Glasgow Day Trips – Glasgow to Inveraray
With amazingly close proximity to the Southern Highlands, it is very easy to escape the clamour of our biggest city and head for the hills. Road trips abound and with the likes of the Trossachs, Loch Lomond, Argyll and more all within touching distance, my home city’s never once been a place I’ve felt claustrophobic in. The road from Glasgow to Inveraray is another one of my Great Scottish Drives and I’ve picked out several notable stops to fill a day (or more) along the route.
As you’ll be passing anyway it’d be rude not to give it a merited mention. Second only to Loch Ness in the fame game, Lomond is incredibly easy to gather a soft spot for. Depending on how much of the following stops take your fancy you may or may not want to reserve some time for a quick visit. Luss is the most popular on the western shore and offers glorious views over to Ben Lomond and the rolling mounds on the opposite bank. If you’re happy enjoying the views from your car window, that’s ok too.
When you reach the village of Tarbet, continue onto the A83 and the road west to Arrochar and Inveraray.
Ben Arthur, The Cobbler
Taking on this beauty will most likely turn today into something more than a day trip, so I include it as an optional addition. Known as such due to the resemblance of a cobbler at his work bench (I don’t see it personally), the craggy peaks make it the most identifiable mountain in the region.
The Cobbler is one of the most popular Corbetts (not quite a Munro) in Scotland and you’ll likely have plenty of company. If you don’t really fancy the ascent you can either enjoy the views by finding a vantage point in Arrochar or by climbing part way up the route and stopping to return whenever suits you. It is a strange walk in that it is very rewarding in terms of views not long after starting. My personal favourite view is the one below – gazing up at the distinctive formation from distance.
Allow around about 5 hours for the return journey if you’re going all the way to the top. Fairly straightforward for all but the final peaks, the only thing I’d suggest is not to take it on in really bad weather. I’ve been up there in a bit of a blizzard and it wasn’t a huge amount of fun! There are 3 different summits with varying degrees of difficulty so best to refer to Walk Highlands for more detail.
The Road to Inveraray Continues…..
Then there’s the fabulously named Rest and Be Thankful. If you only get out of the car once on this drive, let it be here. You’ll find the viewing area between Ardgartan and Cairndow, still along the A83. So called by the soldiers that originally built the road here, it has justifiably become one of the best known views in the Highlands. So, be thankful. Very thankful indeed.
Before reaching Inveraray you’ll pass Loch Fyne. Now this is a part of the land where folks of old clearly couldn’t be bothered being very imaginative with the coming up with names of places. Lochs Awe, Long and Fyne being testament to that. After a reflective chuckle of course you come to appreciate the simplicity of it – Scots have always telt it like it is. Loch Fyne is an awful lot bonnier than just Fine though and you’ll be tempted to pull in for a photo or two along the road. One of our most renowned seafood meccas is Loch Fyne Oysters – if you’re in the mood for a treat this could be the perfect lunch stop for you. It’s that unmissable building on the right of the roadside at the head of the Loch.
And now, it’s on to Inveraray itself.
Inveraray – Visiting the Castle and Jail
One of the most recognisable castles in Scotland, Inveraray is up there with Craigievar Castle in Aberdeenshire on the fairy-tale scale. Never has the colour grey looked so resplendent, as the mighty structure grandly dominates its impressive grounds. The long-standing seat of the Dukes of Argyll (Clan Campbell chiefs, they were a powerful lot) the building dates back to the 18th Century. Its interior is equally decadent, with the customary ostentatious armoury an obvious highlight. The castle is clearly signed from the town and parking is available right outside.
If indoor attractions are your thing you should also pay a visit to moody Inveraray Jail. A bit of a grim place on the face of it, it gives an eerie insight into some of the harsher punishments that could be dished out to naughty locals. Everything from fornication to witchcraft is reviewed, as early Highland justice systems came into being. Moving between the cells from decades and centuries past will bring a chill to even the calmest visitor – you really wouldn’t fancy a week or two in this place. I did pay that parking fine, didn’t I?
The Jail is in the centre of the town and takes about an hour to wander around. Friendly, costume-clad guides will bring a chuckle or two and this will be a popular one with kids. As the only settlement of any size in this stretch of Highland fabulousness, Inveraray is a hugely popular stop in peak-season for the coach and bus companies. Sneak along in the shoulder seasons though and the visitor numbers, particularly at the castle, are at a much more tolerable level.
For those looking for something a little less arduous than The Cobbler, Inveraray has at least one fabulous walk of its own. Dun na Cuaiche is an easy hike from the town and delivers one of the best vantage points in the Southern Highlands.
Weaving its way through a thick forest area, within minutes you leave the droves of castle visitors in the distance. Cross the River Aray and head into the trees. At this time of year the route is carpeted by a colourful array of leaves but I am sure that springtime in particular will bring alternative draws of its own. The abandoned ruins of some sort of storage or domestic structure are the only interruption to the peaceful, wooded ascent.
On reaching the summit, the panorama is magnificent. Much more so than the level of exertion deserves to be honest but shhh, we’ll not complain shall we. Along with the small monument that is visible for miles around there is just the wind and views to keep you company. If the weather is behaving this is the spot for a picnic and a gawk at Highland magnificence. The commanding view over the town and its castle, Loch Fyne and of course the views to the north and east of the Highland mountain range are worth taking some time over. Never rush the Highlands.
Starting from the car park at Inveraray Castle, head away from the castle and town towards the very obvious mound with a little tower atop – that’s your end destination. From the car park and throughout, there are signs with a blue arrow to guide you. The route is clear and straightforward, if continuously steepish. Reserve around 90 minutes for the return journey (coming back the same way).
Where to Next?
From here you may be all set to reverse the above Glasgow to Inverary route. Or maybe you’re thinking of heading further north to the likes of Loch Awe or Oban. Or south to one of Argyll’s peninsulas. At this point, it’s pretty hard to go wrong.
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