Falling in Love with Inveraray.
Inveraray has it all; loch-side scenery, history and heritage, castles and cuteness. A bustling tourist town by day, Inveraray is filled with day-trippers, pit-stoppers, and tour buses. The real magic for me, however, was spending the night there. That’s when Inveraray stole my heart.
Inveraray is such a pretty picture, with its charming architecture and instantly recognisable black and white facades. Encased in striking greenery on the shores of Loch Fyne, the setting is more than just a wee bit special. Loch Fyne, which is famed for its oysters and seafood delights, is the longest sea loch in Scotland, and is it seriously beautiful. The town sits in the heart of Argyll, the home of Clan Campbell, who have been living in the area since the 13thcentury.
The Campbells are infamous in Scottish history for their role in the 1692 Massacre of Glencoe. They sided with the British Government during the Jacobite Rebellions, and orchestrated the murder of Clan MacDonald; this was a bid to hush the unruly Jacobites and prevent any future rebellions. Today, the Campbell family are well-respected in the area, and have descendants all over the world.
During my visit, I immersed myself in Clan Campbell territory, wandered the town’s wee streets, and learned of its less than pleasant past. When all that was done, and the day drew to a close, I sat on a bench at by the side of the loch and soaked up the tranquility. The traffic was now at a minimum, and the crowds had disappeared on to their next destination. It was in that moment that I saw Inveraray as more than just a touristy town, and thought “Aye, I could live here”.
Here’s what I discovered on my visit. Perhaps you can fall in love too.
Inveraray Castle is an absolute show-stopper, and the town’s top attraction. The castle is the ancestral home of the Chief of Clan Campbell, the Duke of Argyll. There are references to a castle in Inveraray from the 13thcentury, however the current castle wasn’t built until the 1700s. Its hybrid style – with elements of Baroque, Gothic and Palladian architecture – was sketched by John Vanbrugh, who designed the acclaimed Blenheim Palace. It was William Adam – and fellow Architect Roger Morris – who were responsible for bringing Vanbrugh’s idyllic design to life, though neither of them lived to see it finished.
The Adam Family (cue the theme tune to the Adams Family in your head) were renowned Scottish architects, who were responsible for several well-known structures around the country: Hopetoun House, Duff House and Fort George. It was William’s sons James and Robert who saw the castle through to completion in 1746.
Once I stopped drooling over the castle from outside, I stepped into the lavish interior. I have a thing for elaborate ceilings in palaces and grand houses, and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s important to look up as well as around, particularly in the impressive Armory Room; it claims to be the highest room of any residence in Scotland.
I read about the recent Dukes of Argyll, and seeing clippings from the 13th Duke’s wedding in Hello Magazine. These personal snippets serve as a wee reminder that the castle and its owners are not something from a fiction storybook. I also enjoyed reading about the resident ghosts; I mean, it’s not really a cool castle is there aren’t any spooky tenants.
Don’t forget to take a wander into the gorgeous gardens for a perfect shot of the castle with the flowerbeds in the foreground.
- Entry to Inveraray Castle is £10 per adult and £7 per child
- For more information visit the Inveraray Castle website
Dun na Cuaiche.
For the best views of Inveraray and Loch Fyne, get your walking shoes on and head up Dun na Cuaiche. The trail begins within the grounds of Inveraray Castle, where you cross the picturesque Garden Bridge and before ascending through the forest, past an old lime kiln, and upwards. The walk is quite steep in parts, though it doesn’t take as long as you’d think; it looks really high from the centre of town! Once at the top, you’ll see the 1758 tower structure which, like the castle, was designed by Roger Morris and William Adam.
The views are absolutely amazing and worth the short burst of exertion. I could’ve sat up there all day, if the downpour of drizzle hadn’t shimmied me along. I may have also hidden my jacket in a bush at the bottom because I couldn’t be bothered carrying it. DOH!
- The climb took me just under an hour.
- For more information visit the Walk Highlands website.
The pretty architecture that you see in Inveraray today was the result of a town-sized revamp which took place in the 18thcentury, to match the shiny new castle. The Inveraray Inn was the first hotel to open in 1755, and it was where I chose to rest my head during my first overnight stay in the town.
Conveniently located right next to the bus stop for the Glasgow to Campbeltown bus, I didn’t have far to trundle my bags. I checked into a super-comfy, relatively compact room with lovely views out across Loch Fyne and the wee stone bridge which leads into the town from the east. The bridge forms part of General Wade’s Old Military Road, which was constructed following the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion and the Battle of Culloden in 1746 so that the government forces could easily travel through the wild and inaccessible Highlands to police the clans.
I dined in the hotel bar, and can recommend the seafood linguine. Enjoyed with a cheeky glass of wine, of course!
- View prices and availability for the Inveraray Inn on Booking.com
They really went to town during the revamp of Inveraray, and a Court House was opened on the same day as the Inveraray Inn. Decades later in 1820, a new Court House was built, as well as the Jail. Inveraray was the centre of trial and retribution, and the judges were far from a lenient bunch.
The fact that us Scots were riddled with superstition can’t have helped; we loved throwing around a wee “she’s a witch” accusation. In fact, 1500 “witches” were executed in Scotland during the 16thand 17thcentury alone. Mental.
Though torture was abolished in 1708, punishments were still extreme, and often didn’t seem to match the crime. While our current justice can be questionable to say the least, let’s be thankful that we are living in a far more civilised society these days.
Inveraray is an entertaining and unnerving ‘attraction’. The Jail has witnessed more than its share of births, deaths, and escapes. There’s a lot of information about specific cases and individuals, and how the prison system was run. I felt sad thinking about how women, young children and those who were mentally ill had to endure such inhumane conditions. Many of the ‘criminals’ were those living in poverty, who had resorted to theft to survive.
I highly recommend using the audio guide and allocating at least an hour and a half to wander around. I definitely didn’t walk into the courtroom and jump out of my skin, distracted by the commentary, thinking the mannequins were real people. Absolutely not.
- Inveraray Jail is open year-round from the morning until 17.00 or 18.00
- Entry to the jail is £11.95 per adult and £7.25 per child
- For more information visit the Inveraray Jail website
Inveraray has several cute looking wee cafes, but my online research told me that Brambles was the one to go too. Located on the town’s main street ‘The Avenue’, with seriously tempting cakes in the window, this welcoming abode is too good to pass by. Brambles is deceivingly large inside, with lots of tables through the back. The café prides itself on local produce, fresh home-baking, and the coffee produced by their sister company. I demolished an epic toastie with ham, goats cheese, walnuts and chilli jam. It was delicious! Admittedly though, I am very disappointed in myself for not keeping enough room for cake.
What’s that all about?!
- For more information and menus check out the Brambles Café website
Getting to Inveraray.
- I travelled to Inveraray on the Glasgow – Campbeltown bus with Scottish Citylink
- The journey time from Glasgow is 1 hour 45 minutes
- A return ticket from Glasgow – Inveraray costs £18.20 per adult and £13 per child
- For a multiday adventure, check out the Citylink Explorer Pass