I make no secret of the fact I love Argyll Holidays – and with holiday parks located in some of Argyll’s most scenic spots, what’s not to love? Last year we enjoyed weekend breaks at their Loch Goil and Loch Lomond parks. So, when we were invited to check out Loch Awe Holiday Park we jumped at the chance.
Loch Awe bound with some stops en route
Keen to make the most of our long weekend, we left Edinburgh early so we could enjoy some fresh air and Argyll scenery before checking into our accommodation at Loch Awe Holiday Park.
A fab lunch and childhood favourites, Inveraray
Inveraray is one of our favourite towns – it’s where Mr G and I spent our first mini-break together. It’s only a short hop from Loch Awe, so we decided to stop by for lunch.
We’ve been lunching at Brambles of Inveraray since our 2008 weekend away. Their soup and sandwiches always satisfy hungry tummies.
No visit to Inveraray would be complete without buying childhood favourites from Sweet Memories – Inveraray’s retro sweetie shop. I left with Chelsea whoppers, coconut mushrooms, a ruffle bar and two bags of aniseed balls. Aniseed balls are the stuff of nightmares for Mr G, as whenever I buy them he knows days of loud crunching lie ahead. By the time I ate two bags he’d probably have an eye twitch.
The Neil Munro Monument
We left Inveraray with a sizeable sweetie haul. To ease the guilt of the binge to come, we decided to get some walking done. The mountain Cruachan would have been a good start, but we settled for a visit to the Neil Munro Monument which stands on top of a small hill a few miles from Inveraray.
The writer Neil Munro is Inveraray’s most famous son. He created the much-loved character Para Handy, captain of the Clyde puffer ‘Vital Spark’.
Despite the monument sitting on a pimple of a hill, the view from the top was lovely.
Kilchurn Castle, Loch Awe
Tearing ourselves away from our scenic vantage point, we headed back to Loch Awe to pay one of Scotland’s most iconic and photographed castles a visit.
Kilchurn Castle is a formidable fortress that stands on the northern shore of the loch. It’s reached via a path which cuts through open countryside, overlooked by dramatic mountains.
The castle was built as a Clan Campbell residence in the late 15th century after they abandoned Innis Chonnel Castle. Innis Chonnel sits on a small island not far from Kilchurn. It’s now a relatively unknown, ivy-clad ruin.
Castle explored, it was time to settle into our home for the next few nights.
Loch Awe Holiday Park
Loch Awe Holiday Park is located 12 miles from the popular town of Oban and a few miles from the village of Taynuilt.
The park sits on the banks of the River Awe and is surrounded by mountains and woodland. It’s low-key (in a good way), making it a great place to escape from it all. An on site play park and games room mean it’s perfect for families with children too.
Our weekend home was a wooden lodge with enclosed decking and a hot tub.
Inside, it was modern, well-equipped and spotlessly clean. We had a large open plan living space with a kitchen and dining area, an en suite master bedroom, twin bedroom and family bathroom.
After unpacking we went for a wander by the River Awe – a last token attempt to exercise before tucking into our Inveraray sweetie mountain.
Later, we enjoyed a relaxing soak in the hot tub, followed by a night of loafing (and sweetie scoffing).
A day on the Slate Islands
We’d reached the end of March without setting foot on a Scottish island (unheard of), so we decided to spend the first full day of our trip exploring Argyll’s Slate Islands.
The Slate Islands are often referred to as the islands that roofed the world, as they were once at the centre of a booming slate industry.
We crossed the Bridge over the Atlantic (yes really) aka Chlachan Bridge onto Seil – our first island of 2019 – woo. It was the shortest of crossings, but we’d left the mainland.
Island number two of 2019 required marginally more effort to reach. Easdale lies a short distance from Seil and is reached by passenger ferry.
The Wee White Dug took the crossing in his stride – his travels around Scotland have turned him into a salty sea dog.
Slate as far as the eye can see
Easdale has a population of around 60, but when the slate quarries were operational 500 people worked on the tiny, ten hectare scrap of land.
In 1881 a storm flooded many of the quarries. Without equipment to pump the water out, the boom days of slate quarrying came to an end.
The industry has left an indelible mark though – there’s slate everywhere and large chunks of land have been completely cut away.
Exploring Easdale on foot
Despite a predominance of the grey, Easdale isn’t gloomy. Probably because it’s dotted with cute, white-washed cottages (with slate roofs obviously).
We followed a trail that looped round the island, passing flooded quarries and taking in a hill known as ‘High Hill’. High Hill took five minutes to bag – but what a view we got from the summit.
A world champion in the making?
Slate put Easdale on the map, but it’s famous for something quirkier these days – stone skimming. The World Stone Skimming Championships are hosted there annually. Could we be champions in the making?
It turns out I couldn’t skim a stone if my life depended on it. I can whistle like a sailor and click my fingers like a real cool cat (unlike Mr G), but when it comes to stone skimming he’s leagues ahead of me – not championship material mind you, just better than me.
Lacking opposable thumbs, the boy settled for judging from the sidelines.
After whiling away a fun couple of hours, we crossing back to Seil to visit our third island of 2019.
Luing covers almost 1,500 hectares, and although it’s not large, it felt huge after Easdale. Like Easdale it’s reached via a short ferry crossing from Seil.
Unlike Easdale, there are cars on Luing – the ferry can transport a handful at a time (and dogs too).
Our first stop was Cullipool, the island’s largest settlement. Although the white-washed cottages in the village look undeniably Scottish, the coastline it clings to looks Icelandic.
The charcoal coloured beach and dark, towering rocks inside an abandoned quarry reminded me of Iceland’s volcanic landscape.
A history geek fix on Luing
It’d been interesting learning about the slate industry, but I needed a less recent history fix.
I found it at Ballycastle in the form of an ancient hill fort.
The fort is located on farmland, so some wading through cow dung is required to reach it. It takes a little imagination to decipher, as initially it looks like a big pile of stones, but closer inspection reveals it’s an oval ring with an entryway.
My next history fix was found at the southern end of Luing.
Old Kilchattan Kirk is a 12th century ruin that stands within a small burial ground. Entering the churchyard you’re immediately reminded that slate was once big business here – many of the tombstones are made of it.
The church looks unremarkable, but if you study the exterior walls you’ll discover carvings of a type of ship known as a birlinn. These iconic West Highland galleys often adorn the graveslabs of Argyll’s medieval elite.
It’s not known how old the carvings are, but they’re though to be pre-Reformation (1560).
I love finds like this – hidden in plain sight.
Our rumbling stomachs told us it was time to leave Luing in search of food.
Back on Seil, we popped into the dog-friendly Oyster Bar in Ellenabeich for a late lunch/early dinner.
I wolfed down a tasty vegetable curry in record time, and Mr G polished off a plate of macaroni cheese like it was going out of fashion. Sea air and walking always gives us a hearty appetite. The Wee White Dug has a hearty appetite regardless of sea air and walking. As we ate, he sat under our table, frequently reminding us that he also liked macaroni cheese.
Back at Loch Awe Holiday Park another lazy night was spent chilling (and sweetie crunching).
A day trip to Sunny Knapdale
If slate grey had been Friday’s colour of the day, Saturday was definitely azure blue. It was a glorious day, so we decided to venture deeper into Argyll for a day-trip to the beautiful Knapdale region. Knapdale Lies north of Argyll’s Kintyre Peninsula and south of the Crinan Canal – it’s one of Scotland’s best kept secrets.
When I say the colour of the day was azure blue, I’ll let the following photos of Carsaig Bay do the talking.
I’ll be honest, Mr G wasn’t completely behind my decision to spend the day in Knapdale, but after gazing across Carsaig Bay he was buzzing. Apparently, it was pretty much the best place ever.
A pit stop for Elevenses at Tayvallich
As luck would have it we found ourselves in Tayvallich at 11am. That meant it was time for elevenses. The village has a wonderful cafe with a sitooterie (outside seating), located at a prime waterside spot. Coffee and cake, azure blue sky and sea, and bobbing boats – could life get any better?
Seven miles from Tayvallich, at the end of a single track road you’ll find Keills Chapel sitting on the side of a hill.
We arrived to find cows milling near the chapel – normally I hate walking near cows but my obsession with medieval graveslabs is far stronger than my fear of being trampled to death.
I crept uphill in record time, huckling the boy along (no time for sniffing). Once we were safely inside the chapel burial ground I relaxed.
Keills Chapel which is dedicated to St Cormac was built in the 12th century. It houses an amazing collection of carved medieval stones, which include the 8th century Keills Cross. The cross stood outside until 1979, when it was moved indoors to preserve it.
The medieval graveslabs in the chapel are carved with Celtic knots, swords, warriors and strange beasts. They originated from five different stonemason schools in Argyll, including Iona and Loch Awe.
A walk on the Island of Danna
Wanting to take full advantage of the glorious weather we bagged island number four of 2019.
Blink and you’ll miss the crossing to Danna – we did. We’d been walking for a while and the further we went the more perplexed I got. “I thought we’d have reached the causeway to cross to Danna by now” I explained, puzzled. Mr G wasn’t bother a jot, he was enjoying the scenery and a walk was a walk. Keen to solve the mystery of the missing island I checked the gps location on my phone. It turns out we were on Danna – oops.
Only a handful of people live on the island and we didn’t see any of them, so we enjoyed a nice people free walk as we worked up an appetite for lunch.
Heading back to the car we finally spotted the ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ causeway connecting Danna to the mainland.
A fantastic lunch at Tayvallich Inn
We arrived back at Tayvallich in perfect time for another late lunch/early dinner. The bar of the Tayvallich Inn is dog friendly so we decided to eat there.
Mr G opted for fish and chips, and being a spice fiend I went for curry again. This time it was Thai chicken. It’s was fiery, flavoursome and absolutely delicious. Mr G was equally praiseworthy about his dish.
Taynish National Nature Reserve
Loving the gorgeous spring weather, and in no rush to commence loafing, we decided to go for another walk.
Taynish National Nature Reserve is only a few miles from Tayvallich, so it seemed like a good place for a wander.
I say wander – it started off gently, passing a pretty lochan, then an old mill.
Soon though, it led us into rough woodland. The path went on and on and on. “It’s a circular trail” I reassured, “it’ll loop back to the car park”.
And it did – after a ramble that felt like it would never end, and led us through a field of Belted Galloway cows. Having to sprint past huge coos with tired, achy feet wasn’t high up on my list of fun things to do in Argyll that weekend.
Weirdly, when we finally reached the car we felt pretty damn smug knowing we’d comfortably earned a soak in the hot tub, followed by lots of loafing.
And that’s exactly how we spent our last night at the fantastic Loch Awe Holiday Park.
Although our accommodation was provided on a complimentary basis all opinions are my own.
Until next time……….