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The Range - Arrochar

Turning back out of Ardgartan the next feature is the site of the Torpedo Base, with the Buttermilk Burn running down the hill at the back of it.

The construction of the Range was undertaken by McAlpine. Work started in 1908 and it was handed over to the Ministry of Defence in 1912. The task was to support the manufacturing and testing of  torpedoes produced at the first RN Torpedo Factory, which first opened at The Torpedo Range, ArrocharGreenock in 1910. From 1936 to 1971 torpedoes were manufactured at the RN Torpedo Factory Alexandria. The Range however, played its biggest role during WWII when in 1944 approximately 12,565 torpedoes were fired down the loch, working out at an average of 48 runs per day. The Range closed on the 19th Dec 1986. The Range played a significant part in sustaining the village. For three quarters of the twentieth century it was the village ‘bread basket’.

Originally an Admiralty facility, the range became the Royal Naval Torpedo Testing Station and Range, referred to variously as the Loch Long Torpedo Range and the Arrochar Torpedo Range. Test firing was carried out from submarines, or from a modified vessel, similar to a Clyde Puffer, equipped with two underwater torpedo tubes fitted beneath the bow. This vessel is said have been built in Germany, and been taken from there either during, or after, World War II. When not in use, this vessel was moored off the Gamble Steps in Gourock, near to the present day ferry terminal and pier. Torpedoes under test were constructed without warheads, and designed to float to the surface on completion of their test run. Recovery is said to have been by an ex-RAF rescue craft, the Fulmar, which had a low freeboard (the distance from the waterline to the upper deck level, measured at the lowest point where water can enter) which made the operation easier.

Testing ended after an explosion at another range, involving the same torpedo type that was then being evaluated at Loch Long. The remains of three cottages can be found to the west of the road leading to main buildings, and are based on a wooden frame with metal cladding. Believed to date from the 1940s, these were probably used by staff employed at the station. Soon The Range will be no more as work started in June 2007 to demolish much of the outbuildings.

The Buttermilk burn bears its name from the tradition that in the summer crofters took to the higher pastures with their cattle and the curds from the milk were thrown in the burn giving it a creamy churned look.

Immediately passed the Range on the road to Arrochar, is the Highlandman’s Height. It is said that this is the site of Knockerbus, a croft visited by Rabbie burns. Also a site of an Inn or Illicit Still/Shebaan. There is no knowledge of anyone living here since the turn of the 19th / 20th century. There are other tales about this area in the Rev. H. S Winchester’s ‘Traditions  of Arrochar and Tarbet and the MacFarlanes’.


See also History Of The Torpedo Range


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