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NR934788 – Kilfinan Church is a wonderfully well kept church in a quiet rural village just north of Portavadie Marina. It marks the westernmost point of our Cowal Pilgrimage. It’s an active church and is part of West Cowal Churches. Kilfinan has an impressive lapidarium of ancient carved stones, some of which are thought to date as early as the sixth century, and a wee room at the back – entrance beneath the bellcote – with more information and local historical artefacts. The churchyard is sprawling and diverse with so much to see, from ancient headstones to crumbling ruins and a gated burial enclosure. Not to mention the rich colours and varieties of lichen and moss, which are a testament to the pure air quality we have in Scotland.
The church sits in the centre of Kilfinan village, directly opposite the community hall, and is easy to find. Simply follow the B8000 south from Kilmodan, perhaps stopping for a bite to eat in the the beautiful villages of Tignabruaich or Kames, and the road will eventually loop back north; towards Kilfinan*. There’s space to park a car or minibus outside the community hall at ///forgives.undivided.exit, and the church is open during daylight hours.
Outside of the community hall is a ‘Discovering Cowal’ information board; these boards are dotted around Cowal and are remnants of a previous initiative to boost heritage tourism in Argyll. Others on our trail can be found at Inverchaolain and near Cairndow. Although they’re dated, they’re still quite interesting and informative. This one directs you to hunt for a particular gravestone, and a ruined sundial in the churchyard.
Crossing the road and entering the church, you’ll discover a simple interior unusual in it’s length. The exposed wooden beams are dark-stained, but the pews are a much lighter shade of rosy brown, and the windows let in a lot of light. There’s a visitor book inside the church, please do sign it – it lets people know their work in maintaining this rural gem is appreciated – and if you could also mention this website, we would be most grateful. There should also be a full compliment of leaflets giving more detailed information on each of our pilgrim sites. These were written by Dr Gilbert Markus, and are very interesting in their own right; much of the information they contain is not actually duplicated online.
Two streams join together just behind Kilfinan Church, and this makes strolling around the churchyard a more pleasurable experience as the sound of rushing water permeates the space. To the north side of the church is the lapidarium; housing carved stones from the early Christian period, and some medieval stones carved in the style of Iona.
There are two entrances to the gallery; the ground level entrance allows you to view the stones up close, whereas the staircase to the upper level entrance leads to a mezzanine floor. Here you can view some of the stones from above, as well as reading about each of the stones on information boards placed to mimic the location of the stones beneath them. In here you’ll also find a glass case containing human remains, unearthed during refurbishment of the gallery, and one containing a stone depicting what is thought to be a sheela na gig.
*There is a road running between Kilmodan and Kilfinan, and your sat-nav may direct you this way. However, this road is narrow, twisty and badly surfaced. It is not kind on your suspension. Cyclists may prefer the shorter journey time but, if you’re driving, the road through Tignabruaich is much easier, and affords better views.