The region mainly north and west of Glasgow covers Argyll and the southern islands or Inner Hebrides. Although relatively close to the urban sprawl that surrounds Glasgow, there are parts of Argyll and The Isles that are quite isolated. If you intend to stay in places like Iona, Coll or Tiree, your trip should be planned in advance and include pre-booking of ferries.
Other areas like Oban or Inverary are the opposite, very popular and quite crowded through the summer, so it is a good idea to book accommodation ahead here.
Around Loch Linnhe
Loch Linnhe drives itself into the heart of the Highlands through the district of Lorn and starts the great channel created both by nature and man, the Caledonian Canal, which stretches all the way to Inverness.
From the bridge at Ballachulish it is an agreeable drive on the A828 to a similar structure at Connel just north of Oban. Coming from the north, at the crest of a hill just before the tiny community of Portnacroish you happen upon one of the most dramatic stages for a Scottish castle.
Castle Stalker was first built in the thirteenth century by the McDougalls of Lorn and later rebuilt in the mid-sixteenth century as a tower for the Stewarts of Appin. Recently restored, it is only accessible by rowing boat and is in private ownership, but visits can be arranged via Tel 01631 73234 (April to August). Carry on to the foot of the hill and turn right where a track takes you to the beach edge and good picture spots.
Port Appin is a ferry point for the 15 minute 'foot passenger only' crossing to the island of Lismore seen out on the loch. Many visitors prefer to sail from Oban using the car ferry to Achnacroish.
Lismore is a stretching, fertile strip of an island still supporting 300 people that was once more heavily populated. It carries several ancient relics in the form of three castles.
Back on the mainland, on the shores of Loch Crenan is the Oban Sea Life Centre, which displays locally captured sea creatures. There is a restaurant and gift shop as well as a wide selection of marine life, some of which can be handled.
The cantilever bridge at Connel stands above the mouth of Loch Etive, a winding sea loch that penetrates deep into the Grampian Mountains.
Here the Falls of Lara, as they are called, create a churning fight between incoming and outgoing tides at this narrow entrance to the sea. This is also the road junction for either Oban or Inverary, the two nodal points for touring this area.
Taking the A85 towards Oban, the resolute shape of Dunstaffnage
Castle comes into view on the right over a yachted inlet. Built on a ponderous rock
foundation, the thirteenth century stronghold was the home of the MacDougalls until
Robert the Bruce captured it in 1309, then taken over by the Campbells. It is still
owned by the Duke of Argyll. Flora MacDonald, the heroine who protected the fleeing
Bonnie Prince Charlie, was imprisoned here in 1746 before a brief sentence in London.
Thursday, December 26th, 2019
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