As I sit typing, snow whirls around the street outside and bangs at the window like an intruder trying to invade every crack of the city. It is the first time in 5 years that I have seen snow like this in Edinburgh. It makes the city seem like a completely different place. The dense ice crystals cloak the landscape from view, walling its citizens in. It feels as if it was to list and the sky was to clear it would reveal a new vastness with no end.
Perfect excuse to sit in and write about my weekend away to Argyll. My friend Ben is flying off to fulfill his dream of joining a J-pop group. Nah I’m kind, he is moving over for a year and as a farewell, he organised a trip away with a few friends before he leaves.
The drive is supposed to take 2 hours and 40 minutes but It took me and my road trip companions about 4. This was mainly because we stopped for coffee and chippy in Inverarary. And I can report the local chippy provided a sizable tray of chips.
Although the Ardbrecknish is described as 17th-century tower house, there are maps and a map dating back as far as 1590. According to architectural historians, the saddleback tower and wall thickness suggest medieval origins. To me, it looked as though it was from two different times. One side medieval and the other Georgian. Ardbrecknish remained as one unit until the house was converted into a hotel in 1930.
Like most houses that have stood for more than one century, it has its stories and its ghosts. One tale is of an elderly lady who is said to rise late at night to check that the laundry stored in the east wing is all prepared for the morning. In more recent times a team of craftsmen were working inside the house on a structural project. They heard a call summoning them for tea. When they made their way to the kitchen no-one was there. Whilst the team waited for the kettle to boil and contemplated who may have called them, the internal wall on which they had been working, collapsed without warning. Creepy but also I prefer these kinds of helpful ghosts that the kind in the movie Insidious. The house is not easy to get too and you will most definitely need to drive unless you want to trek from the nearest town which is Inveraray.
*Quick note, Inveraray is the nearest town with a supermarket, restaurants and an ATM.
The interior of the house was old-fashioned and basic. The rooms were clean with thick covers which kept me nice and warm on the cold nights. The section of the house we stayed in had many adjoining corridors connecting the rooms to the kitchen area and living room. The bathroom like the rest of the wing was clean. They do not provide towel so that is something you will need to add to your packing list. This was a bit annoying as its something you expect most places to supply. The view from our wing was striking. You could see the mountains and lakes from the main room with a large window for viewing. I was up before anyone else. I find it hard to sleep in, in a new place so I usually am the first to rise. It was really nice getting up and sitting with a cup of tea just enjoying the scenery.
The house has a bar attached which you can get rach through the maze of corridors in the house. The bartender was also the owner of Aedbrecknish. She was a lovely woman who told us that she had been there for 19 years. It was great having the bar as it had a pool table, darts, and booze, all the makings of a good night. Usually, there is a restaurant but as it was off season it was closed. The rooms are dog-friendly and cheaper offseason. It cost us 315 for two nights with an extra 25 for our doggo. companion.
If you want to see more photos of the house click on the link.
Loch Awe is the third largest freshwater loch in Scotland and is famed for its trout fishing. Salmon pass through the loch, coming past the barrage in the River Awe and continuing into the River Orchy. At the northern end, it has one of the most photographed castles in Scotland, Kilchurn Castle which I saw on our journey back but wasn’t able to pull over to have a proper look. I really want to visit the area again and see that Castle close up.
We decide to rent a boat and explore the lake. During the summer season the lake is full of fisherman and other tourists but as this was off season we had the pick of the boat fleet. There were a few options from motorboats with or without tops and rowboats. We chose a boat with a top as from afar you could see dark clouds sweeping over the mountains towards the lake. The boat allowed a maximum of 5 people and cost 25 to rent and an extra 5 pound for every additional hour. Make sure you bring cash as they don’t take card payments.
If you want to learn more about boat hire for the lock follow the link: Boat hire.
Inishail is distinguished by its distinctive grassy surface, which is probably why it was giving the nickname “Green Isle”. There are fragments of the walls of a small building, enclosing a space choked up with stones. A larger space is protected by an iron fence. Which I have no idea why its there. Maybe the used to have animals on the island?
The island is full of colour, green moss, reds, yellows animate the terrain with lichen springing from the branches reaching out into the fresh country air. It felt alive and safe on this tiny little island.
If you go looking for the other ruins down from the cemetery be aware and then prepare for a lot of fun surfing the marsh. We went searching for more ruins and got our wellies stuck in the waterlogged earth. When we moved our feet while submerged it created a mossy wave. Make sure you wear wellies or expect your shoes to soaked through.
Possibly a Knights tombstone? I can’t be sure but my imagination runs wild all the same.
On the way back to Edinburgh we decided collectively to stop off in a few places on the way. We all made our way to Inveraray first. Inverary is a town in Argyll. It is on the western shore of Loch Fyne and it is also the retirement home for the Vital Spark. The Vital Spark is a fictional Clyde puffer. I had to google what that is and apparently, it a steamboat that is run by a coal fire and only has one mast. This particular boat came to fame on a BBC TV show written by Scottish writer Neil Munro. The Argyll brewer Fyne Ales, situated close to Inveraray produces a beer called Vital Spark in tribute to the series.
Some of my group went to the Inverary jail while two of us decided we would rather not pay the £11.50 entrance fee and instead visited the castle. The Inveraray castle took 40 years to construct and the work was designed by Willaim Adams and Roger Morris. The building gives me Wizard of Oz vibes. An emerald Castle that hides a powerful wizard inside. Who dare walk the red brick road?
After Inveraray, our group parted and went their separate ways. My party of three plus a little pooch made our way to view Loch Tay from the hills. There are impressive newly built houses situated along the hills of the lake and in the summer season, many people use the lake for fishing, swimming, kayaking and stand up paddleboarding. But as it is winter the lake was quietly resting to reenergize before the warmer seasons.
We went to Kenmore, a small village in Perthshire located where Loch Tay drains into the River Tay. If you go bring duck feed witness an army of webbed-feet, waggles along the lake’s edge. The ducks swarm visitors looking for a tasty snack and will happily get in your personal space to get one.
Next, We stopped off at Killin, a village which lies at the western head of Loch Tay in Stirling. The moment you step out of your car you are welcomed by thunderous roars of the rushing water. This ferocious river drew a lot of curious travellers.
I would absolutely recommend visiting Loch Awe. There is so much landscape to explore in the area and just a drive away that is if you can drive, if not make friends with people who do. 😂
Want to see more? Press play below and follow me to Loch Awe. ⇊⇊⇊⇊⇊