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Kilmartin (Scottish Gaelic: Cille Mhàrtainn) is a small village in Argyll and Bute, western Scotland. It is best known as the centre of Kilmartin Glen, an area with one of the richest concentrations of prehistoric monuments and historical sites in Scotland. It contains over 350 monuments within a 6-mile radius.
Kilmartin Parish Church
Kilmartin Parish Church is a congregation of the Church of Scotland. The present church building was designed by architect James Gordon Davis and opened in 1835, though there had been earlier churches on the site. The churchyard has an important collection of early Christian and medieval carved stones, known as the Kilmartin Stones. Some are displayed within the parish church itself, others have been gathered into lapidaria within the graveyard, others still remain lying within it.
The two most important monuments are the Kilmartin crosses, one 9th-10th century, the other late medieval in date, within the church. In the churchyard are a large collection of late medieval gravestones in the 'West Highland' style, dating between the 14th and early 16th centuries. Many are marked by figures of warriors in contemporary dress with spears and swords, along with figures of fantastic animals, foliage and interlace patterns. None are inscribed, so the identities of the persons commemorated are unknown. They can, however, be taken to be the monuments of the local landowning or minor noble class in late medieval times. Kilmartin Church was evidently an important burial site, and the graveslabs of the 'Loch Awe school' of carving may have been carved in a workshop at or near Kilmartin. The swords shown on many of the stones refer to warrior (or, more broadly, social) status, and have no connection with the Templars or other medieval military orders, as is sometimes suggested. Women are commemorated on some of the stones, their symbol often being the shears (referring to household activities).
Kilmartin House Museum
Kilmartin House Museum of Ancient Culture is an award winning museum which interprets the monuments of the area for visitors, and has a selection of excavated artefacts of various periods. It is located within the village within a group of converted buildings.
Kilmartin Castle, a small 'Z-plan' tower house, dating from about 1580, stands above the village. Kilmartin was a property of the Campbells, many of whom are buried in the churchyard. John Carswell, Rector of Kilmartin and later titular Bishop of the Isles, lived here before moving to his new residence at Carnasserie Castle. The castle comprises an oblong, three-storey main block, with round towers to the north-east and south-west corners, as well as a small stair tower in the west front. Formerly ruined, it has been restored as a private house in recent years. Shot holes and iron yetts over the windows have been retained.
The village also has a hotel, craft shop and public toilets.
Kilmartin Glen is the location of several important Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age sites, including Temple Wood (a henge monument), several burial cairns, chambered cairns, standing stones and cup and ring marked rocks.
Kilmartin's is one of the finest concentrations of prehistoric sites in Scotland, and almost all are within an easy walk of the roads which criss-cross the valley. One of the burial cairns has been rebuilt, with access through an opening in the top down stairs to the base of the cairn and a stone burial cist. The two stone circles in Temple Wood have also been re-erected by archaeologists.
Carnasserie Castle (Historic Scotland; no entrance charge) stands a little north of Kilmartin. It was built by Bishop John Carswell of Argyll between 1565 and 1572. Largely complete, though roofless, its architecture is notably refined and includes much Renaissance ornamental detail.
- Coventry, Martin The Castles of Scotland (3rd Edition), Goblinshead, 2001
- Lindsay, Maurice The Castles of Scotland, Constable & Co. 1986
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