A brief history of Ardrishaig


Ardrishaig was a fishing village of four or five houses up until the early years of the 19th century.  In 1809 the Crinan Canal was opened linking Loch Fyne to the Sound of Jura at Crinan.  It was closed shortly afterwards for repairs and reopened in operational condition in 1817.  By 1829, over 30,000 passengers were travelling along the canal each year.  Ardrishaig became a significant port during the 19th century for passenger as well as freight traffic.

The first available Ordnance Survey map of the village (dated 1865) shows the development concentrated between the shore and the canal some distance north of the canal basin and harbour, approximately where the current centre is located.  Both sides of the street were developed.  Even at this early stage in the development of the settlement, ribbon development had started to stretch south of the canal basin.  The principal elements of the harbour – breakwater, lighthouse and pier were in place.

By 1899, the centre of Ardrishaig had consolidated in its current location on both sides of Chalmers Street.  The single pier located in the harbour basin had been supplemented by a second pier to the north.  The buildings that form Pier Square were already in place.  Residential development had expanded to the west of the canal up the steep slopes around Kilduskland Road and Hillview Terrace.  Significantly, the harbour and canal basin were still separated from the centre by the area known as the Stances.

The 20th century saw considerable change in Ardrishaig.  Ordnance Survey coverage for much of this period at 1:2500 seems to be unavailable so there is a gap between 1900 and 1980.  However the major events that took place during this period included:

  • the reconstruction of the sea lock on the canal and repositioning of the access into the harbour leaving a short arm off the basin now used for mooring boats
  • the closure of the Crinan Canal to passenger traffic in 1929
  • reclamation of two areas of land from the sea namely:
    • the area north of the church hall on Chalmers Street currently used for public open space; and
    • the area currently used as an oil storage depot
  • the demolition of most of the east (seaward) side of Chalmers Street and the construction of car parks and an area of public open space.

From 1980 to the present day, residential development consolidated on the west side of the canal including recent development on the edge of the canal basin.  Other changes include the removal of the last remaining buildings on the east side of Chalmers Street and the development of a boatyard north of the oil storage depot off Chalmers Street.  In addition, the former garage site north of Pier Square has been cleared.