The history of Scotland has been associated with this area for thousands of years, with the earliest known peoples settling here around 3500 BC. Founded by Celtic monk St Fintan Munnu, the village was a monastic community in the 7th century. Remains of a 12th century church can still be seen today. In the 15th century, the sanctity of the site was so great that the loch was named Holy Loch.
Clan Campbell made Kilmun their spiritual home and in 1442 they endowed a collegiate church on the site of the existing parish church. The then Clan chief was buried here and thus began the tradition of burying Campbell chiefs at Kilmun. However, during the Reformation, the practice of burying remains under the church floor was forbidden and so a private chapel was built next door. This evolved into the Kilmun Mausoleum which you can visit today.
Follow one of the three Forestry Commission Scotland trails from the village to Kilmun Arboretum, which was established by the Forestry Commission in the 1930s as a forestry research project to monitor the success of a variety of exotic tree species. It is unique in Scotland as it has 162 tree species planted in groups.
Just north of Kilmun on the A815 towards Glenbranter, are two of the National Park’s hidden gems. Puck’s Glen is a spectacular gorge walk, named after Puck from a Midsummer Night’s Dream. The deep, damp woodland gorge is dotted with enchanting waterfalls, mosses and ferns that give it a truly magical feel. With its network of way-marked trails, you can stroll through majestic oak woodlands or cycle through conifer plantations. Wildlife is abundant. Look for crossbills high in the pine trees and red squirrels especially early in the morning or evening.
Further north is Benmore Botanic Garden, 120 acres of gardens set in a stunning mountainside location, surrounded by beautiful scenery. Pass through an avenue of 150-year-old giant redwoods and discover a world-famous collection of plants, including over 300 species of rhododendrons.
The beautiful and peaceful Loch Eck and the oak woodland to the west of the Loch are classified as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The area is rich in wildlife and is host to otters, eagles and ravens, bats, roe deer, red deer, red squirrels, pine-martens, seals, eider ducks and many other species.
The River Echaig washes tons of silt down from the hills where it collects in deep mudflats around the shores of the Holy Loch, making it one of the best places in Cowal to spot sea birds as they dive, dabble, stalk and forage for marine worms and other food. There is also a bird hide at the nearby Broxwood Local Nature Reserve on the way to Dunoon.
Local walks in the area include:
Kilmun Arboretum is home to more than 150 species of trees from around the world.