Turrets. Lavish interiors. Immaculate gardens. Used as a location in films. Inveraray Castle ticks all the boxes for 'classic Scottish castle'. It's around 60 miles from Glasgow and is still the family home of the Dukes of Argyll.
My cycling to Inveraray post will help you plan your route. It involves taking a train to Dalmally, followed by a 15 mile cycle.
Probably my favourite thing about this castle is the entrance. You walk under a glass canopy adorned with colourful flowers and plants. It sets the scene that this is a home, a welcoming place and not a fortress to keep people out.
The ironwork on the canopy is decorative and makes for a striking feature set against the heavy stone of the building. I've not seen a Scottish castle with such an attractive and unique entrance.
This room is incredible. It takes up the full height of the castle. That's 21m. The information card in the room says it is the highest room of any house in Scotland. The walls are covered in all kinds of weapons, 1300 of them. The fan display of muskets that fits into the architecture of the building is an interior design masterpiece.
What would you like for dinner?
A midweek bowl of noddles just feels wrong in this room. The table is set with a sliver punch bowl that was a gift from Queen Victoria. Look up at the ceiling and you know you need to be eating something special in this room.
"Make yourself as invisible as possible"
I thought the dinning room and the armoury were the most impressive rooms on the self-guided tour. I also enjoyed the saloon with its portraits. In the old kitchen I found a list of rules for servants in Victorian times. One of these rules was:
"if you encounter one of your betters in the house...you are to make yourself as invisible as possible, turning yourself towards the wall and averting your eyes."
There's a grand staircase up to some more rooms, but it didn't feel like there's as much to see inside Inveraray as there is in some of Scotland's other castles. This is probably because this is a family home, so its only natural that visitors are restricted to a few rooms.
Even so, this was a busy place during my visit. It's situation, both stunning and convenient for Glasgow, makes it a good choice for a castle fix. It was a film location for Downtown Abbey and A Castle for Christmas, which is bound to attract a lot of visitors.
The castle looks amazing from the gardens. It's framed by gravel paths, immaculate lawns and gorgeous flowers- the best place to get a photo.
As nice as these gardens are I felt I had seen more impressive ones at other castles. For example, the gardens at Drummond Castle, near Crieff, are one of my favourites.
My thoughts on Inveraray Castle
Scotland has a lot of castles to choose from- entrance fees and limited time mean you can't visit them all. If your prioirity is to see lots of rooms and extensive gardens I wouldn't pick Inveraray Castle. There are other castles that let you see you more, but remember Inveraray is a family home. The Armoury Hall is one of the most impressive rooms of any castle in Scotland and I just love the entrance canopy with the plants and hanging baskets.
Inveraray Castle is also in a good location, not so far from Glasgow and located right next to a town with good facilities.
Another benefit of choosing to visit Inveraray Castle is that you could combine it with a visit to the brilliant Inveraray Jail.