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!
The Glenaray and Inveraray Parish Church was provided for the town by the 5th. Duke of Argyll. Designed by Robert Mylne in 1792 and completed in 1802. This strange looking Church was built to house two congregations, English or Lowland Scots and Gaelic Scots. A solid wall seperated the two although both services were conducted at the same time, one english and one in Gaelic. The congregations were united in 1930 to become one with only English being spoken inside. Much of the stone used to build the Church came from the Isle of Arran but some was quarried at Creag nan Caorach, a headland south of the town. This confirmed the 16 century prophecy confirming that Inveraray would never be a town with its name until the bells rang out from Creag nan Caorach. The two gable have a circular opening one contains the clock while the other contains the bell. The Church used to have a spire but it was damaged and removed, so now we see a strange squat building standing centre stage in this tiny little town.
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.
All Saint's Church is part of the Scottish Episcopalian congregation. The Church was built in Gothic style in 1885 using local red granite. A pretty Church set in a leafy location was designed by Wardrop & Anderson of Edinburgh. The Bell Tower which stands separated from the Church is of Gothic Revival style designed by Hoare & Wheeler. It stands at a great height as a memorial to the Campbell's who died during the first world war. The tower contains ten bells designed by John Taylor of Loughborough. The tower was constructed in 1923 and completed in 1931. Both the Church and Tower are open daily from April to September. You can climb the tower to see great views of the town or just listen to the lovely peel of the ten bells. Entrance to both buildings are free.
I loved this old bridge which we found while wandering around the Castle's Estate. It has a very victorian feel with all its unusual details. The bridge spans the little salmon river where you can go fishing if you can afford the permit to fish here! I was particularly taken with the view of the river through the urn shaped supports, which made a very pretty frame for the scene of reflected poplar trees. We also spotted an old door set into the wall, it was fenced off so we couldn't enter, this old door intrigued me and my imagination. I was left wondering where it could lead to and why was it there at all.
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.
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.
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.
Most of the furnishings inside All Saint's Church were donated by Neil Dairmid the 10th. Duke of Argyll. Here there are no stained glass windows but my attention was drawn to the window sills which contained many religious ornaments so lovingly displayed. I also liked the hand embroidered hossacks displaying images from the sea. I was most surprised to see among the books and souvenirs a copy of a booklet by Gerald Stranraer-Mull, who was the rector of Saint James Church in Cruden Bay, now recently retired. The book, which I bought is entitled a Church for Scotland and details the history of the Scottish Episcopal Church. Ironically Church Services are every 2nd. Sunday at 15.00 hours but Roman Catholic Mass is celebrated every Sunday at 12.30. The Catholic link goes to Lochgilphead's Church Saint Margaret's and her Priest Father Paul. Nice to discover my book here in this lovely well used place of worship.
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
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.
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)
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
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.
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!