Feuing on the Poltalloch estate two miles south of Tighnabruaich on the Kyles of Bute began in 1859. Despite the natural beauty of the area and the safe anchorage it provided for yachting, the absence of a pier was a major drawback, and it was not until almost twenty years later that Mr. Malcolm of Poltalloch applied for permission to develop a pier.
“New Pier in the Kyles of Bute.—The Board of Trade report that they intend to proceed with the Provisional Order applied for by Mr. John Malcolm of Portalloch to enable him to construct a pier at Auchenlochan, Kyles of Bute. The pier will extend 75 yards into the sea, and is estimated to coast £2,200.”—Northern Whig, March 8, 1878
“Auchenlochan Pier.—A fine new iron pier situated Auchenlochan, on the Argyllshire coast, a mile and three-quarters south of Tighnabruaich, has recently been opened, The new structure, the cost of which has been defrayed by Mr. Malcolm of Poltalloch, was executed in accordance with plans prepared by Messrs Wharrie, Colledge, & Brand, civil engineers, Glasgow. The gangway, 250 feet length from the shore the pier-head, rests upon Warne’s girders, and these are supported by cast-iron columns placed 30 feet apart. The pier-head, 108 feet long by 20 feet wide, is carried upon malleable-iron piles, which are driven into ground and securely fixed. On the pier-head a small wooden waiting-house has been erected, while at the shore end a ladies’ waiting room, ticket office, and store are provided in a stone building. At low tide the depth of water at the pier head is nine feet. Messrs. A. & W. Smith & Co., engineers, Glasgow, were the contractors for the work with the exception of the stone building, which was erected Messrs. Crawford & Harvie.”—Evening News, August, 23 1879.
Rothesay Chronicle, July 28, 1883
Auchenlochan looking towards Kames (Valentine)
“New Pier in the Kyles of Bute. Auchenlochan pier is now open. Steamers Viceroy and Inveraray Castle call Daily.—R. Duncan, Leasee. This New Pier is opposite the Royal Hotel, when first-class accommodation can be had for families, tourists, and commercial gentlemen. Charges moderate.—B. D., Proprietor.”—Rothesay Chronicle, November 1, 1879
Rothesay Chronicle, August 18, 1883
Rothesay Chronicle, August 18, 1883
The following year, there were some improvements made, including the provision of fresh water.
“Auchenlochan Pier, Kyles of Bute—A long-standing want at this favourite yachting locality has just been removed by the proprietor, Mr Malcolm of Poltalloch. From the neighbouring heights he has introduced to the pier a bountiful supply of water, which will doubtless be highly appreciated by the owners of the numerous steam yachts which find their way into the Kyles during the “season.” To the river steamers, also, whose calls are every year becoming more frequent, a supply fresh water for their boilers will prove of very great advantage. Auchenlochan Pier is almost immediately opposite to Blackfarland Bay, known the finest anchorage between Greenock and Oban.”—Greenock Telegraph, November 17, 1880.
Steam yacht Thistle off Auchenlochan
Victoria on an excursion at Auchenlochan
Although steamer service to the pier was intermittent, excursion traffic that used the pier extensively. The cargo runs of the Macbrayne steamers called and for a time, the second steamer on the Royal route called but the primary service sailed by. The Turkish Fleet of Captain Williamson also called on certain days, and consequently after the railway took over, the Glasgow and South Western Railway inherited the business. Needless to say, there were complaints.
MacBrayne cargo steamer Texa leaving Auchenlochan
“The Kyles of Bute.—Now that the various coast routes are being so well developed by the railway companies. I should like to ask through your columns if is not the Caledonian Company were putting on an express service to the Kyles of Bute. It is true that last summer the Iona took up the run to Gourock, but in the mornings she neither called at Auchenlochan or Kames, leaving passengers for these thriving watering-places to come on by the other steamers via Prince’s Pier. It is a fact that ought to be remembered that a large proportion of visitors to the Scottish Torquay and other Kyles ports come from parts of England where they have no option but to travel by the London and North-Western and Caledonian routes, and it is a decided inconvenience for them to require to change and convey luggage to and from the steamers at Prince’s Pier to the Caledonian stations.
“I would suggest as a remedy that after 1st July an express run might be arranged every evening to the Kyles via Wemyss Bay. The time spent on the journey would thus be greatly reduced, and the new route would be sure to become popular with all passengers.—I am, &c. London.”—Glasgow Herald, June 13, 1892.
Greenock Telegraph, July 6, 1889
Jupiter at Auchenlochan (Spencer)
The development of Auchenlochan and its hotel recognized the limitations on steamer calls and the hotel proprietor offered a coach service to Tighnabruaich. There was also the Auchenlochan carrier.
Glasgow Herald March 24, 1898
After the first war, the “Round Bute Cruise” offered by the L.N.E.R. steamers featured a call at Auchenlochan that was continued when the cruise was replaced by a sail through the Kyles after 1927.
Marmion approaching Auchenlochan (Spencer)
Marmion at Auchenlochan (Spencer)
Marmion in the Kyles (Spencer)
Marmion at the Narrows
An incident from the end of 1936 might be worthy of an episode of Neil Munro’s hero.
“Transported tor Life—Sentence Scots Boy Might Have Got—This was the sentence which the fiscal at Dunoon Juvenile Court yesterday said would have been imposed if a case in which a 15-year-old boy figured had come before the Court 100 years ago. The boy admitted a charge of casting off the ropes of the steam lighter Western, which was moored alongside Auchenlochan Pier, Kyles of Bute, causing the vessel to go adrift to the danger of the lives of three of the crew. The fiscal said the captain awakened to find the vessel drifting helplessly in midchannel, to the danger of other shipping as the Western bad no lights showing. Fortunately there was enough steam up to enable the vessel to be navigated back to Auchenlochan. Though difficulty was experienced in mooring the vessel, as there was no one on the pier to show a light or catch the ropes. The boy said he was actuated solely by mischief. The Court decision was deferred for six months.”—December 30, 1936
“Accessory to turning lighter adrift.—Proof was heard in Dunoon Justice of the Peace Court yesterday in a charge against a youth who appeared at the same Court last week, in company with a younger boy, on a number of charges of malicious mischief. He had pleaded not guilty to one of the charges, that of casting off the mooring ropes, of the steam lighter Western, then moored at Auchenlochan Pier, thus allowing her to drift into mid-channel and endangering the lives of the crew and the safety of the vessel. Evidence was given by David Petrie, 1 Hall Street, Greenock, and James M‘Neill, 40 Cathcart Street, Greenock, captain and mate respectively of the boat, that on December 15 she was securely moored at Auchenlochan Pier, when they retired to bed. About an hour later they felt the boat moving and, going on deck found her in mid channel and making for the other shore. There was just sufficient steam to allow them to get back to the pier. As they had no lights showing they might have been run down, at is was a very dark night. The youth’s companion, who was called for the defence, said it was he who had cast off the ropes, although the youth was with him. The youth denied touching the ropes. Justice Hogg said the Court could not do other than find him guilty as an accessory. He was the elder of the two and should have restrained the younger boy, or given warning that the boat was adrift. As this was his first offence, however, they would deal with him as with the other accused, and put him on probation for six months.”—Scotsman, January 6, 1937.
Talisman approaching Auchenlochan around 1938 (Spencer)
Talisman at Auchenlochan in 1938
Duchess of Fife at Auchenlochan
The pier was closed during the second war but after hostilities, the service to Auchenlochan was renewed by the L.N.E.R. steamers, including the new Waverley in her first season under British Transport Commission ownership.
“Clyde tripper’s 1 a.m. return—Five hours late, Glasgow trippers to the Kyles of Bute arrived back in the city at one o’clock this morning owing to the breakdown of the steamer Waverley at Auchenlochan Pier. The steamer Talisman set out for Auchenlochan to pick up passengers there and at other piers, and took them to Craigendoran, from where a special train waited to return them to Glasgow.”—August 30, 1948
Although the Auchenlochan call was eliminated at the end of the 1948 season when the pier was closed. In 1950 the “Round Bute Cruise” was reinstated with occasional calls by steamers.