Political Power

The influx of new industry, new trades, new investment and new people had, by the later 19th century, created a culture rather different from the traditional one still found on large outlying areas of the Duke of Argyll's property. Between these two increasingly enfranchised forces, the existing establishment of landowners retained control of politics until the election of a radical MP in the 1880s. Thereafter, the political power of the landed interest declined gradually. So too did the crofting sector and its agitation within Argyll.

Modern Industry

Dunoon West Bay

The early 20th century saw an Indian Summer of further urban development of the towns and of the tourist trade. This was interrupted temporarily by two World Wars and, more seriously for the Clyde resorts, by the growth of cheap holidays. The growth of car ownership and of bus holidays has helped to compensate the resorts, and Dunoon enjoyed a boom for a time, thanks to the American submarine base. Bus holidays have, for many parts of Argyll, brought the phenomenon of "drive through" tourism, coaches stopping only at major attractions. But this is compensated for by car borne visitors bringing a more discreet form of tourism to the rural areas, a tourism in which "bed and breakfast" plays a major part.

fishermen with nets, Campbeltown

Fishing is still an important industry, though boats operate further out to sea and the distribution of the catch has changed somewhat since a century ago when steamships would hail the fleet of skiffs to purchase their catch which would then be taken on to market in Glasgow. Road haulage and transport has overcome the steamship network which once served the resorts and communities around the Clyde and further West. Only the islands necessarily retain sea links, almost exclusively in the form of roll-on, roll-off car ferries.




The 1975 reorganisation of Local Government lost Ardnamurchan to Argyll; the 1996 change brought to the administrative district the areas of Helensburgh and Lomond, including the Rosneath Peninsula. Although these areas can retain the 'Dunbartonshire' element of their postal address, they are now firmly part, and a major part, of a new entity. In historical and cultural terms, however, Dunbartonshire has a history separate from Argyll, with obvious overlaps. On Loch Lomondside in Clan times, the Colquhouns and the MacGregors battled for ascendancy. The Colquhouns later built the stately 18th century mansion of Rossdhu, now the club house for a very select golf course. Their laying out of a new town of Helensburgh from 1776 was more significant for, with the help of Henry Bell's Comet, launched in 1812, and Bell's own hotel in the town, Helensburgh eventually became another "doon the watter" watering place for Glaswegian commuters and day trippers. In this sense, Helensburgh has or had much in common with the other destinations of the Rosneath peninsula and of the Argyll shore. After the arrival of the railway in 1857, however, Helensburgh became more closely tied to Glasgow, of which it became, in a generous sense, a select suburb. The late Victorian and Edwardian villas of upper Helensburgh reflected the very wealthy lifestyles and developed architectural tastes of their owners, resulting in possibly the finest collection of buildings of their type in the West of Scotland. This was largely thanks to the contribution of "art architects" such as William Leiper and Alexander Paterson and to the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh at The Hill House.

The present culture of Argyll and Bute is certainly a modern one, forward thinking; but most communities retain an awareness of their own particular history and cultural heritage. This is as it should be, in an area that comprehends considerable diversity, from islands where Gaelic is still spoken, through tourist towns, to the newly included areas of Helensburgh and Lomond which move to a greater or lesser extent in the Glasgow orbit.