She was laid down in 1902, and launched in 1904. After commissioning in 1905, she was allocated to the 1st Cruiser squadron, part of the Channel Fleet in 1906. In 1909 she joined the Atlantic Fleet as part of the 5th Cruiser Squadron. In 1911 she was detached from the squadron to escort the Royal Yacht SS Medina in its trip to Durbar in British India. The following year she joined the 3rd Cruiser Squadron, later being damaged in Plymouth Sound where she ran aground in December 1910.
At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, as part of The Grand Fleet, she made her mark quite quickly, when she captured a German merchant ship on the 6 August. From late 1914 to late 1915 she was employed in many night-time patrols. In late 1915, Argyll, under the command of Captain James Tancred, ran aground on the Bell Rock near Dundee. The lighthouse on the rock had been ordered to switch its lights off for fear of assisting German U-Boats in their operations, and the light was only turned on by special permission. While in view of the lighthouse, Argyll sent a signal requesting the light to be turned on.
The ship proceeded on its course believing the signal had been received, but it hadn't and the light was not switched on. Soon afterwards, Argyll ran aground suffering extensive damage to much of the hull. Two destroyers, Hornet and Jackal, assisted in the rescue of the stricken cruiser's crew. Although her hull had been damaged there were no fatalities among Argyll's crew. After all valuable items onboard had been salvaged, including her 6-inch guns. she was blown up by the naval salvage team. In 1970, her two large propellers were recovered by divers and sold for scrap.