In happier times, we celebrated our ten year anniversary. Ten. YEARS! It’s hard to believe it was only a few months ago, in January, that we set off from Edinburgh for a weekend of rare luxury in a castle over on the west coast of Scotland to celebrate.
It was an area I’ve never visited either, so I was particularly excited to see Kilchurn Castle reflecting over the water, check out the sights of Inveraray, and finally visit one of my most overlooked Scottish towns, Oban.
This was actually an accidental trip, because I bought a voucher to stay at Stonefield Castle on the west coast of Scotland with the plan to use it for our mini honeymoon (which would have been… tomorrow). Unfortunately it was only after I bought the voucher that I realised it needed to be used by, erm, March. So it would be a winter trip, which meant we would use it for our ten year anniversary instead, so in the end it worked out pretty well.
We made a pit-stop on the way, at the gorgeous village of Luss on the shores of Loch Lomond, one of my favourite parts of the loch to visit. We first visited Luss in 2017 on a whim, stopping because it looked like it might be interesting without realising that we’d stumbled across, quite deservedly, one of the gems of Loch Lomond.
On an overcast, dreich day in winter, the village didn’t quite have the same charm as we’d experienced the first time around – although it was SO much quieter than the summer – but it was still a lovely break for lunch, and we took a stroll along the waterfront, watching the paddle boarders float across the loch as the clouds slowly lifted above Ben Lomond.
From Loch Lomond, we headed west and soon made another stop at Kilchurn Castle, somewhere I’ve been meaning to stop for years.
The upside of coming in winter was the snowy mountain backdrop. The downside? The field up to the loch was waterlogged and I couldn’t go down, and to be fair the loch wasn’t at a pond-like stillness to capture the reflection of the castle anyway.
So I had to make do with these spectacular photos instead. No, really – I’d like to go back to photograph it differently, but I love how these turned out! It looks like an absolute fairytale.
We made one more stop before our final destination, but it was just a quick stop on the shore of Inveraray, and we instantly made a note to stop for longer on the way back (for one thing, I wanted to see the castle!).
Read more: 20 Photos Of Glorious Glencoe
We arrived at Stonefield Castle just as it was starting to get dark, which meant settling into our room and reserving dinner (included with our voucher), and we had time for a drink in the lounge, too.
I get kinda worried coming to these kinds of places – in case you couldn’t tell, I am not posh in the slightest. I don’t know how to be posh. I happily stay in hostel dorms and eat street food and take overnight buses (okay, I’m maybe not so happy about the overnight buses). Who am I kidding, staying in a castle hotel?!
I was relieved to find that everyone was incredibly welcoming and approachable, and we immediately felt at home – our room was even in the turret of the castle!
I could get used to this!
Dinner was also fantastic, and there was an array of people there, from young couples to older families, people in suits and people in jeans and t shirts. We didn’t feel out of place at all, even though it was one of the fancier meals we’ve ever had. Ordinarily, we would have had a great view too, but unfortunately it was dark. I reckon this would be an amazing place to eat in the summer (next week, perhaps!).
The following morning, the view wasn’t much better on a dull day – but breakfast distracted from the view – deeeelish!
Imagine how nice it would be here on a summer’s day?!
Oban – gateway to the isles
Today, we were off to explore Oban, a gateway to many of the western isles and somewhere I couldn’t believe I’d never been.
Oban is… nice, but it felt like it was missing something. Perhaps again it was because it was winter, and it was a dull day and you couldn’t even see across to the isles.
(*edit* We’ve been back to Oban since and loved it! It’s definitely a town that grows on you, and like many places, is better in the summer.)
Check out my post Four Islands, One Epic Weekend On The Isle Of Mull for some higher praise of Oban!
I did take a wander up to McCaig’s Tower which overlooks the town and the bay, and immediately regretted it. It’s a really short walk, but very, very steep!
Once I reached the top, I was greeted by a cat.
I had actually read about a cat called Parsley, on TripAdvisor of all places. No kidding – there is literally a famous cat in Oban. Anyway, this wasn’t Parsley – but it’s the same owner!
He’s called Purdie.
Purdie followed me around for most of my time up at the tower, probably because I kept stroking him.
The view from the tower wasn’t bad, but it was missing a lot of background features of the islands in the distance, namely the Isle Of Mull. I’m sure it would be beautiful on a clearer day.
After some time at the top, mostly catching my breath from the walk up, I headed back down to re-join Ash for a hot chocolate.
We also decided we needed to treat ourselves to fish & chips for lunch – after all, Oban is renowned for having some of the best fish & chips in Scotland! After perusing the posh options like Euesk (we’ll have to eat there at some point, EVERYBODY seems to recommend it), we decided to go for a good old-fashioned chippy, simply called the Oban Fish & Chip Shop.
For all intents and purposes, I did like Oban. Every experience we had with cafes, food and shops was great. I met a cat. It was very photogenic (the cat and the town). But I do feel like it would be better as a summer destination, and we’d like to go back to give it a little more justice when there’s more going on.
(Which, it turns out if you’ve read my edit above, was the correct judgement!)
Plus it’s the only place in Scotland that I’ve ever seen a Bank Of Scotland in Gaelic!
In the evening, after a couple of hours playing chess* in the lounge of the hotel with some drinks, we headed down to Tarbert, the closest town to the hotel. Obviously it was dark by this point, but it seemed like a cute village, and we stopped for food in Cafe Ca’Dora, which turned out to be a great choice! Plus we sat at a table next to a map of somewhere in Scotland, and as I glanced at it, I realised it was South Ronaldsay – the tiny island I grew up on in Orkney!! What are the chances of that?!
*I had to teach Ash how to play chess, because he’d never played before. How have we been together for ten years and I’ve never taught him to play chess?!
In the morning, it was time to say goodbye to Stonefield Castle.
We really enjoyed our stay there, and actually went on to book it for this week anyway, but for one of the fanciest suites (four poster bed and all!). Of course, that’s been cancelled now, along with the rest of our mini honeymoon.
We made our promised stop in Inveraray on the way back, and debated whether to go to the jail. I’ve heard that Inveraray Jail is really worth a visit, but we decided we’re definitely going to come back and do it next time.
We did, however, walk up to Inveraray Castle, and even though the grounds were locked up, we got some great views of it.
Plus – it was snowing!! How magical does this look?
Inveraray Castle is high on my list of places to visit once it’s back open.
Rest And Be Thankful
As we drove back, the scenery got snowier and snowier. We drove back a different way, which meant we passed the Rest And Be Thankful viewpoint. Now I’ve seen photos of it before, and I’m sure this doesn’t do it justice either, but although I planned to stop there, I wasn’t really expecting much.
It was BEAUTIFUL, and I think the snow added to it.
The next day, the snow caused a landslide and the road was closed for several weeks. We got SO lucky!
Anyway, ten years.
We’ve come a long way from standing in the queue to see one of our favourite bands, Fightstar, at Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Since then we’ve been all over Europe, been on crazy day trips, embarked on awesome road trips, backpacked through Asia, moved to Australia, lived apart for six months while I was in Vancouver, and now we’re finally settled in Edinburgh. He’s seen me at my worst and at my best, and he’s still here for both.
Yesterday, we were supposed to get married. We should be husband and wife right now.
Instead of languishing in sorrow, we headed out for a picnic in the charming town of Linlithgow, just outside Edinburgh. We went to Linlithgow Palace last year and it was a very pleasant surprise, and we instantly made a note to come back to explore the beautiful town on a nicer day – and then, naturally, haven’t made it back since.
Don’t let the clouds fool you – it was a beautifully sunny day! I was hoping it would rain because then at least we would feel a bit better if it rains for our wedding next year.
Also – please take a moment to admire that picnic basket! My sisters bought it as a “non-wedding present”, full of food and drink! And of course Gulliver came along to celebrate with us.
We took a lovely walk around the loch after stuffing our faces, and I even got slightly sunburned!
When we got home, I decided we should do a silly “non-wedding” photoshoot and momentarily disappeared into the bedroom to change into my chosen costume. I love the results, and hope you enjoy them!
Later on, my sister hosted a Zoom party for both our families to meet each other, and we had – other than a few technical issues – a fantastic evening! Our wedding is going to be FULL of hilarity and I can’t wait.
I woke up yesterday morning feeling pretty down about it all, but we managed to make it a really enjoyable day in the end.
And I feel like I’m finally starting to be able to look forward to the future again, and even though we may only be able to explore our own country for a while, with places like Linlithgow and Inveraray and Oban, I think we’ll be quite alright with that.
And oh boy, did we end up exploring a LOT of Scotland in 2020! Here are some more of our adventures:
⭐ Four Islands, One Epic Weekend On The Isle Of Mull (including a return to Oban!)
⭐ Camping & Castles: An Aberdeenshire Adventure
⭐ Fall Foliage & Failed Frolics In Picturesque Perthshire
⭐ Getting Loch-y: A Sunny Day Out In The Trossachs
⭐ Exploring The Cute Coastal Towns Of Fife, Scotland
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