CHAPTER NINETEEN: Oban, Inveraray & In-Between
Day Nineteen: Sleeping In, No Whisky For You, Julie Julie Julie Do We Love You?, War & Peace, Ay Columba, Castle On The Hill, Pie For What Ales Me, An Unwanted Trip To The Grocery Store, Perry Mason Hasn’t Ended Yet and Pier Review
I had planned to do a whisky tasting that day at the Oban Distillery, but some of the castles we got shut out of earlier in the trip must have alerted them I was in town, as a sign posted on the door said it would be closed.
When you’re unable to whisky taste, the best next things are scones, and we had a bunch of them (and other breakfast dishes) at Julie’s Coffeehouse, located across the street from the Oban Distillery. We sat outside, and enjoyed everything about this coffeehouse.
It was in interesting stop to learn about local history, and we left a small donation to this free museum.
In a few minutes, we were at another Columba, the Cathedral Church of St. Columba. Of course, I had to go in to the church located on the Corran Esplanade.
The Neo-Gothic meets Romanesque style church was started in 1932 (on the site of the prior church) and completed in 1959, when the two bells (Brendan and Kenneth) were blessed.
Located very near to the Barriemore is the Oban War Memorial, a memorial originally built for the Oban soldiers who lost their lives during World War I. Later, it also memorialized soldiers from World War II and the Falkland War. It was originally dedicated in 1923.
I had walked ahead of the group affording me the opportunity to grab a seat with a pretty nice view. If I had had a whisky and another of Julie’s scones this scenic spot might have been where I spent the remainder of the day.
We followed the Old Carriage Footpath to Dunollie Dùn Ollaigh Museum, Castle & Grounds. It was a pleasant walk under a canopy of trees toward the castle, which tells the history of the “noble MacDougall Family.”
We came upon Fingal’s Dogstone. According to legend, the “rock is where the ancient warrior of Celtic mythology Fingal would tie his mighty dog, Bran,” which might only have a fiber of truth.
There were beautiful views overlooking Oban Harbor.
And, of course, those Scottish flowers, bushes and trees.
Kim had already nearly been run over by a bus on this trip, and suddenly it looked like he was in the grasp of an overzealous shrubbery ready to devour him.
We were lucky that the Knights Who Say “Ni!” did not demand another shrubbery.
We passed the Dunollie Willow Hall. With all these different sights, I had to start a log to keep track.
The castle with views over Oban Bay and the Firth of Lorn has been in the hands of the Clan MacDougall for nine centuries.
The castle was built in the 12th and 15th centuries.
Stairs both up and down look challenging.
The Celtic cross on the castle grounds is the burial spot for Alexander James MacDougall and his wife Colina Edith, which is why it’s named the MacDougall Cross.
Castles (well, almost everything) makes this group hungry so we made the walk back to town where we were lured into the Markie Dans, a family run pub, by this intoxicating sign.
We hopped in our car and drove to Pulpit Hill, which is billed as one of the best two viewpoints in Oban, with a great view of the island of Kerrera. We’ll never know. Mary’s GPS had us traverse nearly every street in Oban. Finally, she proclaimed we had arrived at Pulpit Hill. The only way we were at Pulpit Hill is if it had morphed into a Tesco parking lot. Defeated by our GPS, that was the end of our lazy day in Oban.
We rested for a bit at the Barriemore, where I got sucked into a couple of old Perry Mason reruns. When I saw the DA character, I remembered I was in the mood for a Ham Burger. You have to be quite old to get that reference. It was time for dinner.
On this evening we dined at Ee-Usk, a popular seafood restaurant in the harbor.
We had requested a window table and from this spot there were great views of the harbor and the boats moored there.
Dinner was good, including dishes of Seafood Penne and King Scallops.
For dessert, I once again went for the Sticky Toffee Pudding. My dining companions were too full to partake or were just tired of me complaining about eating my desserts.
This guy decided to pose for a couple of photos.
One last look at an Oban sunset …
The next morning we would head towards Inveraray with some cool stops along the way.
Day Twenty: Bridge Over The Atlantic, Storm Damage, Up To The Castle, Everybody Must Get Stoned, Himalayan-Style Glen, Christmas In June, How The Other Half Lives, Beer Garden Break, Life On The Farm and Samphire Seafood
After awakening, we gazed out the window from the Barriemore to the ferry we should have booked to the Isle of Mull. Oh well, it’s ok to relax (a little). We got a fairly early start, and it wasn’t long before we reached our first destination.
Eleven miles south of Oban is a humpbacked bridge that crosses a body of water. Since both ends of the Clahan Sound empty into the Atlantic Ocean, the Clachan Bridge is dubbed “The Bridge Over The Atlantic.”
It was built in the 1790s, and it has nice views of the Firth of Lorn. Of course we took photos because our motto is always “Firth things Firth.”
There was a nearby inn with quite a history itself (photo on left off internet).
A short distance later was a spot I promised Tracy would be a beautiful place to visit, but it turns out Arduaine Garden is closed until next year “to allow staff to carry out essential forestry work necessary for safe access to the public.” It had been severely damaged during high wind storms.
I told the group that next we were “going to see the Stones,” which surely would bring much Satisfaction.. We reached Kilmartin Church and Graveyard …
… which contains stones and “intricately-carved” grave slabs ranging from the 13th through the 17th centuries and claims to have “one of the greatest concentrations of prehistoric activity in Europe.” We wandered through the graveyard (we did that a lot on vacation … hopefully no foreshadowing).
To “The Stones” we ventured. The actual stones are arranged in order from the 1200s to the right of the doorway till the early 1700s on the left.
These slabs were made for medieval warriors and clergymen to decorate their graves.
…because we had yet to eat (we had departed Oban before Julie’s opened at 10 a.m.). Luckily, there was another shipping container restaurant serving tasty food.
Outside of nearly starving, we enjoyed this little spot where a museum is currently under construction to offer much more about this area and the “more than 800 ancient and historic sites and monuments.” Should be an interesting one. We drove alongside Loch Fyne to the Himalayas, or at least “Britain’s finest example of a Himalayan-style garden.” The only things missing were Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.
Crarae Garden contains rare trees and exotic shrubs from around the world, and this was a pleasant surprise. There were a number of gorgeous trails in this place that Lady Campbell (no relation to the soup) created in 1912.
After hitting more of those “clean your feet mats,” we were on our way. It was Christmas in June when we came upon the “Christmas Giant,” a Norwegian spruce planted by young Sir Ilay Campbell more than 3/4 of a century ago. I was going to sing Norwegian Wood or even a Christmas carol, but there were other people around who might think I was an idiot.
The many trails yielded a number of different plants and flowers, and I believe I had now fulfilled Tracy’s garden wishes.
Supposedly this place is chock full of red squirrels, but they must have been on vacation with the red deer as we didn’t see any.
Spectacular views abound from various vantage points.
We actually could have stayed longer, but we had one more castle on the day’s agenda. I was trying to make up for yesterday’s “lazy day.” One of the most popular castles in Scotland is Inveraray Castle, constructed in the 1770s and the home of the Duke and Duchess of Argyll. They have quite a spread. The exterior, its rooms and its 16-acre garden all make for a wonderful experience.
Here are some of the rooms we visited: The Tapestry Drawing Room contains (not surprisingly) tapestries commissioned from the 1780s. The portrait above the fireplace is of Lady Charlotte Campbell as The Roman Goddess of Dawn. It seems every castle must have a harp.
Then we hit the adjacent China Turret (I couldn’t tell if I was getting The China Syndrome by now after all these castles), featuring Oriental and European porcelain pieces. All of this china has been used throughout the last 250 years.
The State Dining Room is something to behold.
I admired the four-wheeled golden galleons on the table. I told Tracy I’d love to take one of these sailing ships, but she gave me a stern warning.
Every castle must have its weapons.
Tracy said, “Let’s go to the Saloon.” “Great, I’m thirsty,” I replied. It seems “saloon” has a different connotation here. This is a room where guests could “relax, have breakfast, play music or even billiards.”
The Victorian Room “commemorates the marriage of the Marquis of Lorne to Queen Victoria’s daughter, Princess Louise.” It was the first time in 350 years that a member of the Royal Family had married outside royalty.
Finally, we hit the most haunted room of the castle, the MacArthur Room. A young harpist was murdered by the Duke of Murdoch’s men in 1644, and it’s said “that when the bed was moved to the present castle, the harpists’s spirit came, too, and when a member of the family is about to die, his harp music can be heard.” When asked if I was impressed with the MacArthur Room, I simply replied, “I shall return.”
Two acres of the gardens are formal lawns and flowerbeds.
It was a very warm afternoon, and it was good to be out in the sunlight, plus we were happy we heard no harp music (for many reasons).
Of course, we had to take a tourist photo, because that’s just what we do.
The flowers in this garden were ablaze with color.
We headed into town and had a beer at an outdoor beer garden to celebrate this beautiful day.
Our home this night was the 17th-century Killean Farmhouse (now renamed the Killean Farmhouse Vegan B&B). I knew at that moment that we would not be having bacon for breakfast. Situated a short distance from the town of Inveraray, this was another wonderful spot to spend the evening. (Photo on right from internet).
From the gnocchi to the duck to the fish and chips, every dish hit the mark.
We turned in, as the next day we’d head for Glasgow, where we would end our trip. Along the way, we’d stop at an historic kirk on a loch, one last garden for Tracy to enjoy and get shut out of one last castle and priory.
Once in Glasgow, we’d check out an historic square, finally get the scoop on the Wellington statue wearing an orange street cone, visit a fantastic art gallery, stop in one last great cathedral, tour a necropolis on the hill and have the best gorgonzola gnocchi in my life.
Also, on our final day, we’d take our Facetime Covid test to return home, which turned out to be one of the weirdest experiences of the trip.
CHAPTER TWENTY: On To Glasgow
Days: Twenty-One, Twenty-Two and Twenty-Three: Missed View, Conan Not The Barbarian, A Hidden Gem, Where’s Johnny Depp?, Elvis Has Left The Building, Sixth Century Cathedral, Tombs With A View, Glorious Gnocchi & Did We Really Test Negative?