ARGYLL & BUTE

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Argyll Head of Glencoe Flickr PhillipCFor years now, the region of Argyll retains its seemingly isolated atmosphere from the rest of the country—public transportation remains scarce in the area, and the population in each of its towns never seems to exceed the thousands.  It also helps that in most parts of the region, it seems positively undisturbed; therefore, the contrast in its various landscapes looks even more remarkable.  It is a great cross between the Highlands and Lowlands, both in culture and geography, so that it seems so far away from the major cities of Scotland, even though it’s quite nearer than one may think.  This gives travelers the feeling of discovery, even though it’s becoming more and more a tourist destination than a hidden getaway. 

Here, mainland and the coastline, as well as the scattered islands (which are part of the Inner Hebridean archipelago), have multitudes to offer.  The coastlines are perfect sandy beach getaways, the mainland offers great archeological treasures representing the region’s rich Celtic heritage, and the islands range from hill walker’s paradise to religious sites.

Nowadays, though, Argyll is in danger of losing its authenticity, as more and more plantations are taking over its rich forests, and its local industries of fishing and farming are being ousted for more modern techniques favoring mass production. 

 

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Points of Interest:   1. Oban  2. Dunollie Castle 3. Inveraray & Inveray Castle  4. Kilmartin  5. Loch Lomond   6. Kintyre Peninsula  7. Campbelltown  8. Isle of Bute

 


 



Oban LighthouseOban dominates the northwestern region of Scotland in the port industry, and yet it remains a tiny town with a little more eight thousand residents.  The number of people in the area shoots up come summertime, though, outnumbering the residents even, as everyone arrives on the port to board the ferry to the Hebrides.  The best way to enjoy Oban on a summer is to get away from the main street to enjoy the coastal views, but the overall best way to enjoy Oban is to go instead during spring, where it is easier to appreciate Oban’s Victorian resort heritage and its reputation as Scotland’s seafood capital, right on the harbour.

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You can find the ferry terminal for CalMac on Railway Pier, a few steps away from the train station, which is located on the southern part of the town. 

Sights
McCaigs TowerDominating the town and the postcards of Oban is McCaig’s Tower, which is located on top of the hill.  Built by a Victorian banker, John Stuart McCaig a century ago, the McCaig’s Tower is now but a folly housing a garden and offers a magnificent view of the bay especially at dusk. During the banker’s time, though, he had great plans for the imitation Colosseum—it was meant to house statues of him and his family, as well as a museum, art gallery and chapel, and was meant to give employment to the stonemasons currently unemployed during the winter.  All plans were for nought, though, as he died before he was able to fulfill everything he had designed.  The structure itself was finished, but for lack of funds, none of the other plans he left in his last will was.  The bizarre granite structure still remains, though, and for all intents and purposes, it is a strategic place to view the rest of the town, and a town landmark as well.

Walk north along the coast and you will find the ruins of Dunollie Castle (north of Oban, +44 1631 570550, free) on a steep hill overlooking the harbour and outlying islands.  The castle dates from the fifteenth century and was built by the MacDougalls.  Down the hill, you will find the the Dunollie Castle, which was built by the clan in 1746 after they abandoned the castle.  Nowadays, there is a big project for the clan to pay visits to the site.  There are also plans to open the 1746 house itself to the public.
 

 

Hotels

        

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Or you can check out our reviewed hotels below and contact them directl

Kilchrenan House (Corran Esplanade, +44 1631 562663, £30-45).  This guest house offers great views of the seaside, and is luxurious and modern without burning the pocket.  Most of the rooms have been refurbished. Some rooms even have baths with a view.

Heatherfield House (Albert Road, +44 1631 562806, from £44-55).   A former manse built in the 19th century, this guest house has been wonderfully updated to feel like a modern accommodation.  Each room has free Wi-Fi and has great views.  Small touches, like local handmade toiletries, make the guest house feel like a home.

Set in a turreted Victorian house surrounding by a wooded garde,
 Alt na Craig House (Glenmore Road, +44 (0) 1631 564524, £120) has six individually-styled rooms that look decidedly like a boutique hotel.  The hosts’ personal service saves the guest house from feeling impersonal.

A very friendly hostel in a very central location,
Oban Backpackers (Breadalbane Street, +44 1631 562107, from £13.90) is cheap, so you get what you pay for.  Some mattresses are not that good, but all the rooms are kept clean.  You can have your laundry done, perfect for backpackers who are out on the road for a long period of time. Many patrons are fans of the tour that the hostel offers, because it combines both must-see sights and off-the-beaten path ones.

Situated adjacent to the ferry terminal, the
Maridon House (Dunuaran Road, +44 1631 562670, £27-33) is perfect for travelers who have an early departure towards the Hebrides.  The eight rooms are all en-suite and have been recently refurbished for the guests’ comfort. 

Relatively one of the newest guest houses in town,
Dunheanish (Ardconnel Road, +44 1631 566556, £25-40) occupies an enviable spot, right beside the town’s landmark, the McCaig’s Tower.  This means great views right on your room.  Everything is within walking distance, but it’s certainly a chore to climb back uphill. Every room is spacious, bright and pleasant. 

Dungallan Country House (Gallanach Road, +44 1631 566711, £77-87).   This country mansion was built for the Duke of Argyll before it became a guest house.  Each room accommodates the unique structure of the house, and the attention to detail is evident.  The free Wi-Fi offered is very efficient, as well as the service, which is professional yet still warm.  The views here are better than in any guest house or hotel in town.

Situated right near by the terminal,
Manor House (Gallanach Road, +44 1631 562087, £115-160) is a boutique hotel furnished in period furniture.  The result is a dignified look for the hotel that gives it a luxurious atmosphere, fit for a king (or in the case of the original structure, fit for the mother of the Duke of Argyll).

 

 

 



Inveraray Castle 1 Flickr Englishpointers When the third Duke of Argyll decided to demolish the castle that had housed his predecessors since the fifteen century to make way for a new one, he felt that, to make his new castle look even better, he should work on the fishing village of Inveraray just the same.  Nowadays, much of the eighteenth century look of the town remains, the whitewashed cottages overlooking the western shore of the Loch Fyne still look as though they were just built by Robert Mylne, the architect responsible for much of the reconstruction in the New Town.  He also designed the parish church of the town, which was divided into two parts before, to accommodate both the Gaelic speakers (in the south) and the English speakers (in the north).

Sights
Inveraray Jail (Church Square, +44 1499 302381, £8.25);  This historic Georgian courthouse and prison was in operation till the 1930s.  It has since then been turned into a museum depicting Georgian prison life.  In summers, the mannequins scattered in the prison can be replaced with actors.  Everyone’s favorite here is the reenactment of a sentence being handed out in the courthouse.  If you’re in for a fright, you can participate in the ghost hunts.

Head north of the New Town and you will find the neo-Gothic I
nveraray Castle  (see above photo, Winterton Field, +44 1499 302203, £9.20), the ancestral home of the Duke of Argyll and the Campbell clan.  The older structure that once stood here had housed the previous Dukes of Argyll since the fifteenth century.  It was the third Duke who decided to completely re-do the whole castle from scratch in the eighteenth century.  It took forty years for the castle, which incorporated several influences, including Baroque and Palladian, to be finished.  The armoury hall is the highlight of the whole castle, which greets you with its walls filled with displayed weaponry.

 

Hotels

        

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Loch Fyne Hotel and Spa (Shore Street, +44 (0) 1499 302980, £110-190)
With a bar overlooking the loch, and a superb food offering, this boutique hotel is very luxurious and indulgent, with seventy-one spacious rooms decorated in calm colors to ensure a good night’s sleep.

The structure of
George Hotel (Main Street East, +44 1499 302111, £70) dates back to the time when Inveraray was being reinvigorated.  It is made of two adjoined private houses owned by the Clark family who still own the hotel.  Over the years, the hotel has been restored to maintain the integrity of the house, with luxurious period furnishing.

 

 

 



Kilmartin House Museum graveyards projectKilmartin Glen has the most number of prehistoric relics scattered in a concentrated area, thus it is one of the most significant sites for archaeological  digs in the country.  It has over three-hundred-fifty digs, some of which are prehistoric and some date back to the Dalriada kingdom in the sixth century.  Everywhere you turn, you will find cairns, forts and stone circles dotting the area surrounding the village between Oban and Lochgilphead.

Sights
Before heading out to the cluster of prehistoric digs around the village, visit the Museum of Ancient Cultures (Kilmartin Village, +44 1546 510278, £5). It is considered one of the best museums in Scotland, and houses a unique permanent collection concentrating mainly on archeological digs.  There are several interactive displays and guided tours offered by the museum.  You can even ask the staff for information and orientation on your own trip to the sites.  Before heading out on your own, you should treat yourself to a sumptuous meal or snack at the award-winning café in the museum, where everything is home-baked.

The most imposing sight among the prehistoric sites is the linear cemetery, which dominates the surroundings for over three miles south of Kilmartin.  Everybody has different theories as to what the cairns may have represented, but nobody knows for sure.  The oldest cairn is the South Cairn, which is Neolithic and dates from around 3000 BC. 

Beyond the linear cairns are the remains of the fort of Dunadd, which was the site where the first king of Dalriada established his kingdom.  It is considered one of the most important Celtic sites.  It is distinguished by the unique stone carvings where one can make out the ancient Irish alphabet of ogam, and the strategic position over a tall rocky knoll surrounded by water.


Hotels

 Dunchraigaig House (Kilmartin, +44 1546 605300, £30-40) is a charming Victorian house located south of the village and right at the heart of the glen, overlooking the Ballymeanoch standing stones.  The en-suite rooms are not so spacious but very cozy and conducive to a peaceful sleep. 

Rosebank B&B (Kilmartin, +44 (0) 1546 510370) is situated in the village, right in front of the Museum of Ancient Cultures.  The hosts are friendly, and will even offer you assistance around the area.




Loch LomondSituated right on the intersection of the Scottish Lowlands and Highlands, on the Highland Boundary fault, Loch Lomond is not easily described in words.  It is a great and awe-inspiring preview as to what natural beauty Scotland has to offer.  The biggest fresh water loch in Britain by surface area (it is second to Loch Ness in terms of water volume), Loch Lomond is, in a word, legendary, for the magnitude of what it has to offer.  Many are turned off, though, by the number of tourists that it tends to attract, but not to worry.  Loch Lomond is twenty-four miles long—just explore the wooded area by the eastern part and you will find what may have inspired the song that has rendered the lake so popular.

Since 2002, Loch Lomond has been part of Scotland’s first national park, the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. Loch Lomond occupies the western part of the park.

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The most convenient gateway to the national park is located n the town of Balloch which is less than twenty miles away from Glasgow.   Do not allow yourself to spend more time than you should at the Loch Lomond Shores (Ben Lomond Way, +44 1389 751035); instead, get all the practical information you need to explore the park without headache, and head on straight to exploring.

Sights

UK Central Scotland West Highland WayThe well waymarked path of the West Highland Way remains one of the most popular paths in Britain, for its relative ease and the great landscape it passes through, as well as its accessibility and convenience.  It was opened to the public as the country’s first long-distance footpath.  It stretches for at least ninety five miles from Milngavie to Fort William, passing through Rannoch Moor, which is beyond the Highland Boundary Fault Line to Glen Coe, which was where the MacDonald clan was allegedly killed and then Fort William, which marks the end of the journey.  Be prepared for a different kind of weather here, even in summertime.  To avoid the crowds, never start your journey on a weekend. 

The whole footpath takes days to complete—this is without ascent over the mountain peaks such as Ben Lomond or Ben Nevis.  You can divide your north to south route by doing ten miles a day, and staying at different B&Bs and guesthouses along the way. 

If you want to experience the fresh waters of Loch Lomond, then you can either take a cruise or rent a kayak or canoe. Sweeney’s Cruises (+44 1389 752376, £7/£12.50)have been in operation in Balloch since the nineteenth century now and offer one- or two-hour cruises.  You can rent a kayak or a canoe from Lomond Adventure (+44 1360 870218).

Hotels

        

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Woodvale B&B (Drymen Road, Balloch, +44 1389 755771, from £30).  This is ideal if you plan to take an early cruise over the Loch Lomond.  Three of the four bedrooms are en-suite, and all are clean and have central heating, not to mention large and well-equipped.  The host, Alison, is a favorite among guests who are loyal to the bed and breakfast.

Gowanlea Guesthouse (Drymen Road, Balloch, +44 1389 752456, £44-45) has four en-suite bedrooms, free Wi-Fi, and pet-friendly, as long as you inform the hosts in advance.  It is quite near the gateway to the West Highland Way.

The best thing about
Ewich House (Crianlarich, +44 1838 300300, £32) is that the rates of their rooms per person stay the same all year round, so there are no unpleasant surprises.  Their six rooms are all comfortable and have been recently refurbished with Laura Ashley products.  The service is also very personal, which makes it a comfortable base after a strenuous walk up the West Highland Way.

The two en-suite bedrooms in
Passfoot B&B (Balmaha, +44 1360 870324, from £32) are all comfortable and furnished with basic but good facilities, as well as spotlessly clean.  The location is superb, as it is directly in the West Highland Way.

 

 



UK Central Scotland Kintyre Peninsula Flickr sedogliaNot a lot of people visit this peninsula, which is only a peninsula because of a narrow strip of land, or isthmus, connecting West Loch Tarbert to the smaller East Loch Tarbert.  It was occupied by the king of Norway, Magnus Barefoot, after the Scottish king gave him claim to any land he could circumnavigate.  It was deserted for a time during the Wars of the Covenant, and then the earl of Argyll had the brilliant idea to uproot the Gaelic-speakers among Lowlanders here.

You enter Kintyre through Tarbert, which comes from the Gaelic “An Tairbeart” meaning isthmus.  This fishing village has a pretty harbour and an equally pretty backdrop in the form of hills.  The best way to appreciate its quaint beauty is by standing by the ruins of Robert the Bruce’s castle south of the town.

Three miles west of Kintyre, you will find the small Isle of Gigha (pronounced as gee-ya), which has had settlers five thousand years ago.  In 2002, the settlers here, only a little more than a hundred of them, finally bought the island, after years of it being sold and resold.  You come here for its tiny pockets of sandy beaches, which are exceptionally peaceful.

 



Campbeltown could lay claim to being the “whisky capital of world” before, when, in its heyday, it was home to thirty-four distilleries.  During that period, Campbeltown had great thriving industries—shipbuilding, coal-mining, and fishing.  Nowadays, Campbeltown remains one of Argyll’s biggest towns in terms of population – which for Argyll is not saying much.  The number of distilleries in town has been reduced to three.  One thing about Campbeltown that hasn’t changed is its superb location—situated by the Campbeltown Loch and surrounded by hills.

Of the three remaining distilleries here, you should definitely pay a visit to the traditional Springbank Distillery (Longrow, +44 1586 551710), which is the oldest family-owned distillery in the country.  They still do everything on the premises, from the malting to the bottling.   You can book a guided tour of the distillery and even enjoy a dram after the tour itself.

Paul McCartney owns a farm in a town nearby and being a former Beatle, can just do anything he wants, including building a memorial garden for his late wife, Linda, which is located by the Campbeltown Museum and Library.  He was also inspired by the mull (headland) of Kintyre, which is located south of Campbeltown, and the nearest that the country gets to Ireland, which is visible from the mull on a clear day.

 

Hotels

      

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