(By Alistair Smith)
early youth I first saw Loch Long from the inside of a 1920 Morris.
Approaching from the south, through Helensburgh, along the shore of
Gareloch to the lovely old village of Garelochhead, as yet unchanged
by the impact of two world wars. Winding quietly past the head of
the Gareloch the road rises suddenly and very steeply to
Whistlefield, past the old Inn which long ago gave heart to those
who travelled the hill, but alas dispenses of its hospitality no
is left behind us, a stone’s throw and a scene of grandeur unfolds.
Deep in the hollow of majestic mountains, rugged, but softened by
the purple of heather, the soft call of the larch, the deep waters
of Loch Long join Loch Goil to form a picture which never fades. Here
is a perfect blending of sky, Loch and mountain, ageless, romantic.
A thousand years gone, the Norsemen sailed their ships in these
waters, later a galleon of the great armada found its last port.
the summit of the hill, we pass the Railway Station of Whistlefield
and after two miles of switchback road which winds through open
moorland we find ourselves on the top of Finnart Hill with another
magnificent view spread before. Aware to the north is the
‘Cobbler’, mist crowned, and the mountains of Loch Sloy closing in
the steep glen of Loch Long. From where we stand there is no sign
of anything made by man save only the road.
Finnart Hill these days was quite a thing. You engaged low gear and
still hoped the brakes weren’t too tired if it became necessary to
use them, and it generally did. This was in the era before car
manufacturers displayed a red triangle on the rear wing of a car
denoting that four wheel brakes were fitted. The hill, by the way
for a considerable part of its length is steeper than the old ‘Rest
and be Thankful’. Halfway down we run into heavily wooded
countryside, between dykes topped with well cared for hedges and
soon come to the neighbouring estates of Finnart and Arddarroch –
their gate lodges separated by a but a few yards on the right and
left hand sides of the road respectively.
these places at this time were well known for their horticultural
achievements, Arddarroch particularly for its extensive collections
of hybrid Rhododendrons, including many rare Himalayan varieties,
Azaleas, shrubs and a great number of orchids under glass.
first impression I had, and still have, of these twin estates is one
of riotous colour, unexpected paths, stately trees and a feeling of
tranquility as though man's husbandry and art had come to terms of
understanding with the natural grandeur surrounding them.
years later I came to live in this district. The saying,
‘familiarity breeds contempt’ just does not generally apply. At
first I believed my sojourn to be of probable short duration, but it
is now considerably past a quarter of a century since my coming and
still can feel the power of this great valley in all its diversity
of sunshine, storm and rain; like an old friendship it renders
contentment and never wearies with monotony.
residences which form part of these grounds were built in the years
1832 and 1837, Finnart and Arddarroch respectively and have many
architectural features in common. They were built by two gentlemen
who had married sisters. Could it be that the beauty of the sisters
inspired the choice of settings for their homes? It is likely.
Both sites have been obviously carefully selected to take in as much
of the view as possible.
built close to a croft which had been worked for many generations;
the last owner, Donald Fraser, having left his mark in the form of
an inscribed stone to commemorate the laying of the road by the Duke
of Argyll. This stone is still in good shape and can be seen in its
original setting in the wall opposite Arddarroch Lodge. It is of
interest to note that the date on this inscription has been the
subject of much debate over many years but it seems likely that 1787
is the correct one.
here between the wars, considering that public transport was both
inconvenient and infrequent – the trains only stopping at
Whistlefield if they missed the points somewhere – it is not
surprising that the community largely made their own amusements and
on the whole, looking back, I simply refuse to believe that our
modern mass entertainments, TV and what have you, even start to
compare with what our local life was then in the country.
Second World War came. I came home on leave after four years
overseas. At Finnart gates the view seemed to have changed. There
wasn’t so much hill and Loch showing. The reason became apparent.
There was a jetty pushing out from the road in line with Finnart
House, more than that, there was an awful lot of aircraft carrier at
the end of it. Well I had a week to find out about this situation.
It appears that early in the war, the Americans had laid down a
complete bunkering port, complete with pumps, tanks and all the
equipment necessary to the organisation. Finnart House was
requisitioned (it by the way having been turned into a hotel just
before the war) and was used as the admin block. After completion
of the project it was manned by local people for the most part. The
Navy had a personnel depot in the southwest corner of Finnart Park.
jetty during that week had several ships in and altogether with the
unprecedented activity around, I curiously enough felt that a new
ear in the history of the district was here.
the war was over, Finnart was handed back to its owner, the grounds
were cleared, only the jetty and the wooden pier remaining. The
hotel functioned brightly until the estate was taken over again by
the Anglo Iranian Oil Co and sometime later Arddarroch followed.
The gardens of the latter, well known as far south as Kew, and now a
jetty that is known the world over!
ever-growing necessity, accentuated by the present desperate
situation, for the provision of berths to accommodate the new
mammoth tankers now on order has focussed attention on the recent
announcement that a new deep-water jetty is to be built on Loch Long
shores between Arddarroch House and Portincaple.
interest in Arddarroch has been further sharpened by the appointment
of Mr. Richard C. Brooman-white, Rutherglen MP, as Party Whip for
Arddarroch (the high oak) was built in the 1840’s by a Mr. MacVicar,
brother-in-law of John Burn Anderson, prominent Glasgow merchant,
who had built Finnart House in 1832.
course of time Arddarroch property passed from the MacVicar family
to Lady Henry Gordon Lennox, wife of a famous Victorian statesman,
and her only son, Richard Brooman-White, grandfather of the present
Mr. Richard, ultimately inherited the estate. The Brooman-White
family resided in Arddarroch until a few years ago and are
remembered with affection by their many friends and admirers in the
small estate had for many years an esteemed reputation for its high
standard of horticulture, having been famous some 50 years ago for
its magnificent collection of orchids, to mention but one of its
the well wooded grounds there were, and, in fact, still are many
quite rare and beautiful trees. The tree from which the house
derives its name is a Turkish Oak of apparently great age. It
measures fifteen and a half feet in girth and has a span north to
south of 113 feet. A similar oak grew at Bendarroch, Garelochhead,
but it, unfortunately, was blown down in a severe gale some years
being taken over by Scottish Oils (now BP, Grangemouth Ltd.),
Arddarroch House has been converted into five very attractive flats
without the original gracious design being marred in the least
mansion looks across Loch Long to Mark Ferry, which in bygone days
linked the old drove road through Argyll’s Bowling Green with
Portincaple (Port of the Mare) on the east shore. It is a
curious coincidence that on this ancient road, a little to the
north-east of Finnart Jetty, there are the remains of a whaler’s
settlement. Thus, it would seem that there has been a trace of oil
in Finnart’s history for much longer than many might suspect.
The picture below shows the stone built into
the wall opposite the main jetty at Finnart. It reads "This road was
made from the Castle Rosneath to Tenne Clauch in the year 1777 by
his Grace John Duke of Argyll. Erected by John Fraser.
Memories of The
(by Ian McLeish)
During the sixties I was employed by a shipping company called
Scottish Ship Management based in Glasgow in fact where Princes
Square Shopping Centre now is. In the late sixties I was a Ships
Agent and part of my responsibilities was to be present when a ship
on our books berthed at its unloading terminal. We had taken on a
contract for ships berthing at Finnart and one day I was instructed
to attend at Finnart where the 'biggest ship ever to visit the
Clyde' was due to dock late afternoon.
ship was named Port Hawksbury and she was registered as weighing
250,000 tonnes; her cargo of crude oil destined for Grangemouth. I
remember being mesmerised by the sheer size of this vessel as she
was guided into the jetty by 6 tugs which I, as a 'wee' 18 year old,
had ordered....... I was totally awestruck by the size and the
novelty that the crew had of using scooters to get about the decks
because of the vast length of the tanker.
We used to visit Finnart regularly and were picked up at Helensburgh
Station by the head guy at Finnart and driven by Land Rover up to
the port. I suppose you would now call him the Operations