Inveraray Castle is located a short walk out of the town, within large parklands. A castle has been there since the 15th century, but the present castle was built in 1745 by the Duke of Argyll and today is still the home of the Argyll family. Parts of it were destroyed by a fire in 1877, and during the renovation many changes were made and the style was adapted to a style similar to the Loire castles, with small towers and spires.
The castle is closed during low season, so I only visited the grounds nearby, and peeked through a gate to see the building. As it is still used as a private home, it is not possible to walk closer when it is closed to visitors. I still enjoyed wandering around the area outside of the fence, I was the only person here and it was so calm and quiet. The scenery was perfect: Some rural farm buildings, grazing sheep, the glimpse of the castle nearby...
You can read about the interior on the castle's website and it certainly sounds to be worth a visit! There is a wonderful image gallery showing many pictures of the exterior and interior.
On special dates you can even see the private apartments of the castle for £5,00, this must be arranged prior to your visit. See website for details!
Admission fee: £10 adults, £8,50 seniors and students, £6,50 children, £28,00 family
Opening times: April to October, 10.00am to 17.45pm daily (last admission 17.00pm)
Rest and Be Thankful is one of the most famous viewpoints in Scotland. It is located on the A83, about 25km from Inveraray, and overlooks the glen of Glen Croe.
The saddle of the hill pass is 245m above sea level and is the highest point in the area around Loch Fyne. It got its name due to the soldiers who built a military road up the hill-pass in 1753, after the Jacobite rebellion. It was very, very hard work to construct the road, and when they had reached the top, they carved the words Rest and Be Thankful into a stone.
The view over the glen is very nice, although I visited in February it was green, and I found the landscape fascinating, as always in this part of Scotland!
Loch Fyne is the feature that distinguished the town of Inveraray... It is a very large loch by area, and therefore the town has a maritime feel to it. The day I visited here was very sunny, and the loch was so beautiful: The water was clear and blue, the surrounding mountains of a wonderful green, and it was just amazing.
Loch Fyne is 65km long and is connected to the sea by Sound of Jura in the south. The Isle of Arran is only 70km away from Inveraray, so no wonder that you almost feel as if you are by the sea!
There is no promenade along the shore of the loch, but there is a small walkway as well as several benches. I had brought my own pick nick lunch and it was so nice to sit on one of the benches and enjoy my sandwich while enjoying the view of the loch, the fresh air and the breeze...
Make sure you not only visit the main walkway, but also walk to the shore on the other side of the town, off Main Street. Here you get some different views on the loch and the mountains.
The main street is very pretty, with its rows of white houses. They all look very similar, but when the sun is shining, they look just nice and create a pleasant atmosphere. It is obvious to the visitor that Inveraray is a planned town: The main street goes up from the shore of Loch Fyne, and in the end forms a circle around the parish church. It is therefore impossible to get lost in Inveraray!
Along the street, there are several restaurants and small shops, including several souvenir shops of different quality. Although it was low season, most of them were open. While some sell the typical tourist stuff you get in every Scottish souvenir shop, some were quite nice and I also found a pretty postcard of Inveraray. There is also a small co-op supermarket.
I wandered up and down main street several times and really enjoyed it. There were not many people there on this February noon, and our small group were the only tourists here at all, so all the other people were locals and it was nice to have a chat with them and hear them talking about their daily business. I imagine that in high season, though, it must be very crowded with tourists and the atmosphere must be very different then.
The Maritime Museum consists of two ships which lie in anchor on the shore of the loch. Unfortunately the museum was closed, presumably because it was off season, but the good thing about a museum consisting of ships is that you can see the exterior of the ships even if you cannot go onboard!
One of the two ships is the Arctic Penguin, a triple-masted schooner which was built in Dublin in 1911. It was first used as a lightship and then as a training ship. After several years as a cruise ship it was brought to Inveraray.
The other, smaller ship is the puffer Vital Spark, which was built in 1944 and was a merchant carrier, carrying cargo along Scotland's west coast until it became part of the museum in 2001.
The two ships are now located at the historical pier of Inveraray.
During high season, you can go on board of the ships and see exhibitions about the maritime history of the region, there is also a coffee shop.
Opening times: Open from April to October, 10.00am to 05.00pm daily
Admission fee for the museum: £5,00 adults, £2,50 children, £3,00 seniors, £14,00 family
Inveraray Parish Church was built from 1792 to 1802 in neoclassical style. It is located on Church Square at the southern end of the main street, with the street forming a circle around it. In fact, in the beginning I did not realize that this was a church, it does not look like it at the first glance, but rather looks like a county hall or similar.
There is another unusual feature about this church: It was originally built in two halves - one half worshipping in Gaelic, the other half in English and Scots, the parishioners being separated by a wall! The English/Scots part is the part that is now still used as a church. Unfortunately the building was closed, so I couldn't have a look inside.
Picture one shows the view from the south, while picture 2 shows the view from the north (from the main street)
I did not visit the jail because our time in the town was limited and I rather wanted to spend it differently, as I am not too interested in visiting such jails.
I had a look at the building, though, which was built in 1820. It is quite an impressive building for such a small town.
The adjacent prison was the main prison of the county of Argyll. Male and female prisoners as well as children were imprisoned there, until a new prison for male prisoners was established in 1849.
On a visit to the jail, you can visit both the old and the new prison as well as the court house.
As I did not go inside, please take further details from their website!
Along the shore of Loch Fyne, there are two particular things of interest: The Celtic Cross, and a war memorial.
The cross dates back to the 14th or 15th century and is beautifully carved. It was the market cross of the original village of Inveraray. This village was located where there is now a huge park close to Inveraray Castle. When the new town was built, the cross was placed on the shore of the loch.
A bit further to the north, there is the town's small war memorial, featuring a statue of a solider wearing a kilt. The memorial is dedicated to the Royal British Legion Scotland, as the letters in the fencing indicate.
The bell tower was erected after World War One as a memorial to the dead of the Campbell clan. It was constructed from 1921 to 1931, which was not always easy due to the remote location of Inveraray. There is a ring of ten bells in the tower, and it was not easy to bring them here! Every bell was named after a Celtic saint, such as St Columba.
The bell tower is open to visitors, but only during summer. As I visited in winter, I could not climb it and just had a look at the exterior. The view from the top on Loch Fyne and the surrounding mountains must be stunning! There is also a small museum, and you can see the bells up close.
There are also ringings of the bells on selected dates, the dates are announced on the website.
Admission fee: £4,00 adults, £2,00 children, £3,00 concession
Opening times: July to September, 10.30am to 04.30pm daily
Inveraray Castle is first and formost home to the Clan Campbell family. The current owner is the 13th. Duke of Argyll, MacCailein Mor, I do hope his title is not unlucky form him. This castle is both remarkable and unique given its size and rural location. Built using several styles including Baroque, Palladain and Gothic, construction began in 1746 and was completed by 1789. Its designers were many during this long period, initially Rodger Morrice and Willam Adam worked together on this project until their deaths. The Castle design was completed by Adam's sons John and Robert. The castle is open to visitors from 1st. April until 31st. October. Opening times are 10.00 to 17.45 seven days. Admission is £6.00 Adult, Family - 2 adults & 2 or more children £19.00 Child £4.50 Seniors and Students £5.70. We didn't go inside because a lot of the rooms were being renovated and I thought along with this and the 'no photography rule' it was a bit pricey for the tearoom and shop but little else. I was content to view its stunning towers from outside.
Crarae Garden is set in one hundred acres creating a magnificent Himalayan woodland. We visited in Spring and the many rhododendrons and azaleas were in full bloom creating a wonderful display of many vibrant colours. The paths through the gardens are steep but the climb is worth the effort to see plants and trees from all corners of the globe. When we arrived after the Easter Weekend the visitors centre was closed due to staff shortage, there was an honesty box on the wall where we duly paid our entrance fee - after all the gardens were a joy to behold and the toilets were open. We met an older local man walking with his dog, he told us he visited most days and got a lot of exercise climbing the many paths which meander around the gardens. He obviously doesn't pay to visit but maybe he is a member of the National Trust for Scotland who look after this place so well and members are admitted free of charge - Note to self 'I really must sign up for this privilege' The vistor centre and shop are open from 1st. April to 31st. October from 10.00 to 17.00 daily. The garden is open all year daily from 9.30 until sunset. Admission prices are Adults £5.50 Family £15.00 One Parent & 2 or more children £10.00 Concession £4.50. Argyll enjoys a temperate climate where plants and trees grow in abundance. I did love my visit, I adore gardens which put mine to shame but I have to cope with salty sea air and I can't afford a professional gardener! Seeing the Australian gum tree climbing a bit higher than the Scots Pine almost made my day!
This is a real fairy tale castle that looks like it was made from giant lego pieces. I have never been inside (I will one day) but even from the outside it is quite spectacular. The grounds are beautiful and worth a look even if you don't have time to visit the castle. It is the home of the Duke of Argyll.
We visited the little graveyard a few steps from Crarae gardens with spectacular views over Loch Fyne. Such a peaceful place with no distractions - no people and no sounds. The first thing we noticed was the total silence apart from some bird song which was a joyous interruption on this sunny day. The doves which sat a top the grave stones carrying their Laural leafes fitted in well in these quiet surroundings. All the grave stones were old but seemed on the whole to be well tended. One of the biggest stone memorials was to the Campbell Clan which was no surprise as this was and is their home area. The flowers laid out at the foot of the graves were not real but plastic - the rabbits and deer devour real flowers and can be a nuisance in grave yards. Although the name 'Campbell' was prominent here the other names were affiliated to the Clan. A good place for a genealogy hunt - but not if your name is MacDonald. Even in death these two clans could never be together.
The Crarae burn makes its way down from the hills rushing at its steepest points to create a little waterfall of cascading waters. I do love the sound and sight of living waters no matter how big or small their effect is magical for me. The constant movement, trickling sound and changing light with sparkling water constantly ready for a refreshing drink always holds me spell bound. This is a special place for all water loving plants like my favourite Highland Cow plant which flourishes well here. As you may see from the photos - the trees were just in bud = maybe in summer the little water fall will become obscured by the many trees but then you can listen in silence.
There were few opportunities to walk with our dog in Inveraray, she didn't like the town much, it was busy with too many people and too many distractions for her to pull on the lead. The castle's estate with its woodland walk proved the perfect place for Cuileann to stretch her paws and for us to enjoy the cool crispness which always seems to be present in wood land. Most of the trees were still dereft of leaves being early Spring but this didn't deter our enjoyment. What we did notice was the deep cut out trenches between some of the trees which turned out to be sources of peat which had recently been cut. The forest was first planted in the 17th. century so I do suppose there would be ample supplies of peat. You are free to walk here with no restrictions although sometimes during tree felling some paths maybe closed. One important point to remember is all dogs must be kept on a lead as there are sheep and deer sharing this place.