Inveraray: 47 miles from Appletree Cottage
Its a beautiful day so we take a drive up to Inveraray just over an hour away and 47 miles distant. The run up Loch Lomondside on the A82 is stunning and we stop to admire the vista with Ben Lomond rising up to 3193ft (974m) across the water above the village of Rowardennan
At Tarbet, about half way up the loch the road forks. Places called Tarbet or Tarbert in Scotland (from the Gaelic An Tairbeart) are characterised by lying on an isthmus or short strip of land which separates two bodies of water. In this case Loch Lomond and Loch Long are separated by a comparatively narrow stretch. We take the left hand turning along the A83 and head towards Arrochar and Inveraray.
As we make our descent into Arrochar Village on the shore of Loch Long we can clearly see the peak of Ben Arthur, known locally as "The Cobbler" peeking above the hills on the far side of the loch. The rock formations on the peak of Ben Arthur are said to represent a cobbler bending over his last.
The pier at Arrochar whilst picturesque has seen better days.
We drive through Arrochar and head up the north side of Loch Long for a stretch before making the long climb up to the famous "Rest and Be Thankful".
Legend has it that Queen Victoria on her tour of Scotland came to pass this pass. The ascent up the old road (which can still be seen) was steep and difficult and on reaching the pass the monarch declared "Let us rest and be thankful"
Landslides have plagued the new road in recent years and hefty protective nets have been built into the hillside to catch any falling debris.
After Rest and Be Thankful the road descends and continues along the long level base of Glen Kinglas and joins the south shore of Loch Fyne. A short journey round the head of this loch takes us to the famous Loch Fyne Oyster Bar at Cairndow. This seafood shop and restaurant spurned a nationwide chain of restaurants which were sold off to Greene King, the pub retailer and brewer in 2006. The Cairndow restaurant and shop however were not part of the deal and they retain their independence. Well worth a visit for a good selection of fresh seafood.
A few miles after Cairndow we approach our first destination - Inveraray. This old capital of Argyll county was where the county court and the jail were - the premesis are now preserved and open to visitors.
The village stands on a promontory and was largely constructed in the mid 1700s under the direction of the Duke of Argyle with designs by celebrated architects John Adam and Robert Mylne, the Church, Inveraray Hotel and Town House being attributed to the latter..
Another famous feature of Inveraray is of course Inveraray Castle. Rebuilt on the site of the old castle the foundation stone was laid in October 1746 making it one of the earliest Gothic Revival buildings in the uk. The original Inveraray village was moved to its present site at this stage to give the castle more privacy.
In 1975 a disastrous fire raged through the castle causing much damage. The then 12th Duke and his family lived in the basement whilst repairs and reinstatements were carried out - partially funded by the Dukes foreign fund raising tours.
Tied up alongside the pier at Inveraray is the Vital Spark. This ship is known as a puffer - with a flat bottom for running up onto beaches of islands which did possess a suitable pier, the boats were a mainstay of freight transport around the Western Isles and west coast of Scotland in the 1930-50s. The boats inspired the fictional stories of the crafty skipper Para Handy by Neil Munro, initially published in the Glasgow Evening News before being put into book form and several television series. Built in 1944 this particular vessel was originally named Vic 72 then Elseda then Eilean Eisdeal before its current moniker.
After a welcome ice cream it was time to head a little further west - but that's for another blog.