Font Size

100% 150% 200%

Background Colour

Default Contrast
Close Reset

Keills Port, South Quay

Harbour (Period Unassigned), Quay (19th Century)

Site Name Keills Port, South Quay

Classification Harbour (Period Unassigned), Quay (19th Century)

Canmore ID 251581

Site Number NR68SE 9

NGR NR 68841 80694

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2021.

Toggle Aerial | View on large map

Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Argyll And Bute
  • Parish North Knapdale
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Argyll And Bute
  • Former County Argyll

Architecture Notes

NR68SE 9 NR 68841 80694

For Northern Quay see

NR68SE 3 NR 68880 80741


Field Visit (August 1984)

This harbour occupies a S-facing inlet on the W side of the Keills promontory, 330m WNW of Keills Church (No. 45). During the 18th and 19th centuries it was the principal landing-place for droves of cattle from Islay, Jura and Colonsay, ferried from Lagg on Jura (en.1). From 1753 onwards there are occasional references to the repair of a quay by the Commissioners of Supply for Argyll (en.2), but the existing structures were built for the Commissioners for Highland Roads and Bridges in the early 19th century. In 1805-6 work was carried out at 'the boating-place' and a length of 2.1km of road, surveyed by George Langlands, was constructed to link it to the existing county road, while further minor repairs were made in 1815 (en.3). Improvements including a new slipway for landing cattle, recommended in 1812 by the engineer John Sinclair, were agreed by the Commissioners in 1817 and completed in 1820 at a cost of £215, almost all of the local contribution being borne by the landowners of Islay, Jura and Colonsay. The contractors were James Campbell of Jura and John MacNeill of Gigha, owner of the Keills estate, and the sub-contractor was Donald MacCallum, Crinan (en.4).

The approach-road passes Keillmore farmhouse, a two-storeyed building restored in 1983, which was the inn provided 'for the conveniency of passengers' by John MacNeill soon after 1800 (en.5). The road is embanked to a height of 1.5m and a width of 5.5m where it crosses saltings SE of the harbour, and it terminates at the head of the slipway, which is bounded on the N by an inlet about 20m long. This inlet is probably 'the excavation, which proves of little service', mentioned in Sinclair's report of 1812 (en.6), which was presumably formed in 1805-7 as a landing-place and may also have served as a quarry. Some 50m to the N there is a rubble-built pier, now dilapidated, which shows more than one period of construction and may incorporate some remains of the 18th-century quay. The older section extends for about 20m along the W side of an inlet which dries out at low tide, and includes a flight of five steps 3.5m wide. The outer 14mof the pier, 4m in width, is angled to the NW and its NW and SW faces are broadly battered, with rounded angles, while the coping of the SW face comprises vertically set slabs. The masonry of this outer section resembles that of the slipway of 1817-20, and it was probably added at that period.

Sinclair recommended in 1812 that a slipway should be formed by cutting 'an inclined roadway out of the face of the slanting rock ... down to low water' (en.7), and this scheme was executed in 1817-20, but with more masonry construction than originally envisaged. The slipway extends for 16m along the S side of the 'excavation' described above, and returns Sat right angles along the rocky shore of the bay for a further18m, with a width of 6.5m. Its masonry is of substantial coursed rubble, which at the outer angle rises to a height of1.8m above bedrock. The top course of paving-slabs is set transversely and on edge to provide a surer footing, and although there is no parapet the surface of the ramp is inclined inwards to control the movement of the cattle.

RCAHMS 1992, visited in August 1984


MyCanmore Image Contributions

Contribute an Image

MyCanmore Text Contributions