Inveraray Castle & Ardkinglas Woodland Garden
Argyll and Bute
Ardkinglas Woodland Garden
We were Out there for a brief holiday staying in a cottage on the shores of Loch Fyne courtesy of my wonderful nephew Chris. While dodging the showers which characterised the Scottish summer of 2015 we found our way to the other side of the Loch to Inveraray Castle. Our first sight of the castle was from the single-track bridge on the A83 as we entered the town of Inveraray.
We turned into the long driveway just before entering the town itself. Tickets were purchased from the car park attendant as we entered the parking area. The attendant, a very pleasant lady, told us we need not park there in the designated car park but instead should drive right to the front of the Castle and park instead next to the entrance. This meant that Titania didn’t need to struggle over the thick granite gravel which covered the car park and as it turned out all the paths around the castle. At the entrance there was a flight of four steps and followed by two steps to get into the Castle but both sets of steps had sturdy permanent ramps which enabled Titania to rise easily into the building.
All guests arriving at the Castle are met by a volunteer guide who will advise you on your best route through the rooms on display. They allow photographs inside, but without using flash, and they ask you not to take video, so we did not use Titania’s GoPro eye on this visit.
The Castle is still the seat and home of the Duke and Duchess of Argyll so there is only a section of the Castle which is on view to us (the “Public”). The guide suggested a route around the ground floor which avoided us bumping into the Dutch coach tour which had turned up ten minutes before us. He told me that Titania would only be able to access the Ground floor as there was no lift in the building. This meant the first floor, which includes among others the Campbell Clan room, and the basement, which houses the old kitchen and also the new tearoom, were not accessible to us (no cream tea to end this visit then L - although for future reference if you speak to the guides, the tearoom staff will endeavour to do their best to provide something whether it be upstairs on the ground floor or if weather permitting outside ). However while the more ambulant members of our party (Di Joni and Laura) went to look around these rooms, Titania and I could return to the Entrance Hall and look through the thick guide book which was filled with photos and information about all the rooms and the artefacts displayed in them.
From the Entrance Hall we went to the Dining room where a sumptuously decorated table sits surrounded by a room equally sumptuously adorned with paintings and tapestries. The magnificent silver models of sailing vessels which were the centre pieces of the table decoration caught our imagination. Apparently the top is hinged and inside they would contain fruit, nuts, sweets or whatever which were passed around the table rolled in these ships!
The Drawing room was also hung with beautiful tapestries and ornate furniture. From there you go through a secret door into a circular turret room which leads into what used to be a Duke’s library but is now where fantastic collections of china and porcelain are displayed.
We then retraced our steps back through the Entrance hall and into the Armoury room which is really impressive. As you enter it the displays of ancient weapons on the walls strikes you. They fan out on all the surfaces. The display cabinets contain fascinating snippets of real Scottish history, documents, artefacts jewellery and more. It is easy to spend a long time in this room reading all about it.
If you have Titania with you then that’s about it, although you can go to the foot of the stairs and look up at the portraits and pictures which adorn the walls up the stairs. Near here too you will find a disabled loo.
I did return with Titania and looked through the guide-book as suggested and so could see what I was missing. In the guide book you see more than you can see in some of the rooms, and there is a lot of information about what you are seeing which you won’t necessarily learn in the rooms. But. But seeing the photos doesn’t give you the same sense of the time or the place, or of the grandeur or opulence. Still – there weren’t many lifts built into buildings in the eighteenth century so that’s life.
There are a lot of grounds and gardens (16 acres apparently) which are supposed to be beautiful at any time year, but on this day we chose not to go round them, partly because the gravel paths were a little off-putting but mainly because heavy rain wasn’t far away. Perhaps next time we are at Loch Fyne we’ll resolve this omission and go Out there into the grounds. When we do we’ll let you know what we missed on this trip.
So instead let us briefly tell you of our expedition the next day to search for the tallest tree in the UK which is to be found Out there in ...
Ardkinglas Woodland Garden.
Ardkinglas is located just off the A83 at the tip of Loch Fyne. To me the name Ardkinglas sounds like it is straight out of a Tolkien book, and on the afternoon we were there, clearing after the morning’s rain, the atmosphere in the woodland transported you into Middle Earth. The parking is cleared from the wood. Within seconds of leaving the car we were delighting in watching red squirrels and we knew we were going to enjoy being Out there in Arkinglas.
The ground surface is hard and stony but not too bad for Titania. From the parking there are two paths which lead out. The first we tried just proved too difficult for Titania. So our party split into two. Di, Joni and Laura took the difficult path and Titania and I took the easier path. It wasn’t perfect but Titania managed it. In some places it was muddy as a result of the all of the rain and we found gates out onto the quiet little road which runs by the woods which enabled us to bypass difficult parts of the path. Eventually, re-entering from the road through another gate, we found easier paths along which we soon found the tallest tree. I didn’t have a wide angled lens with me.. so the three photos below were required to capture the tree in its entirety.
There was also the a magnificent tree which has been called the “mightiest conifer ” in Europe which caused me the same problem.
It was by these “Champion trees” that the other half of our party eventually rejoined Titania and me. The photos below show some of the sights which Titania and myself failed to see on the higher path and bring us back to the beautiful red squirrels which we spent much time enjoying.
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Richard & Di