It has a small, close community, and features a church, fire station, primary school, craft centre with a tea room, a village shop, public house (The Galley of Lorne), and yacht centre. .
The population is approximately 400 of year-round residents, with many more during the holiday season.
After 1778, when most of the peninsula was in the ownership of the Campbells of Craignish, who had been the dominant local clan since the earliest recorded times around 1100, parcels of land were gradually sold off, and by 1850 most of the land was part of two estates ; Lunga, purchased by the MacDougalls (of Lunga island), to the north and the Craignish estate to the south end of the peninsula. This division essentially remains the same today, though in 1983 a part of the Lunga estate was sold off to a developer to create Craobh Haven, a marina and village created in and around a natural harbour on the west side of the peninsula.
There is evidence of habitation going back to pre-history. Contemporaries of St. Columba settled by 600AD and the earliest church on the peninsula, Kilvaree, now a ruin, is 12th Century or earlier. Until modern times farming was the main occupation and cattle from the off lying islands, Jura, Scarba, etc., were landed near Craignish point and driven along the peninsula to the mainland proper. Of the three inns that ‘supported’ the drovers only one, dating from the 17th – or even 16th century - now called the Galley of Lorne, survives in Ardfern. Farming, together with a busy weaving industry and three mills, carried on during the first part of the twentieth century.
The latter half of the twentieth century saw farming and traditional industry decline and the population fell to less than half its now 400+. The current Laird of Lunga, Colin Lindsay-MacDougall, saw that for the community to survive, things must change. To re-vitalise the area, he created a yacht centre at Ardfern to attract the ever increasing numbers of cruising yachtsmen on the west coast ; re-opened and developed the old Inn (the Galley of Lorne), sold housing plots to attract people into the area, encouraged artists of all sorts and the trades-people necessary for a thriving community, to stay on his estate.
Ardfern today has a diverse and growing population. The school is thriving. The Yacht Centre, together with the new marina at Craobh Haven, harbours the largest fleet of cruising yachts on the west coast. Tourism and related businesses bring much income to the village, but there are many other small enterprises ; artists, musicians, sculptors, craftsmen and women, horticulturalists, filmmakers, writers, computer based businesses, some of which are recognised internationally, and mail order businesses. There are plumbers, stonemasons, builders, joiners, furniture-makers, gardeners and horticulturists, woodworkers, electricians and many more. All living on the peninsula.
Ardfern is an isolated community, 16 miles from the nearest small town (Lochgilphead pop circa 3,000) – the administrative centre of Argyll & Bute. To stay in the area, and to earn a living in such a place, takes a certain kind of mindset. It takes drive and dedication and initiative.
Craignish Village Hall
By 1997 the old village hall was inadequate and crumbling. A new one was required and fundraising started. By 2004 enough had been raised to begin the project. In Autumn 2005, the new hall was opened.
The full cost of £600,000 was raised by a small and very focused committee, all resident on the Craignish peninsula. Significant amounts of money, expertise and work were given by local people and businesses. The architect lives in Ardfern. Local people built it. A true community effort.
With full, computerised, professional-quality theatre light and sound systems, and versatile stage, the hall attracts touring theatre groups, performing artists and musicians from Scotland, the UK, Europe and beyond and audiences from all of Argyll and further afield.
That such a small community can conceive and create an award-winning building like Craignish Hall demonstrates how resourceful are the people who stay and live their lives on the wild, sea-girt, western coasts of our beautiful country.
In the last ten years or so more houses have been built, bringing a wider group of people to the village. Many commute to Oban or Lochgilphead, or even further afield.