Climate.—The rainfall is very abundant. At Oban, the average annual amount is 64.18 in.; in Glen Fyne, 104.11 in.; at the bridge of Orchy, 113.62 in., and at Upper Glencoe 127.65. The prevailing winds, as observed near Crinan, are south-west and south-east, and next in frequency are the north-west and north-east. The average yearly temperature is 48° F.
Agriculture.—Argyllshire was formerly partly covered with natural forests, remains of which, consisting chiefly of oak, ash, pine and birch, are still visible in the mosses; but, owing to the clearance of the ground for the introduction of sheep, and to past neglect of planting, the county is now remarkable for its lack of wood, except in the neighbourhood of Inveraray, where there are extensive and flourishing plantations, and a few other places. Replanting, however, has been carried on. Most of the county is unfitted for agriculture; but many districts afford fine pasturage for mountain sheep; and some of the valleys, such as Glendaruel, are very fertile. The chief crop is oats; there is a little barley, but no wheat. The shire is one of those where the crofting system exists, but it is by no means universal. It is predominant in Tyree and the western district of the mainland, but elsewhere farms of moderate size are the rule. The cattle, though small, are equal to any other breed in the kingdom, and are marketed in large numbers in the south. Dairy farming is carried on to some extent in the southern parts of Kintyre, where there is a large proportion of arable land. In the higher tracts sheep have taken the place of cattle with excellent results. The black-faced is the species most generally reared.
Industries.—Whisky is manufactured at Campbeltown, in Islay, at Oban, Ardrishaig and elsewhere. Gunpowder is made at Kames (Kyles of Bute), Melfort and Furnace. Coarse woollens are made for home use; but fishing is the most important industry, Loch Fyne being famous for its herrings. The season lasts from June to January, but white fishing is carried on at one or other of the ports all the year round. Slate and granite quarrying and some coal-mining are the only other industries of any consequence.
Communications.—Owing partly to the paucity of trading industries and partly to the fact that, owing to its greatly indented coast-line, no place in the shire is more than 12 m. from the sea, the railway mileage in the county is very small. The Tyndrum to Oban section of the Caledonian railway company’s system is within the county limits; a small portion of the track of the North British railway company’s line to Mallaig skirts the extreme west of the shire, and the Caledonian line from Oban to Ballachulish serves the northern coast districts of the Argyllshire mainland. In connexion with this last route mention should be made of the cantilever bridge crossing the Falls of Lora with a span of 500 ft. at a height of 125 ft. above the water-way. The chief means of communication is by steamers, which maintain regular intercourse between Glasgow and various parts of the coast. In order to avoid the circuitous passage round the Mull of Kintyre the Crinan Canal, across the isthmus from Ardrishaig to Loch Crinan, a distance of 9 m., was constructed in 1793-1801, at a cost of £142,000. It has 15 locks, an average depth of 10 ft., a surface width of 66 ft., and bottom width of 30 ft., is navigable by vessels of 200 tons, and runs through a district of remarkable beauty. Another canal unites Campbeltown with Dalavaddy. In summer the mails for the islands and the great bulk of the tourist traffic by the MacBrayne fleet is conveyed through the Crinan Canal, transhipment being effected at Ardrishaig and Crinan. Throughout the year goods traffic between the Clyde and elsewhere and the West Highland ports is conveyed by deep-sea steamers round the Mull. Before the advent of railways the shire contained many famous coaching routes, but now coaches only run during the tourist season, either in connexion with train and steamer, or in districts still not served by either.
Population and Government.—Owing to emigration, chiefly to Canada, the population has declined, almost without a break, since 1831, when it was 100,973, to 74,085 in 1891 and 73,642 in 1901, in which year there were 24 persons to the sq. m. In 1901 the number of Gaelic-speaking persons was 34,224, of whom 3313 spoke Gaelic only. The chief towns are Campbeltown (population in 1901, 8286), Dunoon (6779) and Oban (5427), with Ardrishaig (1285), Ballachulish (1143), Lochgilphead (1313) and Tarbert (1697). The county returns a member to parliament. Inveraray, Campbeltown and Oban belong to the Ayr district group of parliamentary burghs. Argyllshire is a sheriffdom, and there are resident sheriffs-substitute at Inveraray, Campbeltown and Oban; courts are held also at Tobermory, Lochgilphead, Bowmore in Islay, and Dunoon. Both Presbyterian bodies are strongly represented; there are Roman Catholic and (Anglican) Episcopal bishops of Argyll and the Isles, and there is a Roman Catholic pro-cathedral at Oban. Campbeltown, Dunoon and Oban have secondary schools, Tarbert public school has a secondary department, and several other schools earn grants for giving higher education. Part of the “residue” grant is spent by the county council on classes of navigation and other subjects in various schools, short courses in agriculture for farmers, and in providing bursaries.
History.—The early history of Argyll (Airergaidheal) is very obscure. At the close of the 5th century Fergus, son of Erc, a descendant of Conor II., airdrigh or high king of Ireland, came over with a band of Irish Scots and established himself in Argyll and Kintyre. Nothing more is known till, in the days of Conall I., the descendant of Fergus in the fourth generation, St Columba