Luss will be familiar to anyone who has seen the TV Soap "Take the High Road". Many of the cottages that distinguish Luss were originally erected to house workers in the cotton mill and slate quarries of the 18th and 19th centuries. The homes have been fully restored and Luss has been designated a "Conservation Village".
On early records the village was known as Clachan Dubh, (the dark village) because of its mountain setting, giving two hours less sunlight in the evenings, particularly in the winter time.
The name Luss is considered by some to be derived from the Gaelic "Lus", a plant, although others have suggested that it comes from the French "Luce", a lily. Several stories exist about the derivation of the present name. One related to that of the Baroness MacAuslin, who died in France, whilst her husband was fighting at the siege of Tournay. Her body was brought back to Luss covered with flowers, especially the fleur-de luce. Some of the flowers grew to the surface of the grave " and became miraculously efficacious in staying a pestilence then raging through the countryside".
Its is uncertain how long there has been a village at Luss, certainly a thousand years, possibly much more. Haekon of Norway undoubtedly passed through Luss in 1263. His Vikings dragged their ships over land from Arrochar to Tarbet, plundering the communities of the Islands and Loch-side. Only tantalising clues remain, like the 11th Century Viking Hog-backed grave stone now in the churchyard (at least one Viking never made it home).
A settlement probably developed at he head of the glen more than two thousand years ago. Luss has changed dramatically over the centuries. Before the present cottages were built, the old style "But and Ben" (literally " Out and In") was used, which was in a similar style to the backhouses of the West and Islands. The traditional building technique had changed little since the Viking times. James Denholm, in 1804 , describes this early form of house in Luss.
"the houses, in general, appear exceeding uncomfortable. They are mostly built of loose stones, perhaps with a layer of turf betwixt each row are covered with rushes; the produce of the Loch. They are likewise very low and the door, before which is a thick layer of fern, so difficult to access that a person must stoop considerably before he can enter. The interior in general corresponds to their outward appearance, being dark and often full of smoke which is discharged as plentiful out of the window and the door as the ordinary aperture."
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Saint MacKessog or Kessog brought Christianity from Ireland and founded a monastery on neighboring Inchtavannach (island of the monks) in the 6th Century. He may also have built a church at Luss although no trace now remains. The monk/soldier is alleged to have been martyred at Bandry, just south of Luss in AD 520.
The church yard contains many interesting stones and is well worth a visit. The earliest gravestones lie at the main entrance to the church, two slabs, each with a simple cross from the 7th or 8th century.
King Robert the Bruce granted Luss a three mile gyrth or Sanctuary in 1315 in honor of God and the Blessed Kessog.
The first record of an actual building is from 1430 when Bishop John Cameron of Glasgow built a "threekit" ( a simple thatched building) in memory of St Kessog. The overgrown remains of a building can still be seen in the churchyard.
In 1771 the second parish church was built where the present one now stands. When the site was cleared to make way for the new church some of the stones were removed and used in the construction of a cottage south of Luss, known locally as "Tombstone Cottage". In the 18th Century when the military road was being constructed a stone effigy of Saint Kessog was found in a cairn of stones and is now held in the church.
The present church was built by Sir James Colquhoun in 1875 in the memory of his farther who died along with five ghillies in a drowning accident off Inchtavannach. The church has a magnificent rafted roof of Scots pine, fine stained glass windows dedicated to Clan Colquhoun and to Sir James Lumsden, past Lord Provost of Glasgow. An effigy of medieval bishop, Robert Colquhoun of Argyll is on display. On the north wall is the so-called "Macfarlane stone", dated 1612, with is salutary reminder "after death remains virtue".
The wide vista of the southern loch can be best seen from the pier. To the north the bulk of Ben Lomond dominates the skyline. This is the most southerly of the Highland mountains and is now in the care of the National Trust for Scotland. To the south Conic Hill marks the geological boundary between the highlands and the lowlands. The conifer plantations to the north of Conic Hill form part of the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park.