We’re forever gravitating towards Argyll. Long weekend? Night in a B&B? Favourite walk? Whatever and whenever the opportunity, we’ll always leave the city and head towards this rugged, remote region of Scotland to escape from it all.
I was lucky to grow up in a tiny village on the border of Argyll and Bute proper. Throughout my childhood, hills and sea lochs were literally on my doorstep. My parents just had to bundle me and my brother up in our puffy onesies, Jammy Dodgers in our pockets, and that was us — exploring for the day.
So as we took the straight road through Arrochar, winding around the sea lochs and up towards the wild Rest and Be Thankful, faint memories came back. It’s always funny how lost moments can return when you’re back in a landscape, isn’t it? Caravanning beside Loch Long, eating fish and chips in a forgotten seaside town, wandering the streets of Lochgilphead at night… It felt like yesterday.
Although I’ve explored some corners of Argyll, I confess that I usually drive straight through Inveraray. Apart from a school trip years ago, I’ve never much explored the quiet lochside settlement. The first model new town in Scotland, Inveraray is home to ye olde sweet shops, a notorious jail and white-painted Georgian buildings which are so typical of the town.
After weaving through the glens, we arrived in time for lunch. We’d intended to go to Samphire Seafood Restaurant, which we’d heard good things about, but it was fully booked. Instead, we spent an hour at Brambles on the high street, a quaint café that — although expensive — didn’t disappoint. Just look at that burger!
There wasn’t much to do then but hike it off. The WalkHighlands website is a great resource if you don’t have an OS map of everywhere (like my dad…) and I’d found the route up to Dun na Cuaiche. Sitting on a hillside above Loch Fyne, the geometric watchtower looks down on Inveraray Castle below.
The ascent was short but steep. Following the obvious signposts which led across an ornamental bridge and through woodland, we then crossed paths with a herd of uninterested sheep. Back into darker forest we went, the trees hung with moss, and we stumbled upon the remains of old lime kilns. Soon we were exposed on the hillside. The rapid ascent allowed us to de-layer and enjoy the views like it was summer.
On the open summit, the watchtower was austere in its simplicity. Square foundations, with three windows and a door on the landward side, it offered beautiful views down to Inveraray (we could still hear the church bells) and to the castle. There were two benches to the left, and we took the opportunity to sit, let our bodies cool, and just breathe the fresh spring air.
It took us half the time to descend back to Inveraray, which was winding up for the day. Bikers put their leathers back on, a couple bought some drinks for their trip home, and we put our walking shoes back in the car for next weekend. Roll on another adventure.