CHAPTER EIGHTEEN: Killin To Oban … Spectacular Scottish Scenery
Day Eighteen: It’s A Loch, Where’s The Red Deer?, Three Sisters, Massacre Monument, Kirks Galore, A Monty Python Moment, Wicked Burgers/Tuna Time, Picking The Right Day To Visit, Could You Check That Parking Lot Time Again?, A Tower Of Terror Drive, A Great View, In The Attic and Kebab At Baab
We had breakfast in the charming dining room of the Courie Inn. The breakfast itself was kind of a letdown, but the server said the cook was leaving in another week. The inn is a wonderful place to stay, and reviews say the dinner is great. And, if you are interested in becoming a Scottish innkeeper, the Inn is for sale!. I had gone out early to take some photos, because we were greeted by blue skies.
We all took one last walk to the “Kim Bridge.”
We said goodbye to Killin …
Early in the day, Kim knew what it was like to travel with me as a kid, since I wanted to stop at any viewpoint or historical marker we could. We popped across the Bridge of Orchy and made a quick stop at the Loch Tula Viewpoint.
… and we were hoping to reacquaint ourselves with the strikingly beautiful red deer who roamed this area (photos from 2017).
The first thing we noticed was the hotel had gone through a major refurbishment, and moments later Tracy asked, “Where have all the red deer gone?” (I wonder why Peter, Paul and Mary didn’t sing that?) Sure enough, there were none in sight.
We inquired inside and were told that the government moved them because too many people were feeding them. Whether that fact is correct, there was no doubt they were nowhere to be seen.
Today was no different.
I had wanted to make a stop on the east end of Glencoe Village to see the MacDonald Memorial/Glencoe Massacre Monument. As we turned on the small road in the village, we knew we weren’t going to make hay on this drive. A giant truck filled with hay was having quite an ordeal making a tight turn. We almost turned around, but the truck “baled” us out by navigating the predicament perfectly.
In a few minutes we spied the monument on a small mound.
In a gorgeous part of Scotland lies (or lays) the tiny village (I guess village really denotes tiny) of Ballachulish, situated alongside Loch Levin where it flows into Loch Linnhe. I think history in the U.K. would be easier than geography.
There we found St. John, The Scottish Episcopal Church and its burial grounds. Built in the early 1840s. We were told by a gentleman in the graveyard (yes, he was alive), that the church was closed due to one of the clergyman stealing something. We were not told what he took.
The setting was lovely. As is the nearby St. Bride’s Church, which I assumed was named because so many women get married here. This church was closed as well, and I started to get a complex. I felt like the Rodney Dangerfield of tourists.
I heard the church has lovely stained glass windows that we would never see. Maybe I should have titled this report “Scotland Closed For The Spring.”
In any event, the views out onto the loch as we started heading down toward Oban.
I knew there was a viewpoint up ahead to see Castle Stalker (Monty Python alert!).
It turns out this spot not only has great views, but also terrific food. We pulled into the aptly named Castle Stalker View Cafe and Gift Store parking lot. To the left of a shipping container that says “Coffee Food” is a trail that took us to a fantastic view of a four-story medieval tower house known to Monty Python fans as Castle Aargh!, featured in the final scene of Monty Python and The Holy Grail.
This castle was constructed in the 1400s by the Lord of Lorn, Sir John Stewart, who happened to be murdered at his own wedding. Fortunately, Stewart survived long enough to complete the marriage and legitimize his son, Dugald, who was born out of wedlock. Dugald thus became the first Chief of Appin. In any case, the view from here was spectacular on a perfect Scotland afternoon.
Afterward we ordered lunch at the shipping container and enjoyed an excellent tuna with brie and cranberry sandwich on fresh-baked ciabatta bread.
It turned out to be one of our best lunches on the entire trip, and there was no French taunter to bother us while we ate. We were told they also had “wicked burgers.” Next time, although I did grab one of their delicious scone.
Ardchattan Priory and its garden was on the Mai Tai itinerary. It happened to be a Wednesday, and as luck would have it, Ardchattan is only open on Wednesdays from April through October (at least in 2022). Finally, fate turned out to be on our side.
The gardens have been around since the 13th-century, although very little is known about its origin except that Valliscaulian monks, from a little known order in Burgundy, settled on the north shore of Loch Etive 700+ years ago
We walked through some wild gardens …
… and entered a spacious lawn area that has spectacular views out on Loch Etive.
Ardchattan House is a private residence, and the occupants were enjoying the sunny day on the patio. It felt rather strange to be exploring their property, especially since there were only about ten people visiting when we arrived.
I think mom was a little wary of these foreign intruders.
The priory existed for about 300 years, and we walked through the ruins.
On the left is part of the choir wall, while this elephant tries to remember why he was put here.
Before leaving we went back to the front of the house, and took one last look at the views out to Loch Etive.
All in all, a great stop … and we felt lucky to be able to visit on the one day of the week it was open.
The first sign we noticed as we entered the parking lot was that the car park gates are locked at 2:30 pm. Since it was a little after 2, Tracy said we should park in an area outside the gates. Then we spied a sign that said the car park closed at 5:30. We should have listened to Tracy, but instead we parked in the lot.
We walked the short distance to the castle. For some reason on neither of those parking signs was a mention that this castle was closed. Also, for some reason it didn’t dawn on us that the 2:30 sign might be correct. We walked around the castle taking photos oblivious that 2:30 was fast approaching.
We slowly made our way back to the car, and as we got in our vehicle a truck appeared at the gate. A man got out and faster than you could exclaim, “Damn, we’re trapped!” he closed and locked the gate. Sleeping in a parking lot in Oban suddenly seemed a distinct possibility. Then Mary sprang into action. She exited our car and ran to catch the guy before he drove away, waved him down and told him that we (and the other car who was also trying to leave) really did not want to sleep in the lot all night. Let’s say, this guy was not very happy having to unlock and open the gate, but fortunately Mary’s pleading worked, and we were finally able to leave. There were plenty of other people attempting to visit the castle, and there were lots of cars in the lot when the grumpy man snapped the gate shut for good and drove off.This is just another example that I should listen to my wife more often.
There was one last stop before we reached our Oban lodging for the next two nights. On a hill high above Oban sits McCaig’s Tower. I asked Kim if he wouldn’t mind driving us up there. Easier said than done, The streets were narrow, and as we climbed higher our GPS basically said, “You’re on your own.” After a harrowing little drive nearly killing many Oban pedestrians, we pulled into the tiny parking area. Kim and Mary decided to wait in the car, and I suspected they were just plotting to leave us (me) on the hill.
The tower was built at the end of the 19th century by John Stuart McCaig, a successful Oban banker. The project, incorporating Greek and Roman influences “was intended to provide employment for local stone masons during the lean winter months, and at the same time create a lasting memorial to the McCaig family.” It has the look of the Rome Coliseum on the outside. McCaig died in 1902 and that was the end of the construction of the tower, so it has remained “roofless and hollow.”
There is a garden inside the tower and it did have nice views overlooking Oban and the harbor, but we only stayed a short while since we were worried Kim and Mary had left without us.
Unknown to me (once again I should pay attention) I booked Tracy and me a spectacular ground floor suite with a beautiful view over Oban Bay (below), while I neglected to do the same for Kim and Mary, who had to climb some stairs to their room. Fortunately, it was nice, too. I learned afterward that this building had also been built by John McCaig as a private residence. Fortunately, he didn’t die before the roof was put on.
Dinner was excellent, including the small plates of Hummous with pine nuts on top, Muhammara, which was roasted red pepper, chili, walnuts and pomegranate blended into a ”zingy” paste and fried Halloumi; Lebanese style; cheese in panko bread crumbs with dipping sauce.
The Kebabs were great as were the Tamarand Prawns and Rose Harissa Mussels.
I had planned to go to the Isle Mull, but felt Oban would be a good place to just relax for the final four days of the trip. Upon further review and given the glorious weather, I probably should have booked that day trip to Mull, but que sera (although this will be the last time I am a benevolent tour guide). We did have a good visit to the local castle and a drive where we wound up in an unusual spot.
On the following day, Kim once more had to take some detours. We’d stop at a scenic bridge that purports to cross an ocean, get shut out again (this time due to Mother Nature), get in some castle ruins, check out some historic stones, visit a garden a little different from the rest and end up with a tour of an interesting castle. Dinner would be at a sensational seafood restaurant, and we’d find out what life was like down on the farm.
CHAPTER NINETEEN: Oban, Inveraray & In Between
Day Nineteen: Sleeping In, Julie Julie Julie Do We Love You?, War & Peace, Ay Columba, Castle On The Hill, Pie For What Ales Me, Why Are We At The Grocery Store?, Perry Mason Hasn’t Ended Yet and Pier Review
Day Twenty: Bridge Over The Atlantic, Storm Damage, Up To The Castle, Seeing The Stones, Himalayan-Style Glen, How The Other Half Lives, Beer Garden Break, Life On The Farm and Samphire Seafood