The stories of ‘Britain’s most beautiful shortcut’ and the communities on its banks have been brought to life thanks to the creation of a £1.5 million new heritage and community hub at the gateway to the Crinan Canal in Ardrishaig.
Opened today, the Scottish Canals-led partnership project has transformed and extended a historic, disused building – known locally as the ‘Egg Shed’ – into a bespoke interpretation and community centre.
From its role as an industrial thoroughfare, to its status as a bustling Victorian tourism destination, and the tales of midget submarines that sailed the waterway in wartime, The Egg Shed allows visitors to step into the unique history of Mid-Argyll via an array of interactive exhibits and interpretation material.
Chris O’Connell, Heritage Manager at Scottish Canals, said: “The Egg Shed has brought the many incredible tales of Mid-Argyll to life and marks the exciting next step in the transformation of Ardrishaig into a vibrant leisure, tourism and maritime hub.
“From Queen Victoria’s journey along the ‘Royal Route’ to the British admiralty ordering the canal board to ‘extinguish all lights’ at the outbreak of World War II, the Crinan Canal has no shortage of amazing stories to tell and we’re incredibly excited to welcome the world to Ardrishaig to experience them.”
A key part of the project was capturing and celebrating the memories and memorabilia of local people, with Scottish Canals hosting open days at the Steamer Terminal café in Ardrishaig where the public could share their own stories of the Crinan Canal and the communities on its banks.
As well as telling the story of the local area, The Egg Shed includes space for community activities and will host everything from art installations to pop-up exhibitions and opportunities for training, social enterprises and community groups.
As part of the regeneration celebrations, a brand-new focal point for cycling and walking – The Ardrishaig Bothy – was also launched in Pier Square today. The initiative, a partnership between Cycling UK and Scottish Canals, will inspire people to enjoy the fantastic walking and cycling that Mid-Argyll has to offer.
Josh Wood, Development Officer at Cycling UK, said: “The Ardrishaig Bothy will help local people and visitors alike to do more cycling and walking. We’ll be offering a wide range of activities and be on hand with with lots of information and advice. So pay us a visit from mid-August onwards to find out more.”
Ríona McMorrow, Acting Head of The National Lottery Heritage Fund Scotland, said: “The Egg Shed, interpreting Ardrishaig’s Heritage is a great project as it shows clearly how local heritage can be a catalyst for lots of different activities and bring people together behind a common purpose. The National Lottery Heritage Fund is pleased to support Scottish Canals in its plans and, thanks to National Lottery players, enable people to enjoy the history on their own doorstep.”
The Egg Shed project is funded by the Scottish Government and the European Community Argyll and the Islands LEADER 2014-2020 programme; The National Lottery Heritage Fund; the Scottish Government Regeneration Capital Grant Fund; Scottish Canals; Argyll and Bute Council’s Tarbert & Lochgilphead Regeneration Fund; Highlands & Islands Enterprise; SUSTRANS Community Links Fund; Shanks Argyll & Bute and Argyll & Bute Council through the Scottish Landfill Communities Fund; and Ardrishaig Community Trust.
Scottish Canals and Argyll & Bute Council held a series of collaborative design workshops, known as a ‘charrette’, in 2016 to help shape the future of the Crinan Canal corridor. Supported by technical experts and designers, the sessions generated a number of ideas and proposals to help maximise the tourism, leisure and business opportunities offered by the canal and ensure the long-term future of Ardrishaig, Crinan and Lochgilphead. The regeneration of the former Gleaner Oil depot in Ardrishaig, of which The Egg Shed forms a key part, was one of the key priorities identified by the community.