UK Trip: Day 6, West Highlands Lochs & Castles Tour
On Sunday we went on the last tour of our trip. Rabbie's Trail Burners offers many different tours, and we chose the West Highlands Lochs & Castles Tour (mainly for the castles!), which did not disappoint. We found this tour to be a lot more reasonably priced than the tour we took in England, and we got to visit many different sites along the way. However, we had to pay our own entry fees to two of the castles and pay for our own lunch. Among the places we visited were Doune Castle, Loch Lubnaig, Kilchurn Castle, Inveraray, the Rest & Be Thankful pass, Luss, and a quick stop to view Stirling Castle from a distance. Unlike our last tour of 5 people, this tour had a larger number, about 13 total.
Our first stop was Doune Castle, where films and TV shows like Outlander, Game of Thrones, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail were filmed. The castle was originally built in the 13th century, but was badly damaged and rebuilt in its present form during the late 14th century by the Duke of Albany. Though the castle has been ruined since 1800, it was a lot of fun to explore inside. On our way up to where Mary Queen of Scots stayed several times, Luke dropped and cracked his phone in the huge stone spiral staircase. I think I was more upset than he was, but at least he broke it in such an amazing, ancient place! Mary's rooms were simple, though she did have a toilet that sat above the courtyard - allowing all that went in to fall straight down into the courtyard, likely on top of passersby - gross! In her room was the most beautiful window with bubbled glass, I'm curious to know when it dates from (pictured below on the left). When we were visiting, a wedding was being set up for later in the day which I thought was lovely. What a fun place to get married! The next stop was Loch Lubnaig. Just a quick stop, we were only out there for about 10 minutes admiring the view. It was the first Loch we spotted on our tour, but certainly not the last. Across the road from the loch was the most picturesque dense, moss covered forest. It looked like it came straight out of a movie, though I'm not sure if anyone else noticed it.
Loch Awe & Kilchurn Castle
Continuing on our tour, after a quick stop for one of our fellow tour members to get sick, we stopped at Kilchurn Castle on Loch Awe. There was a long, winding path along a loch side surrounded by mountains that we had to take to get to Kilchurn Castle, it took about 10 minutes dodging sheep poo all along the way. Once the castle was in view, it was simply amazing. I mean look at that picture! How gorgeous is that? I still can't believe I was able to see it in person. Kilchurn Castle was built during the 15th and 17th centuries, and it was abandoned in 1760 when it was badly damaged by a severe lightning storm. During certain times of the year, the path floods and the castle becomes an island. We weren't able to explore the inside of the castle because it was closed, but just seeing the beauty all around was enough for me.
Since we were visiting so many places, we were really limited on time at each place. We were given the choice of either visiting the town of Inveraray or visiting the castle, and of course we chose the castle! You guys - the outside of this castle was the most beautiful damn thing I've ever seen. It looks like it's straight out of a fairytale, and even an episode of Downtown Abbey was filmed here in 2012. Work on the current castle began in 1743, replacing an earlier 15th century castle. The Duke and his family still live here today (can you imagine living in a place like this?!). When we arrived we were hungry so we grabbed a quick lunch in the castle's tea room, which was covered with stills from the Downton Abbey episode. After lunch we headed straight inside the main building to start exploring. While the inside was nice, it was nowhere near as impressive as it is from the outside. The first three rooms were my favorite - the State Dining Room (left photo - top row), Tapestry Drawing Room (bottom row photos), and the China Turret (right photo - top row. paper-mache ceiling designed in 1773).
Upstairs in the MacArthur Room there is a 17th century bed (pictured below on the left) that is said to be haunted by a young Irish harpist who was murdered in the bed in 1644. The bed belonged to the MacArthur's of Loch Awe, and it was moved to Inveraray Castle where the boy's ghost is said to still be seen today. Among other tales, a harp is said to be heard coming from this room when a member of the current family is about to die. I spotted a photo of the most beautiful woman in this room (pictured below on the right), I wanted to take it home with me.
After we finished touring the inside of the castle, we went out and explored some of the 16 acre garden. There's an old millstone outside that is said to be cursed that my mom decided to take a picture of. I pleaded with her not to take the photo just to be on the safe side, but what does she go and do? She takes a picture of the cursed stone, which she'll be sorry for later (I'll talk about that whole ordeal in the next - and final - post). The gardens were filled with trees covered in an interesting moss that I've never seen before, and there were many 17th century statues scattered throughout the grounds. We took a few pictures (though the sun was killing our eyes) before heading back to the bus to continue on to our next destination, Rest & Be Thankful pass (pictured in the bottom row - those little dots towards the bottom are cars!). Our final stops of the day were Luss, a small cozy village on the side of a loch, and Stirling Castle which we viewed from the road below the castle.
After a long (but wonderful) 10 hour tour, we finally made our way back to our flat in Edinburgh before setting off to our next destination in the morning.
UK Trip Posts
* All photos are my own unless otherwise stated.