seem across the Loch from St Conan’s Kirk . There are many self catering houses on Loch Awe for longer stays.