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4 High Cottages

A Category C Listed Building in Cowal, Argyll and Bute

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Latitude: 55.9866 / 55°59'11"N

Longitude: -4.9061 / 4°54'22"W

OS Eastings: 218810

OS Northings: 680886

OS Grid: NS188808

Mapcode National: GBR 06.VV46

Mapcode Global: WH2M1.LSYF

Plus Code: 9C7QX3PV+MG

Entry Name: 4 High Cottages

Listing Name: Strone, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 High Cottages

Listing Date: 4 May 2006

Category: C

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 398460

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB50439

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Dunoon and Kilmun

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: Cowal

Parish: Dunoon And Kilmun

Traditional County: Argyllshire

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A terraced row of six, two-storey, timber framed and horizontally clad former estate workers' cottages dating to the late 19th century. The row is located well above the shore in the coastal village of Strone on the Cowal peninsula with views over The Holy Loch towards Dunoon.

The cottages have overhanging eaves with decorative timber brackets, and sloping porch canopies above their doorways. The exterior timber cladding mostly consists of overlapping timber board, with one section of later tongue-and-groove timber replacement. The doors are set close together at Nos. 2 and 3 and at Nos. 4 and 5. The doors of No. 1 and No. 6 are at the outermost bays to left and right. The rear of the building has a continuous, single storey lean-to projection with an overhanging slate-roofed canopy. No. 2 has a later flat-roofed outshot above the canopy.

Most windows (formerly timber sash and case with multi-pane glazing) are later replacements with various frame patterns and are known to have been changed before the building was listed in 2006. There are some boarded timber doors to the rear. The roofs are slated. There are polychromatic brick chimney stacks, some of which have been rendered. Each cottage has a narrow and steeply rising garden plot to the rear.

The interiors of some of the cottages were seen in 2019. The stairs and halls at each property have horizontal timber boards to the lower portion of the walls. There are some timber doors and cupboard recesses. The internal doors at No. 5 have been stripped back to the wood. The fireplaces are mostly 20th century with timber or metal surrounds, with smaller fireplaces within some of the bedrooms.

Historical development

Nos.1-6 High Cottages were built in the 1870s by wealthy sugar refiner, art collector and philanthropist James Duncan of Greenock (1834–1905) who lived at Benmore House (LB95, category B). Duncan owned the estates of Bernice, Benmore and Kilmun on the North Cowal peninsula from 1870 to 1889. During this time he made a series of agricultural, industrial and architectural improvements to the estates, planting over six million trees, breeding cattle and black-faced sheep, and building a picture gallery, fernery and sawmill at Benmore. In around 1877, he began speculatively mining for silver, tin and lead in the hills above Strone (Greenock Telegraph, 1877).

The footprint of the High Cottages is shown on the 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey map (revised 1897). The rectangular plan-form has not changed since that date, with the steep hillside reducing the possibility of extension to the rear. Early 20th century photographs in the possession of a current owner show the building in much the same form as at present (2019).

Statement of Interest

Summary of assessment

The High Cottages, Strone is a rare example of a terraced row of 19th century timber-built workers' housing, which retain their plan form, symmetry and decorative external detailing. Prominently sited on a steep hillside overlooking the Holy Loch on the Cowal peninsula, they help illustrate a significant period of estate development at Benmore and Kilmun during the second half of the 19th century.

While later alterations including the replacement of timber windows with plastic frames lessen the authenticity to some extent, the building is otherwise largely intact. The High Cottages remain a notable example of 19th century timber-built estate workers' housing in Scotland.

Architectural interest


James Duncan experimented with various different types of non-traditional housing for the workers on his estates. The High Cottages are a distinctive surviving example. Others include the small, square-plan, timber-clad cottages at Glenmassen and Balliemore (LB50465, listed at category C), the three cottages known as 'Faith, Hope and Charity' at Gairletter, and the cottages at the Benmore Home Farm. Building in timber using prefabricated components and catalogue design templates was a practical, convenient and economic way to provide suitable housing quickly on the estate. Prefabrication is a method of producing standardised components off-site, that can be fitted together on-site. It is possible timber for some of these buildings was homegrown, being cut at the sawmill in the grounds of Benmore House (Ordnance Survey, 1897).

The decorative timber brackets at the eaves and porches of the High Cottages have a picturesque quality, reminiscent of Alpine chalet detailing.

The tall and narrow exterior profile and massing, and the symmetrical arrangement of door and window openings, with Nos. 1, 2 and 3 mirrored by Nos. 4, 5 and 6, add to the unity of the overall design and contribute to the design interest of the building.

The plan form survives largely intact, with the internal room plan mirroring the symmetrical exterior plan form. Some early interior fixtures and fittings survive including timber panelling to the hall and stairs and some timber doors.

The timber window frames have been mostly replaced with plastic frames, with varying glazing patterns. While this affects the unity of the frontage to some extent, the terraced row as a complete design remains recognisable as an unusual example of 19th century timber-built workers' housing.


The small coastal village of Strone developed in the mid-19th century as part of shore and estate development around the Holy Loch which began at nearby Kilmun in the 1820s. The pier at Strone was first built in 1847 with boats sailing daily to Glasgow and Greenock during the 19th century.

The row of High Cottages were built on high ground above the shore overlooking the Holy Loch. The cottages have panoramic views southward over the Cowal peninsula, and are prominently visible from the Dunoon road on the opposite side of the loch.

The setting directly relates to their historic function as houses for workers on the Benmore and Kilmun estates during the 1870s, adding to the special interest.

Historic interest

Age and rarity

The introduction of new wood processing technology (from around 1840) led to an increase in the production of timber framed and clad buildings using prefabricated components and catalogue or pattern-book template designs. All-timber construction became less common again towards the end of the 19th century, with the introduction of composite building materials and corrugated iron.

Key surviving examples of 19th century timber buildings in Scotland tend to be associated with specific functions such as shooting lodges, railway stations and signal boxes, village halls and military camps. Outstanding examples include the Swiss Cottage at Fochabers (LB1635, category A), the Golspie Drill Hall (LB12591, category A) and the railway station at Aviemore (LB257, category A).

Most estate workers housing in Scotland during the second half of the 19th century was built of stone. Timber housing during this period tended to be modest, often built as temporary accommodation for on-site workers in the fishing, forestry and agricultural industries. Many of these simple timber buildings have been removed or substantially remodelled using other materials.

Surviving 19th century terraced rows of timber housing, whether built to individual designs or pattern-book templates, are uncommon. The High Cottages at Strone are an unusual survival. While altered to some extent, they largely retain their plan-form, massing and detailing and are a notable and rare example of their building type. The ornamental brackets to the eaves and porches are unusual details that add to the special interest.

Social historical interest

1-6 High Cottages are part of a period of significant industrial and agricultural development in this part of Argyll. The cottages are representative of early experiments with prefabricated timber house construction in Scotland. The then owner of Benmore, James Duncan was a wealthy industrialist who helped shape the estate landscape at Benmore and Kilmun, which is now the setting for Benmore Botanic Garden. There is a granite memorial to James Duncan (LB50435) at nearby Graham's Point.

The social and economic interest also relates more broadly to the history of timber house construction in Scotland. 1-6 High Cottages are of special interest for representing a specific stage in the historical development of timber housing in Scotland, when they were typically built to accommodate workers on country estates.

Association with people or events of national importance

1-6 High Cottages has no known direct associations with a person or event of national importance.

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