Friday, September 25, 2015

Day 21: Inveraray, Dunstaffnage & Inverlochy

We left Glasgow after 10am, headed for Inveraray. As soon as we hit lochs, it became difficult to keep my eyes on the road as the scenery was so beautiful, savage, welcoming, rough and lovely. The sun dotted through heavy clouds; it shed light in such a way that it seemed the hills and mountains were only just then lazily rising from their Sunday lie-in.

Loch Lomond was so inviting - and it wasn’t raining - so we stopped there. All the pay machines were on the fritz so I nervously went with my fiancĂ© to what was signposted as “the beach”. Dirt lined the edges of the loch, as did ambling tourists and grumpy ducks. We then rejoined the road which was very windy as it had to go around many lochs.

How could you not stop for that view!?

Inveraray Castle appeared beneath a weary sky that threatened rain. It had ample parking. We noted the windows set low in the dry moat. It seemed an illogical place for windows. We discovered that this castle was never defensive, even though it was built near the time of the Battle of Culloden. The moat is decorative and houses the tea room.

We spent a brief time in the gardens but they were bland and uninteresting, perhaps because Scottish flora is either deep green or dark brown. Still, I got a good shot of the original entrance. At the newer entrance, the entry was quite small and modest - you could walk into the original larger entry now situated at the rear of the castle.


The first room I entered proudly bore production stills from a Christmas episode of Downton Abbey, the one in which Matthew dies. That explained why it looked a little familiar! An 18th century home, it is still inhabited by a duke who is also the chief of the Campbell clan. The Campbells must be very canny to have survived Scotland’s tumultuous history - and on top! My fiancĂ© claims Campbell ancestry and he is quite clever.

Yes, that is a creepy mannequin in the background. 

The armoury was amazing. Each wall was filled with muskets and blades, some 500 years old! The towers would be useless in defence - you had to go up the main stairs to get to each level of them. There was good food was in the tea room. I had local salmon with cream cheese on a bagel! Bought hilariously small whiskey bottles in the gift shop.

We departed. Specks of rain on the windshield worried me, but the skies seemed to hold off as we headed into Oban in search of Dunstaffnage Castle. The signs promised we were getting near but we first had to get through a maze of parking lots belonging to some sort of scientific installation. But then we found our destination and walked along the loch towards it. Dunstaffnage is an impressive 13th-18th century castle - most definitely used for defence.

Come at me, bro.

It sat upon a giant rock that looked as though it had been thrown there by a giant. Though mostly in ruins, thanks to a 19th century fire, its wall could block anyone mistaken for thinking that the lack of moat made Dunstaffnage an easy target. We climbed stairs up to the gatehouse, where a drawbridge would have been pulled up. The castle guards the water and boats could find safe harbour there.

The towers were in ruins and the ground was grassy, enough to make you forget that you were on a rock above the ground - especially with such walls around you. There was a well in the courtyard. Tiny narrow stars led you through the levels of the guardhouse.

Bit of paint...bit of'll be great!

The rain grew insistent so we popped into the gift shop before finding shelter in the car. Onward we went to the “old” Inverlochy Castle (the newer one is a mansion-turned-hotel). The ruins were on Loch River, near Fort William. What remained of Inverlochy Castle was a walled outline including the ruined towers. A sign boasted a visit from Queen Victoria though she apparently complained that there was not much to see - but many castles are like this! As we entered, we passed a deep ditch - a former moat. Inverlochy Castle worked in tandem with Urquhart Castle at Loch Ness to guard the waters.


Then we located our B&B - we were given a very purple room! I liked it. But when we left to find dinner…disaster. We drove to Spean but even at 6pm we were turned away from a restaurant as they were solidly booked. We watched others turned away. Every other eatery in Spean was shut on Sundays!?

We went to a lovely pub in Fort William for dinner. I enjoyed my usual Malibu with Diet Coke.

Much happier turn of events. =D

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