scotland

An Anniversary Trip – Staying In A Castle In Argyll & Bute

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.

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, which worked out pretty well.

We made a pit-stop on the way, at the gorgeous village of Luss on the shores of Loch Lomond. We 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.

Loch Lomond, Scotland

Luss, Loch Lomond, Scotland

Luss, Loch Lomond, Scotland

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!), 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.

Kilchurn Castle, Scotland

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 am so pleased with how these turned out! It looks like an absolute fairytale.

Kilchurn Castle, Scotland

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!).

Inveraray, Scotland

So pretty!

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.

Stonefield Castle, Scotland

Stonefield Castle, Scotland

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?!

Everyone was incredibly welcoming and approachable, and we immediately felt at home – our room was even in the turret of the castle!

Stonefield Castle, Scotland

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!

View from Stonefield Castle, Scotland

Imagine how nice it would be here on a summer’s day?!

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, Scotland

Oban, Scotland

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.

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 steep!

Oban, Scotland

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!

McCaig Tower, Oban, Scotland

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.

McCaig Tower, Oban, Scotland

McCaig Tower, Oban, Scotland

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.

Oban, Scotland

For all intents and purposes, I did like Oban. Every experience 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.

Banca Na Alba, Oban, Scotland

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, 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 island I grew up on in Orkney!! What are the chances of that?!

In the morning, it was time to say goodbye to Stonefield Castle.

Me & Ash at Stonefield Castle

Lewis chess set, Scotland
Lewis chess set! So cool!

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, Scotland

Inveraray Castle, Scotland

Inveraray Castle is high on my list of places to visit once it’s back open.

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.

Rest And Be Thankful Viewpoint, Scotland

Holy macaroni!

It was BEAUTIFUL, and I think the snow added to it.

Rest And Be Thankful Viewpoint, Scotland

The next day, the snow caused a landslide and the road was closed for 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 went 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.

Picnic at Linlithgow Loch, Scotland

Me & Ash

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.

Linlithgow Loch, Scotland

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. 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.

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Staying In A Castle In Argyll & Bute, Scotland

26 thoughts on “An Anniversary Trip – Staying In A Castle In Argyll & Bute

  1. Wow, ten years! A decade of fun and adventure, especially with a loved one. Your trip in Scotland looks gorgeous; I recognized a few sites, but also saw plenty of smaller ones that I hadn’t known about. Sometimes exploring your own backyard can be just as rewarding as bigger trips, and I wish you two all the best with your marriage!

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  2. I’m still bummed to hear about your wedding. But I am happy that you had a nice picnic yesterday.

    And your anniversary trip to the castle sounded amazing! I am glad you had a last hoorah before lockdown. Who knew we would still be in this weird place by summer???

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  3. I’m sorry this stupid virus is making you wait on your wedding, but it looks like you made the best out of what could have been a very tough day.
    As for posh stuff, it’s definitely something you can get used to! 🙂

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  4. Congrats on 10 years and what a place to celebrate. The snow pictures are so spectacular. I love snow (usually while I’m safely indoors) but what cool pictures. The view from McCaig’s Tower is pretty. Scotland is so beautiful. I forget until every time I see pictures and then I want to go again

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  5. This looks amazing! It would definitely be spectacular in the summer but I’m glad you enjoyed your trip after all and made what should have been your wedding day amazing regardless! I’m sure you’ll cherish it that little bit more next year! 🙂

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  6. I’ve never actually been to this part of Scotland even though I lived there for 5 years! It looks amazing so I’ll be adding this to my list for sure.

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  7. Your Scotland trip looks awesome and your pics are fab. I am really hoping to get back up to Scotland when everything calms down as there is so much to see up there, I am really excited to travel again. Thanks for a great post, i’ll pin it for my travel planning. x

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  8. We lived in Scotland for 9 years and enjoyed every bit of our stay there. One of our favourite go to places for weekend is Argyll and Bute. There’s so much to see and the wilderness it offers is something I never experienced anywhere else!

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  9. Lovely post! Sounds like you had a great trip in Scotland and I love your photos! Especially of Inveraray Castle 🙂

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  10. What a beautiful place to celebrate! The landscape is gorgeous, the castle is beautiful, and I can’t get over how cute that picnic basket looks!
    Happy anniversary! Here’s to many more! 🥂

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  11. I’ve stayed in a few castles in Scotland and I always find the experience to be amazing. This one looked particularly lovely, and the area near Loch Lomand is gorgeous, really felt you captured that in your photography. Oban has been on my wishlist for a few years, so this is definitely a place I’d consider!

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  12. Sounds like you made the most of your anniversary and the best you could of what should have been your wedding. Your wedding will be even more special and emotional when it can eventually go ahead. Your photos of Inverary castle in the snow are beautiful. I’ve only seen it once and that was from the outside too, but it didn’t look anywhere near as lovely as this. As for Oban, I know exactly what you mean. I like the town and I’ve seen it in spectacular sunshine, but I always get a bit of ‘now what’ feeling about it. It’s a great jumping off place for the islands though.

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