Driving around Scotland, one is bound to pass through a plethora of small towns and burgs. Many of the quaint little locations no bigger than a main street with a few shops and restaurants. Since there are so many, it’s easy to simply drive through the majority of them without any thought of stopping. However, I’ve found time and time again that when we’ve taken time to get out of the car and walk around, many of these little towns offer incredible pieces of Scottish of history, cute shops in which to browse, quaint historical architecture, ancient cobblestone streets, and simple beauty that could never be appreciated when zooming by in a car.
Inveraray is one of those towns. A small 18th century planned town on the banks of Loch Fyne, someone could drive all the way from one end of town to the other in less than 5 minutes. Last summer two of my sons and I were on a week-long trip to Scotland and Inveraray was a town in which we were scheduled to stay. We booked a trip through Absolute Escapes and I wasn’t so sure about this stop they had scheduled into our itinerary. Needless to say, I was a bit unimpressed when we first came upon the neat row of simple white buildings which lined the main street. However, we were scheduled to spend two nights there so I resigned myself to the thought that we may need to figure out some things to do outside the teeny town in order to keep us entertained.
But as I said before, many small towns in Scotland offer a surprising amount of things to do and see. The boys and I actually enjoyed every minute of our full day in Inveraray and I would love to go back and enjoy the simplicity of the town once again. Although it’s small, there is enough to do to fill a day easily without rushing. It’s a sleepy little town with quaint shops, beautiful views of Loch Fyne, an amazing castle, and even a 19th-century jail the has been turned into a museum, making it easy to find something to do for people of all ages. As an added bonus, Inveraray is also completely walkable so you can park your car for the day and simply head out to see all the sights.
Things to do
Stroll down Main Street and visit some of the quaint shops
Enjoy an ice cream or a coffee depending upon the weather. Maybe pick up a bottle of whiskey from Loch Fyne Whiskies. Upon their recommendation, I gave GlenDronach 12-year a try and it instantly became my favorite scotch of all time. Mmmmm!
Take a walk to Inveraray Castle
This impressive functioning castle remains the home of the Duke of Argyle and was featured in Downton Abbey’s 2012 Christmas episode, “A Journey to the Highlands”. The castle boasts an impressive Armory Hall, soaring 21 meters in height and houses weapons as old as the 16th century. Taking a stroll outside the castle walls will lead you to extensive gardens with numerous marked forest walks, one of which will lead you up 800 feet to the tower at the top of Dun na Cuaiche where you can see all of Inveraray and beyond. I tried to convince the boys to do the hike, but they were eager to get to the jail so I was outvoted. Instead, we simply walked around the stunning grounds close to the castle which as you can see, did not disappoint!
Become a prisoner at the Inveraray Jail
Don’t worry, you won’t have to do hard time at Inveraray Jail, but this is an interesting museum that recounts prison conditions from Medieval times to the 19th century. The jail here was considered very advanced for its time, and the boys enjoyed learning about prison conditions of old through hands-on exhibits and interactive storytelling.
Where we stayed
The Old Rectory Bed & Breakfast
Owners Cathie & David have worked tirelessly restoring this 200-year-old building overlooking Loch Fyne. Many of the building’s original features remain but have been updated with a cozy, chic feel. All three of us fit perfectly into one of the B&B’s larger rooms and the bathroom was spectacular! I don’t usually go around rating bathrooms of all things, but this one deserves a special nod.
The Old Rectory
Argyll, PA32 8UH
01499 302 711
(MAKE SURE YOU CALL AHEAD FOR A RESERVATION FOR EITHER OF THESE RESTAURANTS)
The George Hotel
Want to try a whiskey flight? Then this is the place for you! The George Hotel’s restaurant/pub offers a choice of 100 malt whiskeys, as well as local quality beef, and seafood. The food was delicious and the building felt like a true Scottish pub with mahogany walls, leather seats, and a warm atmosphere. Plus our server looked like David Beckham so I wasn’t complaining!
Samphire Seafood Restaurant
Although Inverary is small, we managed to find some amazing places to eat. The Samphire Seafood Restaurant didn’t disappoint. A small space offering locally sourced sustainable seafood, shellfish, meat and game, the menu offers something to please everyone. I was a bit worried because I don’t eat fish and we were going to a seafood restaurant, but I tried the Angus beef burger and it was fantastic.
How the heck do you get there?
Inveraray is about 2 1/2 hours west of Edinburgh. We took our time driving there, stopping at the adorable burgh of Culross for lunch, then meandered through the Trossachs National Park while enjoying the stunning view of Loch Lomond. It was a very easy and enjoyable drive, but make sure you keep a lookout and don’t end up speeding right through Inveraray once you get there. 😉Although it’s small, Inveraray has a lot to offer. In addition, it’s a good stopping point when on your way to other destinations such as Oban, the Hebrides, or the Cowal Peninsula. It’s a simple, romantic little town that is sure to surprisingly capture your heart as it did mine. In the end, I even decided I liked the plain white buildings that lined the shore, realizing they served as a brilliant backdrop to the still waters and hills of Loch Fyne. So put Inveraray on your Scotland itinerary and while you’re there pick up a bottle of GlenDronach for me. Oh, and if you see the server at The George Hotel who looks like David Beckham, tell him I said, “hi”!