Visit Inveraray and the surrounding villages and stay in bed & breakfast accommodation:
Inveraray, Argyll and Bute. The two most attractive of Scotland's historical small towns are Haddington, in the East, and Inveraray, so far to the West that it is all but enisled near the head of that arm of the sea, Loch Fyne.
The two towns have elements in common. Both were destroyed in wars of centuries ago (Haddington by the English, Inveraray in a civil war). Both were reconstructed as “New Towns” at a period of taste in the 18th century. Both fell into a certain outer desuetude in the early years of the 20th. Both have now pulled themselves up “by their boot-straps”. In both there has been a praiseworthy collaboration of civic and national effort. In both, moreover, there has been quite new building in harmony with the old. And they have both succeeded in making it clear that the graces of the past can be made triumphantly to live on into, and often surpass, the present.
In the case of Inveraray, however, the efforts of the great Campbell family and clan, of which the dukes of Argyll are the head, have combined to give impetus to the restoration.
This small, picturesque little town on Loch Fyne, and at the mouth of the salmon-abounding River Aray, is the oldest royal burgh in Argyll. Created a royal burgh in 1648, the fishing-village portion of it was burnt by Montrose in 1644 after his astonishing descent upon the Campbell country. In the early 18th century, the 3rd Duke of Argyll decided to rebuild the castle, and demolished what remained of the old village to plan a new one — fortunately in an era of good taste. It was an era too in which Highland domestic architecture was turning to the use of white-washed building — the perfect contrast to the polychromatic West Highland scene.
Roger Morris, with William Adam as his Clerk of Works, was engaged to lay plans for the new burgh and castle; and excavations were begun in 1743. Comparatively soon afterwards, however, both Morris and William Adam died. Robert Mylne (the name Mylne has been associated with Scottish architecture for centuries) is usually credited with finishing the job and carrying out the plans. This attribution, however, overlooks the fact that John Adam, the elder son of William, carried on the supervision of the works and of the whole town, except for the church, which was designed later. Several of the buildings were completed by 1751. Much of the interior decorations and the mantelpieces, particularly in the castle, were designed by John Adam.
Among these buildings stood the inn, which was afterwards destroyed by fire. This was reconstructed according to Adam's design, but possibly by Mylne, who also carried out a certain amount of the interior decoration of the castle. But this was after the 5th Duke had changed to Mylne from Adam.
The old town house, now the municipal offices, was built by Mylne, though whether planned by him is not certain. It is a common error to suppose that the celebrated trial of James Stewart of the Glen for the Appin murder took place in the old town house, the new version of which, in fact, was not built until a year after the trial — that is, in 1753. James probably “tholed his assize” in the kirk of the old town. Readers are referred to Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped and Catriona for graphic if fictionalized accounts of this famous trial, which is still the source of hot dispute not only amongst novel-writers but between serious legal historians.
Another feature of the new l8th century town was the tall buildings called, in the Scots fashion, “lands”. These were also put up rather in the style of Edinburgh's Old Town. In 1957 the late Duke of Argyll gave up possession of these buildings in favour of the Ministry of Public Building and Works, which employed the distinguished Scottish architect, the late Ian Lindsay, to rehabilitate them. As at Haddington, the result was most successful. Mr Lindsay's main task was less to make the outsides of these buildings agreeable to look at — there was little need of that — than to make them habitable by the 20th-century people who live in Inveraray. It may well be that in the beautiful little town of Inveraray you will find the best example in all Scotland of the fact that it is possible to preserve the 18th century. and to live in it with comfort.
The parish church (1798—1 804) has a unique feature — a centrally dividing wall that once enabled services in Gaelic and in English to proceed at the same time. As there are now very few monoglot Gaelic speakers outside the Hebrides, the Gaelic half has now been converted into the church hall. The great tower (1923—32) of the Episcopalian church, so close to the heart of the popular 10th Duke, is famous for its peat of ten bells sounding out as a memorial to the Campbells who fell in the First World War. The grammar school was founded in 1684.
Originally dated about 1520, the new castle, the seat of the dukes of Argyll, was replanned by Morris and Mylne in the earlier half of the 18th century, to be completed in 1770. The old castle, which stood 80 yds from the present front door, was finally demolished only in 1773 (the year of Johnson's and Boswell's visit). The new one was roofed by 1760, but scarcely lived in by the 3rd or 4th Dukes. It was the 5th Duke who, when he was Marquess of Lorne and heir to the dukedom, modernized it and completed its decoration.
The result of this modernizing and decoration in the latter half of the 18th century was impressive then. It remains impressive. In its kind, it is unique. It is amongst the earliest, if not the earliest, example of neo-Gothic in these islands, and was conceived and built well before Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill. It is also, oddly enough, an extremely early example of the neo-Scottish baronial style. Yet, standing four-square, it is indubitably of the splendid 18th century and indubitably Scottish. Thus it presents itself to the onlookers from the town, who may see it in glimpses through a well-wooded park against the background of the dramatically abrupt yet domestic hill of Duniquaich. Thus it may be seen from the outside. It is impossible, however, to speak of Inveraray and its castle without mentioning that its interior too may be seen. That interior provides such a wealth of l8th century beauty and architectural curiosity, and so many outward signs of Scotland's past, that we do not feel inclined here to give a detailed list extending from the superb Augustan Age wall-pieces, fireplaces, chimney-pieces (many of them by Adam), to battle-axes and antique evidence of a Highland past.
Nearby islands: Islay
Nearby towns: Lochgilphead, Oban, Rothesay
Nearby villages: Achnaba, Achnacloich, Appin, Arrochar, Auchnacraig, Barrnacarry, Benderloch, Bonawe, Bridge of Orchy, Cairndow, Campbeltown, Clachan-Seil, Connel, Craignure, Creagan, Croggan, Dalmally, Dunollie, Ellenabeich, Fearnoch, Inverinan, Kenmore, Kilbride, Kilcheran, Kilmore, Kilninver, Lerags, Lochdon, Port Appin, Strachur, Tarbet, Taynuilt, Tighnabruaich
Have you decided to visit Inveraray or the surrounding villages? Please look above for somewhere to stay in:
- a Inveraray bed and breakfast (a Inveraray B&B or Inveraray b and b)
- a Inveraray guesthouse
- a Inveraray hotel (or motel)
- a Inveraray self-catering establishment, or
- other Inveraray accommodation