Argyll’s former county town, Inveraray is noted for its handsome Georgian architecture – a real period-piece by the shores of Loch Fyne.
Though Inveraray’s founding date is usually given as c. 1745, this refers to the present town. The 3rd Duke of Argyll thought the original royal burgh of Inveraray was too close to the new castle that he was planning. Subsequently, the old town was demolished and new town, with the clean lines and harmonious facades that characterised the Georgian period, was built on this loch-side site.
As the county town of Argyll, major buildings reflect this status, for example: the former courthouse and prison, as well as the parish church, and some historic inns and hotels.
Today, much of the pleasing architecture survives and the town, neat and compact, has a good range of places of interest, including nearby Inveraray Castle. It is still a popular stopping-off point on any Argyll tour.
Accommodation in Inveraray:
There is a choice of hotel accommodation in and around Inveraray, including Lochgilphead to the south and Dalmally by Loch Awe to the north. Guest house and B&B accommodation is available in Inveraray and in rural settings nearby. The self catering options include properties in the heart of Inveraray, as well as in small villages such as Dalmally and Strachur. There is an award-winning caravan park just south of Inveraray.
In the centre of the town, Inveraray Jail offers a fascinating and vivid insight into crime and punishment in the 19th century. Nearby, the Arctic Penguin, a historic vessel by the pier, holds the Inveraray Maritime Museum. Inveraray Castle is another major draw. Other places of interest include the Inveraray Bell Tower – great views – then, to the south, Auchindrain. This is a historic, preserved ‘farming village’ – a living museum that allows a vivid insight into Highland rural life of old. Crarae Garden is a little further on to the south.
Inveraray, Lochgilphead and Dalmally all have beautiful nine-hole golf courses. Loch Awe, to the north, is a popular angling loch. Riding and trekking (and a range of family fun activities) are available close to the town. Walking is also popular, with a good choice of forest walks close by.
The seat of the Dukes of Argyll, the castle as seen today replaced an earlier fortified structure and, like the ‘new town’ of Inveraray was built in stages through the latter half of the 18th century. Visitors can see collections of armour, furniture, tapestries and works of art in the finely painted and plastered interiors.
In the authentic setting of this former courthouse and prison, costumed staff, including warders and prisoners, vividly bring to life the realities of 19th-century punishment regimes. Cameos with ultra-realistic models and sound-track re-create the sensational trials of old in the actual courtroom. In the prisons visitors can try out the crank machine or sample the hard beds and hammocks – but, unlike the prisoners of old, today’s visitors are free to wander round at will and make the most of this dramatic historical experience.
The Crarae Burn tumbles steeply down to Loch Fyne. The National Trust for Scotland look after 50 acres on both sides of the water. Bridges and paths allow visitors to wander through the lush tree and shrub plantings. Adequate rainfall, acid soils and a temperate climate have proved ideal for creating a wild garden with the ambience of a wild Himalayan valley. Crarae is just one out of 20 gardens to be enjoyed under the banner of ‘Glorious Gardens of Argyll and Bute’. KIlmory Woodland Park, Ardkinglas Woodland Park and Benmore Botanic Garden are some of the others within easy reach of Inveraray.
Inveraray runs a whole month of events in a programme that’s part of its Bluebell Festival, including a mid-May Food Festival and a Music Festival at the end of the month. Inveraray Highland Games are in July with the Mid Argyll Agricultural Show in mid-August. There are regular bell-ringing performances at the Inveraray Bell Tower throughout the main season. Ghost hunting and paranormal investigations take place regularly at Inveraray Jail.