A Travellerspoint blog

Days 14 to 16

From Onich to Loch Lomond

semi-overcast 14 °C
View A maiden holiday in Scotland on SteveJD's travel map.

Our hosts had recommended a visit to Dunstaffnage Castle, so we decided on a drive south to Kilmartin. Our first stop was at the viewpoint for Castle Stalker. The view is great but I can't recommend the coffee! This castle featured at the end of the film "Monty Python and the Holy Grail".

Castle Stalker from the viewpoint

Castle Stalker from the viewpoint

First World War memorial bench with the castle in the background below

First World War memorial bench with the castle in the background below

We continued to Dunstaffnage Castle which is a ruin but well worth the recommendation. We were able to walk around the castle interior and also to get up to the Wall Walk. The castle dates back to the 13th century, built and owned by MacDougalls until they sided with John Balliol and lost their castle to Robert the Bruce in the ensuing battles. The castle remained in royal hands for 150 years and then was passed to the Duke of Argyll who installed the Campbells as captains. In 1746, after enabling the escape of Bonnie Prince Charlie, Flora MacDonald was imprisoned in the castle. The Campbells remained in charge of the castle but after a devastating fire in 1810 and subsequent gradual decay, the 21st captain and the duke agreed in 1958 to pass the castle to the State. It is now an Historic Scotland property.

Approaching the castle built on very solid rock

Approaching the castle built on very solid rock

Dunstaffnage Bay from the Wall Walk

Dunstaffnage Bay from the Wall Walk

Inside the castle with the 16c gatehouse on the right

Inside the castle with the 16c gatehouse on the right

Aerial view of the castle, courtesy of Historic Scotland

Aerial view of the castle, courtesy of Historic Scotland

Close to the castle there is a chapel, also in ruins.

The ruined chapel in the woodland

The ruined chapel in the woodland

We continued to Oban where we stopped for an unmemorable lunch in a lovely harbourside restaurant. While there, I googled Kilmartin Museum and Arduain Gardens only to find that both were closed, the museum until 2023 because of renovations and the garden until they could make the place safe after storm damage!

The harbour, just outside the restaurant

The harbour, just outside the restaurant

Nonetheless, we continued as planned and stopped at Arduain Gardens as there is a great viewpoint looking out over numerous islands in the loch to the distant Western Isles.

Panoramic view of the loch below the gardens viewpoint

Panoramic view of the loch below the gardens viewpoint

In Kilmartin, the idea had been to see Bronze Age items and to be able to look out of the window to see the site where they were found but also the local church housed a collection of carved stones (Cross Stones as seen from other Pictish sites graveslabs and tombstones) dating from the 900s to the 1700s. The Church was closed as it was in an unsafe state but the carved stones had been stood out in the graveyard in a covered enclosure, a bit like the inside of a barrow before being covered with earth! Other collections of stones were laid out in the open.

10th century stones

10th century stones

Ornately carved stones with sword included

Ornately carved stones with sword included

18th century graveslabs

18th century graveslabs

Selection of graveslabs in the graveyard

Selection of graveslabs in the graveyard

Rather than return along the same road, we chose to take a narrow minor road along the eastern banks of Loch Awe. This was stunning. We had heard of Scottish Bluebells and seen some lovely displays but along this road frequently the bluebells were growing in masses from above us down to the road and then from the road to the loch shores. Sadly, we were unable to get a photograph which did this sight justice but it was truly beautiful. In other areas, the woodland was decidedly spooky with thick mats off mosses and lichens dripping off trees. We did get some photographs but we simply couldn't find a way of showing the beauty of these forests or the gnarly growths that look as if they came from one of Tolkien's worlds.

Deep moss underlying tall pines

Deep moss underlying tall pines

Where angels fear to tread?

Where angels fear to tread?

A path through the woodland to.....

A path through the woodland to.....

Was this a dog, or a small person - in these woods, who knows?

Was this a dog, or a small person - in these woods, who knows?

I hadn't noted that our route would take us through Glencoe Valley but it did and it was truly stunning. We were travelling in the right direction and the light was magic but there was never anywhere to stop when we wanted, so we just absorbed it and went home very happy bunnies.

Sad though we were to leave Onich, we drove out and into Glencoe Valley. Sadly, it was cooler and the light was pretty flat so lacked the "Wow" factor of the previous day. We stopped at the National Trust Scotland centre where we heard about the history of the famous massacre of 1692. A reconstruction of a turf hut gave a feeling of what it would have been like to live there in the 17th century - not for me!

The hut reconstruction and the gloomy valley

The hut reconstruction and the gloomy valley

The valley was used in the filming of the James Bond film "Skyfall" and also featured in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail". We stopped for a walk at An Torr, although we as usual were not up for climbing! Some lovely woodland was appreciated though.

Crossing the River Coe

Crossing the River Coe

A view downstream

A view downstream

Some fine coniferous woodland

Some fine coniferous woodland

The path to the tor itself

The path to the tor itself

A grotesque tree root

A grotesque tree root

We stopped at the Glencoe Skilift for coffee and snacks. This was a very bare bones place but the food and coffee were better than many other smarter places.

The last viewpoint, very crowded, looked down over our route past the Bridge of Orchy.

Our drive took us down the west side of Loch Lomond and this was one of the twistiest roads I have been on for quite some time. Probably very scenic, although we were experiencing a bit of rain at this time. As we were a little early for our check in, we visited RSPB Loch Lomond where we found a super friendly volunteer who filled us in with all the best places and things to see. We only had time for a short walk through bluebell-carpeted woodland, a lovely place for a return visit.

Never too may bluebells!

Never too may bluebells!

Finally, we headed on to the farm where our AirBnB awaited us.

The following day, I had been feeling a bit washed out, so we took it easy and after a trip into town returned to RPSB Loch Lomond where we saw Sedge Warblers, Linnets, Siskins and many other lovely birds. We were a bit later getting there than intended, then spent more time than we had allowed around the pond area, so there was no time to walk down to loch shores - we shall have to return!

large_20220518_P1200223_Judith.jpgMore bluebells, with starry white flowers

More bluebells, with starry white flowers

a Sedge Warbler

a Sedge Warbler

A male Linnet

A male Linnet

A male Chaffinch

A male Chaffinch

A female Siskin

A female Siskin

Posted by SteveJD 22:24 Archived in Scotland Tagged birds castle lochs glencoe bluebells dunstaffnage onich castle_stalker kilmartin loch_awe

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