Lindsay and I had one more 4-day adventure planned before my holiday in Scotland would come to its end. We decided to spend our last weekend together traveling over to the west coast again, only this time we would be visiting new places further south. My sister, Suzie, and her husband, George, recommended a very interesting old Inn built in 1705. They have stayed there a couple of times and had nothing but great things to say about it so we also wanted to give it a try. It’s called The Drover’s Inn and it is in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park just north of Glasgow. It was the perfect place to use as a base for explorations over the weekend in another interesting and scenic region of Scotland.
Below is a map of the routes we took over the course of 4 days. We covered quite a bit of absolutely stunning and picturesque territory. The first day we traveled from Aberdeen to Inverarnan near the head of Loch Lomond. It looks like a long distance to travel on the map, but it’s actually only about 140 miles and if driven straight through without stopping, (what would be the fun in that?) it would only take about 2-3 hours, depending on how fast one drives. Did I mention there might be some beautiful scenery along the way? A good friend of ours, Karen, lives at Scone and we were driving right through that town on the way to Inverarnan, so we called her up and surprised her with an invitation to join us for lunch.
Last year I spent a couple of absolutely fantastic days with Karen exploring Scone Palace, attending the amazing Perth Tatoo, visiting the medieval town of Culross, standing in awe together in the shadows of the giant Kelpies and marveling at the engineering feat of the Falkirk Wheel – not to mention a fantastic ride out into the countryside near Loch Tay. She fit so much into 2 days I was amazed! (If you would like to read about those adventures with Karen last year, here’s a link to those stories on my older blog “Globetrekker Grandma”… Perth Tatoo & Loch Tay and Culross, Kelpies & Falkirk Wheel).
Since we were driving right past Karen’s house on this trip we couldn’t possibly think of just driving by! We picked her up and she took us to a wonderful little coffee shop near Scone Palace called Macmillan’s – a charitable venture run by volunteers.
The coffee shop is set in a beautiful woodland park and is the ideal place to combine a walk in the fresh Perthshire air with a satisfying lunch. They serve delicious soup, sandwiches, and home-baked goods. All proceeds they receive from the venture go to help cancer patients in Perth and Kinross. It was a great lunch, with a great gal for a great cause!
After that nice lunch break with Karen, we continued along A85 heading west and passing a lot of interesting sights along the way as we followed the River Earn.
Soon we arrived at the head of Loch Earn at the village of St. Fillans. We gladly got out of the car to take another break and enjoyed a lovely little walk along the loch’s edge.
When we returned to the car, I noticed this sign posted by the Trossachs National Park. John Muir’s words perfectly reflected what I was thinking at the time…
We only had about 30 miles further to drive to reach our final destination for the day – The Drover’s Inn.
According to their website:
“With over 300 years’ worth of visitors, you’d expect the walls of the Drovers to be able to tell a tale or two. From the famous to the infamous, this historic building has welcomed hundreds of thousands of people, Rob Roy and Gerard Butler to name just a few.
On arrival at The Drovers Inn, you’ll immediately be struck by the imposing architecture and authenticity. Once inside, it’s like taking a step back in time. To an era where folk sang songs and drank their whisky neat by candlelight. Where the fire’s always lit, the food’s always good and the people are always smiling”.
It’s a delightful place and oh-so-old! When you enter the front door…
…immediately you are surrounded by all sorts of unusual curiosities – stuffed birds, old pictures, a suit of armor and a menacing looking bear to greet you!
We got checked into our room which was located on the top floor directly above the entrance. It was a great room and made me wonder if someone else who is famous may have stayed in this very room!
We headed back downstairs and enjoyed some of the pub grub and a wee dram (or two). I particularly enjoyed their deep fried haggis appetizer! Yum!
We also enjoyed live music that evening with lots of other people. It’s a popular pub! The West Highland Way – Scotland’s best-loved long distance walking route – passes right through here so we had a lot of Walkers, young and old alike, enjoying the pub along with us. So many fascinating people from all parts of the world.
The next morning, we decided to explore in the vicinity nearby so we decided to drive further west to the lovely seaside village of Oban. Below is a map of the driving route we followed. (We started at point E heading north & west)
After a satisfying full Scottish breakfast, we got in the car and started driving north to tie back in with A85 again following it further west to Oban.
We saw some beautiful sights along the way, like this sight at the Falls of Lora at the juncture of the Firth of Lorn and Loch Etive.
We arrived in Oban, drove around town to various sights and then drove up on the nearest hillside residential section to get a birdseye view of the bay, harbor and waterfront town buildings. We could even see the old ruinous Dunollie Castle tower situated on the tip of the northern boundary of the bay.
Then we headed down to the waterfront to check out all of the beautiful sailing ships moored there.
We also enjoyed a very nice lunch at the award-winning “Ee-Usk” restaurant situated in the heart of Oban right on the pier. Ee-Usk means ‘Fish’ (Phonetic Gaelic). Fish is what they are famous for.
I simply love this restaurant. When I visited Oban & took the ferry to the Isle of Iona a couple of years ago, I ate dinner here a few times and looked forward to yet another scrumptious meal. At our table next to the window, we enjoyed uninterrupted views of the neighboring isles of Kerrera, Lismore, and the mountains of Mull and Morven beyond. The Caledonian Macbrayne ferries and fishing boats go back and forth across the bay amongst sailing yachts and small fishing boats. There is also a lot of wildlife in the bay; customers have seen otters, dolphins, and seals from their tables as well as many types of birds including wild ducks, swans, guillemots, cormorants & terns so its a pleasant place to sit, enjoy the sights and eat a delicious meal! Lindsay and I enjoyed their “special of the day” – a delicious cracked crab and shrimp cocktail with Rose Marie sauce for our mid-day meal.
We also drove to the northern end of the bay, past Dunollie castle, and a bit beyond to Ganavan Beach. Evidently, it’s a popular place for “putting in” with a kayak to follow the Kayak Trail in the Argyll Sea which goes practically all the way to Glasgow! What a lovely area to kayak in!
After lunch, although we were thoroughly enjoying Oban, we got back in the car and headed back inland following the same route we followed earlier stopping to see a couple of things we had passed earlier and wanted to investigate further. On the way, we came across a small herd of cows playing in the water at the beach……and we stopped at Loch Etive for one more picture; the water’s surface was so calm and the perfect reflections were irresistible! A bit further, we stopped at a charming little church on the banks of beautiful Loch Awe.
What a fascinating church! Small, but an absolute treasure trove of interesting architecture and a bit unusual and quirky!
Luckily, there were extremely informative “interpretive signboards” throughout providing key information about this interesting little church. This is what they had to say about the cloisters above:
“Although these cloisters have no real function in St Conan’s Kirk, they were commonly a feature in the old abbeys of Scotland. The architect, Walter Campbell, was determined to build a Cloister Garth for St Conan’s.
Much of the stonework came from the parish church at Inchinnan in Glasgow when it was demolished. It was the old family church of the Blythswood family.
Heavy oak beams above the doorway in the cloisters are from two famous old battleships: The Caledonian and The Duke of Wellington.”
“Walter Campbell was a man of many talents; he was a capable, if not somewhat unorthodox, architect, a collector of ‘objets d’art’ and a highly skilled woodcarver.”
“Visitors to the Kirk will be surprised to learn that the church was completed in 1930, despite its medieval appearance. Its story begins in the 1880s. It was built by Walter Campbell, the younger brother of the first Lord Blythswood. His arrival in Lochawe preceded the arrival of the railway and hotel in 1889 when he purchased Innischonain (the island just by the railway bridge at the south end of the village). He settled here with his sister, Helen, and his mother, Caroline.
Local tradition tells that his mother found the journey to the nearest church tiring so he decided to build her a church nearby. Designed in no singular style, Walter took ideas and designs from different places and periods and built a church that serves as a collection of all the best and most interesting features from other churches. The result is an eclectic mix of various styles from the Norman and Romanesque periods to Celtic motifs and even pagan symbolism in the form of the now fallen stone circle at the entrance gate.”
I really thought this was a very very old church, but apparently not! I like the way that Walter mixed all the styles and periods together in this one little church and just made it “look” very old. Fascinating! Below, in St. Bride’s Chapel, is the grave of that quirky architect.
There was a beautiful ornate organ surrounded by an extensively carved wood screen of Celtic and mythical symbols with a Gothic style round window above it.
The architecture is stunning and so interesting. Carvings everywhere, both in stone and wood.
We really enjoyed looking at every nook and cranny in this eclectic church. We headed outside to the back side of the church afterward and continued to find interesting items such as flying buttresses, sundials, statues, complete with a wonderful view!
We spent quite a bit of time at Saint Conan’s Kirk, but there were still a few things we wanted to see that day so we continued on down the road.
We turned south off the A85 at Kilchurn Castle (yet another castle that I have ancestral ties to) and worked our way crossing the mountains on the way to Inverary.
Storm clouds were gathering and it ended up raining very hard all the way to Inverary.
Luckily, when we arrived at our destination the clouds had moved further south so it was dry and rain free!
We parked down near the harbor and walked amongst the buildings in this town where they are all painted the same color and similar styles.
We even enjoyed a nice cone of home-made ice cream as we enjoyed the scenery!
It was getting late in the day and although we didn’t take a tour nor even visit the grounds, we still enjoyed a nice view of Inverary Castle as we headed out of town heading south toward the Argyll Forest. If you’re in the area, the castle is quite nice to visit. It is a privately owned castle, Clan Campbell, and although you only get to see parts of it, it’s still worth a visit. (I visited it before on a previous trip and it wasn’t the best tour I’ve ever experienced. I have ancestral ties to this castle, like so many I’ve discovered. However, that’s another story in a previous blog post.) It may look familiar to you if you were a Downtown Abbey fan; this was where they filmed the big 2-hour special Christmas episode in 2012 where they visited relatives in Scotland at ‘Duneagle Castle.’The road from Inverary traverses around Loch Fyne and then begins ascending up a glen to a mountain pass between Beinn Ime and Beinn an Lochain. A commemorative stone called “Rest and Be Grateful” sits on the high mountain pass at a rest area with fantastic views of the old Drover’s Road.
The straighter “new road” sits up higher on the left-hand hillside above the old winding Drover’s road below it. The old road is blocked off to traffic except for local residents.
The picture below is taken on the other side of the pass and shows the road we drove up to get to the pass. Such beautiful scenery no matter which way you look.
By this point, we only had about 15 miles to go following along the edge of yet another gorgeous body of water, Loch Lomond, until we were back where we started at The Drover’s Inn. What a wonderful day it had been; brimming with extremely interesting sights around every turn.
We were very content to be back in the now all familiar pub at Drover’s Inn enjoying yet more great food, libations, and laughs. I ordered some of their homemade cream of mushroom soup and another order of that yummy appetizer of fried haggis! Lindsay enjoyed his favorite – fish & chips. We spent the rest of the evening with all these fine folks listening to more live music in the pub!
That marked the end of the second day of our 4-day adventure and this is where I’ll end this particular blog entry. Stay tuned for Part 2 where we spend another couple of days traveling back to Aberdeen via the Falls of Dochart, Loch Tay, an ancient Yew tree at Fortingall, Blair Castle, and the dramatic back roads up through the Spittle of Glenshee to Braemar.
Attitude of Gratitude ~ I am grateful for the great recommendation to visit and stay at The Drover’s Inn from my sister. It was perfectly delightful, extremely historic, and it served as a great central location to explore from. Thanks, Suzie!