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Time out: Authentic Highlands

29 August 2007

by Joe Jenkins

Inveraray, a lochside Georgian toytown built to serve the Duke of Argyll’s castle, and surrounded by postcard-friendly scenery (the west of Scotland at its best).

Highland air, relaxed atmosphere, lush surroundings, haggis with everything.

What to see
Inveraray Castle, with its immaculate 18th-century interiors and wonderful cakes at tea time. Stroll along the banks of Loch Fyne, taking in the scenes enjoyed by Dr Johnson and Boswell. Enjoy the town’s stark white buildings and their striking reflection off the loch. There is also the ubiquitous Scottish woollen mill, which has some good deals on upmarket cashmere.

For bell-ringers, there is the detached tower of the Episcopal Church of All Saints, built in 1886 for Amelia, the second wife of the 8th Duke of Argyll, which has the second-heaviest ringable ring of ten bells in the world.

Near by
Head south on the A83 to see Crarae Garden, one of Scotland’s most exotic collections of flora and fauna. For an authentic experience of how life in the West Highlands used to be, there is Auchindrain Township, a farming village dating back to the 18th century.

Restaurant food in the Highlands and Islands tends to be a little over-worked, but the George Hotel is good for bar food, a pint of Belhaven ale, or a dram. Or, if the weather is fine, eat in the beer garden of the Fernpoint Hotel, which, along with the George, has the best rooms in town. Fish and chips on the front is also a good idea, although you will provoke envious glances from the gangs of noisy but harmless seagulls.

Essential to any visit is the famous Loch Fyne Oyster Bar, a few miles north out of town. Tremendous oysters, smoked mussels, and a good wine list are the highlights, and its deli-cum-fish shop would be hard to beat anywhere in Europe.

Absolutely. Good for treats like ice cream, and the Highland/sea air will knock them out by the end of the day. Among the attractions is the well-preserved Inveraray Jail with its waxworks, chilly cells, and obligatory five minutes in the (locked) outdoor exercise-pen in the custody of a moustachioed jailer.

Disabled access
Very flat, and most hotels are manageable.

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