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Skelmorlie Aisle

Jewel-like monument erected for Sir Robert Montgomerie of Skelmorlie

Skelmorlie Aisle

A private place of worship

In 1636 Sir Robert Montgomerie of Skelmorlie and his lady, Dame Margaret Douglas, built an aisle against the north side of Largs Parish Church. It served both as their place of worship and their final resting-place.

The aisle was such a splendid creation that when the rest of the church was demolished in 1802, it was saved from destruction and the arch connecting the two was built up.

Today, the Skelmorlie Aisle stands on its own, surrounded by old gravestones and partly hidden behind a high churchyard wall.

The laird’s loft

The Skelmorlie Aisle comprises two elements. One is the laird’s loft at ground level, where the Montgomeries sat at worship. The other is the burial vault beneath, which still houses several lead coffins and is not normally accessible.

The laird’s loft is well worth a visit. The elaborately carved stone monumental tomb is without parallel in Scotland. It is in the Renaissance style, which developed originally in Italy in the 1400s.

This tomb was probably carved by Scottish masons using foreign pattern books. It would have been richly coloured. Under the canopy would have been effigies of Sir Robert and Dame Margaret. The decoration includes their arms and monograms, together with symbols of mortality.

The painted ceiling

The painted barrel-vaulted ceiling vies with the tomb for attention. Dated 1638 and signed by the artist, J.S. Stalker, it is painted to imitate a vault of stone ribs.

At the top are various coats of arms. On either side are figures: above the tomb, Justice and Fortitude; overhead, Isaac, Jacob and Esau on one side and Adam and Eve on the other.

The 12 texts are taken from the Geneva Bible, popular in Scotland prior to the introduction of James VI’s version. The painted corbels in between bear the imaginary arms of the tribes of Israel. Also depicted are the signs of the zodiac.

The six landscape scenes most draw the eye. Those in the centre are allegories, probably referring to the position of Largs between land and sea. The four scenes in the corners illustrate the seasons.

Of most interest is undoubtedly ‘Summer’, behind and left of the tomb. This scene includes a representation of Largs Kirk and the Skelmorlie Aisle before the former was pulled down.

Highlights
  • The location – in a quiet corner of Largs, secluded from the hustle and bustle.
  • The tomb – there is nothing quite like it anywhere else in Scotland.
  • The painted ceiling – a rare composition; see what Largs looked like over 350 years ago.
  • Largs Museum – a treasure trove of memories, run by the Largs and District Historical Society.

Location

Region – Glasgow, Clyde and Ayrshire

In Largs on the A78. Signed from the High Street.

Grid reference - NS 202 594.

Access

The property is open to the public from late May to early September, 2.00pm to 5.00pm.

The key can be collected from the Largs Museum.

Telephone 01475 687 081 for additional visitor information.