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Our History

Whether you’re touring the area or living locally, a visit to the Smiddy Museum at Strachur will fire your imagination of days not so long ago when transport relied on horses and the blacksmith’s forge was at the centre of everyday life.

The low-lying pass between Loch Fyne and the Clyde has a long history, dating back to the Iron, even Bronze, ages. Strachur, nestled in the valley of the heron (Strath= valley; curr = heron) is an old village with its roots in the ancient history of Dalriada and Strathclyde, lying on the boundary between the two kingdoms. The village came into its own in the 17th and 18th centuries when the pass between Loch Fyne and the Clyde was a busy route with a constant coming and going of merchants and packmen, metalworkers, chiefs and their messengers. Before that, in medieval times Christian monks would come through the valley to and from monasteries such as Iona. Robert the Bruce and his armies travelled this way, and the Earls of Montrose and Argyll used the route on their marches.
The Old Inn and the Smiddy became central points on the route and the Smiddy itself dates from the 1790s, possibly a thatched cottage in its first incarnation (as there is a thackstane on the chimney). Four generations of Montgomerys managed the Smiddy and provided essential services for the rural community in the form of farm tools and an endless supply of shoes for the horses. As cars began to replace horses, the family opened a garage in 1923 and the Smiddy finally closed in the 1950s. The interior of the forge was left untouched and thereby became ideal as a view into the past.
Montgomery descendant, Cathie Montgomery, who still lives in the village, decided to pursue the possibility of turning her family heirloom into a public museum. A committee was quickly formed of hugely enthusiastic people, and with lottery funding assistance, local authority and other grant funding support, and much local fundraising over 5 years, her vision became a reality in 1997.
This small museum, displaying some 80 different tools and implements from a bygone age, with a still working forge fire and bellows, offers a unique insight into Scottish rural life. The film of the history and opening of the Smiddy Museum shows the blacksmith, Ian Wade, making horseshoes for demonstration purposes. Horseshoes are now machine-made, but the Smiddy receives old horseshoes from the farrier which are cleaned in the fire and polished for sale in the Museum shop. A local metalworker/blacksmith, John William Bain, forges ironwork such as ramshead pokers – albeit now for the tourists – so that visitors can see the forge working as it once used to. The blacksmith used to be responsible for horseshoeing, but now only farriers are registered to do shoeing.
As well as the forge museum, the Smiddy offers a small craft shop, displaying cards and toys, jewellery and pictures, ornaments and handmade goods, mostly made locally within Argyll. And you can buy one of the horseshoes or beautiful pokers made by John William.