Argyll: Remote peninsula in western Scotland


Sheep, standing stones and solitude: Argyll

Sheep, standing stones and solitude: Argyll

Remote peninsula in western Scotland

This former county in western Scotland is known by the Gaelic name of Earra-Ghàidheal, which means “Coasts of the Gaels.” Yet the presence of numerous standing stones attest to the fact that other cultures were here long before the Gaels. Inverary is the region's main town and is still the residence of the Duke of Argyll, the head of the Campbell clan. With a population density of 20 people per square kilometer, most inhabitants live in the towns of Oban, Cambeltown and Inverary. The rest of the region is virtually uninhabited and work must be found elsewhere. These remote islands and peninsulas are ideal if you are looking for the solitude and quietness of the open country.

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Attractions Argyll

Isle of Kerrera

Hebridean island with castle ruins and 30 inhabitants

The island in the south of the Inner Hebrides has a good twelve square kilometers, a thousand-year history and currently less than 30 inhabitants. Since the 12th century it belongs to the Mac Dougalls clan. The Scottish King Alexander II gathered his fleet in the south of the island to take the Hebrides from there. In the 16th century the clan established its ancestral seat, Gylen Castle, on the island. A hundred years later, the castle was conquered and all its inhabitants killed. Since then the gloomy building has remained uninhabited. Kerrera is not in any travel guide, which is why only a few visitors come. The best way to explore the car-free island is by bicycle. During summer ferries leave Oban every half hour.


Base for the Western Highlands

Oban is an ideal base for travelers wishing to explore the Western Highlands. The little town south of Fort William boasts a harbor and a yacht club. Most of the shops and restaurants are clustered around the small train station. Ganavan Sands is the best place to swim. The Oban whisky distillery, built in 1794, is known for its malt Scotch. Boat trips can be taken to the Hebrides west of Orban, while the sparsely populated country east of the city offers spectacular mountain landscapes. Some of the most beautiful lakes in Scotland, such as Loch Tay, Loch Katrine and Loch Lomond, are all within an hours' drive.

Boat trip to the islands

Abandoned monasteries and castle ruins

This highly recommendable excursion to the Inner Hebrides begins at the harbor in Oban. A ferry will take you to the Isle of Mull, where you will be given a short bus tour before moving on to Iona. A particular highlight is Fingal's Cave on Staffa. On the way, you will be rewarded with amazing views, including a view of Duart Castle. Ben Nevis is visible to the east and various islands keep coming into view on all sides. Day trips can be arranged with Staffa Tours.

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Crinan Canal

Two-hundred-year-old canal with hand-operated locks

This man-made canal connects the Sound of Jura in the west with Loch Gilp, a tributary of the Firth of Clyde. Construction began in 1794 and lasted seven years. The Crinan Canal was an important extension of the Caledonian Canal farther north, since then it was possible to avoid a long detour around the Kintyre Peninsula and the Mull of Kintyre. The canal's fifteen locks are still operated by hand.

Inveraray Castle

Locale for horror novels

The castle above Loch Fyne was the seat of the Dukes of Argyll and the setting for several romantic novels by Sir Walter Scott. The central building is the massive tower with the large hall. In the 18th century the original fortress was rebuilt into a classicist residence. Particularly worth seeing is the prison, which contains an original exhibition on Scottish criminal history. Inveraray Castle is surrounded by a large symmetrical park.

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Open-air museum with prehistoric finds

The small but fine open-air museum is located in the Kilmartin Valley, which is famous for its numerous prehistoric finds. On the terrain you can discover rock paintings, steles, stone circles and whole settlements. Also in the valley lies the cave of Duntroon, which was apparently used for burials. There are a café and a bookshop in the visitor center.

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Loch Awe

Ruins and monasteries on the fairy tale lake

The 37 km long, but only about one km wide freshwater lake is the third largest and at the same time one of the most beautiful lakes in Scotland. It lies in a deep valley that is partly wooded. On several islands, lonely ruins of castles and monasteries bear witness to an eventful history. The most famous castle, Kilchurn Castle, stands on the northern shore of the lake.

Loch Fyne

Quiet fjord off the beaten track

Loch Fyne is situated in the southwest Highlands a little off the beaten track. The tranquil fiord is surrounded by wooded hills that provide enchanting views of Argyll and the sea beyond. Inverary Castle, seat of the Dukes of Argyll, is just a short distance away near the village of the same name. The picturesque castle and immense grounds are open to the public.

Oban Distillery

Whisky studies directly at the barrel

Founded in 1794, the distillery is one of the best known in Scotland. Samples are offered in the visitor center. Visitors are allowed to keep their tasting glass after the tour. In addition, a whisky sample is served directly from a barrel which has been stored for ten years.

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St Conan's Kirk

Crude mix or ingenious construction at Loch Awe

After the construction of the railway from Oban to Tyndrum, the remote but romantic area around Loch Awe also became interesting for city dwellers. One of the families that moved in was the pious and rich Campbells from Glasgow. The mother, who was used to going to church every day, commissioned her son to build a church for her. He chose a place near the island of Saint Conan as a building site and built – in several phases – a fairytale-like little church. The architectural layman made use of various elements from different periods. He had a cloister built next to the church, although this was actually reserved only for monasteries. One can regard the eclectic building as a crude mix – or as an ingenious design. Today the little church by the lake is considered one of the most beautiful in Scotland.

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