Historic Scotland

Opening times

2 May to 8 Sept:
Thur to Sun, 1.30pm to 4.30pm
Last entry 4pm

Visits outwith these dates and times may be possible by arrangement, and are recommended especially for group tours. Please call Largs Museum on 01475 687 081 to arrange.

Facilities

 

History

A private place

Skelmorlie Aisle was added to the 1200s Largs Parish Church in 1636, on the orders of Sir Robert Montgomerie of Skelmorlie and his wife, Dame Margaret Douglas. It was built as their private place of worship and resting place.

Sir Robert oversaw the construction of his own tomb. He’s said to have spent nights there, contemplating the murderous errors of his early life.

When the body of the church was demolished in the early 1800s, the aisle was spared. Today it stands alone in the graveyard, tucked away behind the shops of the main street of Largs.

A hidden gem

Skelmorlie Aisle is a magnificent monument in an unassuming location. Its exuberant interior has no parallel in Scotland, and is remarkable in its refinement. It’s in two parts: a laird’s loft and a vault.

The monumental stone tomb in the laird’s loft is carved in the Renaissance style, which began in Italy in the 1400s. It was probably carved by Scottish masons using foreign pattern books, and may have originally been richly coloured.

Decorations on the tomb included:

  • Sir Robert and Dame Margaret’s arms and monograms
  • symbols of mortality

It’s possible effigies of the couple also rested on the tomb, but if so, these are lost.

The vault, normally not accessible to the public, still contains the lead coffins of Sir Robert and Dame Margaret.

The painted ceiling

The boarded barrel-vaulted ceiling is painted to resemble a ribbed stone ceiling. The artist J Stalker, who had also done work in Edinburgh Castle and New Parliament House, executed the paintings here in 1638.

At the top are various coats of arms. On either side are figures:

  • above the tomb are Justice and Fortitude
  • Isaac, Jacob and Esau are overhead on one side
  • Adam and Eve are on the other

Contemporary scenes of 1600s Largs also provide a picture of local life during the reign of Charles I. Some of the patterns used here have been identified in continental European prints.

Most of the texts above the cornice are taken from the Geneva Bible, which was popular in Scotland at the time. The painted corbels between bear imaginary arms of the tribes of Israel and the signs of the zodiac.

But it’s the landscape scenes that most draw the eye. The central scenes are allegories, probably referring to Largs’ position between land and sea. The four corner scenes illustrate the four seasons.

Summer, behind and left of the tomb, includes an image of Largs Parish Church before it was pulled down.

Download our visitor app

Discover more on the go – the Historic Scotland app lets you find out about Scotland’s most iconic places wherever you are.

Save with an Explorer Pass

Get free entry to Scotland’s top visitor attractions with an Explorer Pass valid for 3 days or 7 days.

Become a member

Join Historic Scotland to visit our properties free of charge for a full year and support our work at the same time.

Hire a site for filming

Use one of our fantastic locations on your next shoot for an awe-inspiring backdrop to your work.

View learning activities

Our 300+ historic places serve as creative inspiration for all sorts of learning activities – and for learners of all ages.

Search our events

See the past brought to life by the imaginative year-round programme of events at our properties.