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Connecting ten Argyll castles

1 week
Argyll and the Isles is home to sixty castles. Discover romantic ruins, fabulous forts and terrific tower houses in enchanting locations across the region. This journey takes in ten of Argyll’s most magnificent castles. Follow the trail through the region to visit these fantastic fortifications and see some of Scotland’s most stunning scenery along the way. You’ll need to catch a few ferries, but that’s all part of the castle adventure! Along the way, you’ll find out more about Argyll’s rich history and heritage.
 
Rothesay Castle, Bute
1. Rothesay Castle, Bute
Start your journey on the beautiful island of Bute, the most accessible of the westerly isles. The ferry from Wemyss Bay, which is about one hour’s drive from Glasgow, will drop you in Rothesay, the island’s chief town. This seaside resort is brimming with character, Italian cafés and good-old-fashioned shops. It’s also where you’ll find Rothesay Castle, which dates back to the early 13th century. Built by the Stewart family to defend against invading Vikings, the castle’s immense circular curtain wall makes it unique in Scotland. It was occupied by Robert the Bruce during the Wars of Scottish Independence and served as a base for Cromwell’s troops in the late 17th century.

There are lots of other great historical attractions to visit on Bute, including the Victorian toilets, the Art Deco pavilion and Mount Stuart, a spectacular neo-gothic palace set amid acres of lush woodland. When you’ve finished exploring Bute, head to the smaller ferry terminal at Rhubodach on the north-east of the island. From here it’s a short hop across to Colintraive on the Cowal Peninsula.

Check the opening times and admission fees.
Tarbert Castle, Kintyre
2. Tarbert Castle, Kintyre
Your next destination is Tarbert Castle located in the bustling fishing village of Tarbert on the Kintyre Peninsula. From Colintraive follow the A886 towards Glendaruel then take a left along the B8003 towards Tighnabruaich and then on to Portavadie. This is a stunning drive affording spectacular views of the Kyles of Bute. At Portavadie catch the ferry across Loch Fyne to Tarbert.

Sitting above the village overlooking the harbour is the ruined Tarbert Castle. Robert the Bruce played an important role in its reinforcement and enlargement in 1325. The castle location is an excellent spot for a family picnic and there are way-marked walks further up the hillside, including the first section of the Kintyre Way. Look out for the resident lawnmowers - a flock of Hebridean black sheep who provide conservation grazing on the site.

The castle is free to visit and open all year round.
Skipness Castle, Kintyre
3. Skipness Castle, Kintyre
From Tarbert take a short detour to reach Skipness Castle, a ruin on Kintyre’s east coast. Follow the A83 towards Campbeltown and then pick up the B8001, a single-track road that crosses the peninsula before winding along the coast to Skipness. You can explore inside the castle and climb up a narrow staircase to the roof where you'll be treated to wonderful views across the Kilbrannan Sound to Arran. The main structure of the castle was built in the early 13th century by the Clan MacSween with later fortifications and other additions made to the castle through the 13th, 14th and 16th centuries. Look out for the crosslet arrow slits in the west range – these are rare features in a Scottish castle.

The Skipness Seafood Cabin is just next to the castle and is a great place to enjoy fresh seafood and snacks. From here, follow the same route back to Tarbert.

The castle is free to visit and open all year round.
Carnasserie Castle, Kilmartin
4. Carnasserie Castle, Kilmartin
From Tarbert head north up the A83 to Lochgilphead and then follow the A816 to Kilmartin. Carnasserie Castle is around two miles north of Kilmartin. This magnificent ruin, the former home of the first Protestant Bishop of the Isles, sits on a hill overlooking Kilmartin Glen. The castle is an accomplished piece of architecture. From the parapets there’s a fabulous view across Kilmartin.

If you have time, do explore Kilmartin Glen. It’s one of Scotland’s richest prehistoric landscapes. Within six miles of Kilmartin village there are over 350 ancient monuments, including cairns, standing stones and stones circles. From here, continue north along the A816 until you reach Oban.

The castle is free to visit and open all year round.
Dunollie Castle, Oban
5. Dunollie Castle, Oban
Your next stop is Dunollie Castle, which stands guard over Oban Bay. It’s superbly situated and an iconic monument to the history of the area. For more than 1,000 years, the Clan Chiefs and Lords of Lorn ruled large areas of Argyll and the Isles from Dunollie. Today it remains the seat and ancestral home of Clan MacDougall. The museum, castle and grounds are great fun to explore. There's also a café selling delicious home-made soup, sandwiches and cakes and locally made gifts.

Check the opening times and admission fees.
Gylen Castle, Isle of Kerrera
6. Gylen Castle, Isle of Kerrera
Dramatic Gylen Castle sits on the southern part of the island of Kerrera. It juts dramatically into the sky on the tip of a promontory overlooking the Firth of Lorne. The ferry journey from Oban to Kerrera takes just a few minutes. The island is a walkers’ paradise, and it’s possible to leave your car behind and walk to Gylen from the ferry terminal on Kerrera. The castle is a MacDougall stronghold, built by Duncan MacDougall of Dunollie and completed in 1582. Though roofless, it''s wonderfully preserved. The carvings on the Oriel window above the entrance are some of the finest surviving from the period.

The castle is free to visit and open all year round.

Photo by Colin Park
Duart Castle, Isle of Mull
7. Duart Castle, Isle of Mull
Now it’s time to take a trip to the beautiful Hebridean island of Mull, which is a 40-minute ferry journey from Oban. It’s home to the fabulous Duart Castle, which dates back to the 13th century and is the ancestral home of the Clan Maclean. It's a stunning location; walk the battlements and lose yourself in the breathtaking view out across the Sound of Mull. You can find out about the history of the clan, as well as explore the keep and dungeons, magnificent banqueting hall and Edwardian state rooms. There's also a tearoom and gift shop. Throughout the summer, the castle plays host to a number of events, including storytelling and outdoor theatre.

Check the opening times and admission fees.
Castle Stalker, Appin
8. Castle Stalker, Appin
From Oban you head north over Connel Bridge and follow the A828 to Appin. Castle Stalker, a four-storey tower house set on a tidal islet on Loch Laich, is a few miles beyond Appin. You can see it from the A828 about mid-way between Oban and Glen Coe. It’s an incredibly picturesque castle and an iconic Scottish landmark. You might recognise it as Castle Aaaaaaargh from Monty Python's cult classic The Holy Grail! The castle is privately owned but they do run a very limited number of tours each year.

Now retrace your journey back down the A828, this time turning left at the Connel Bridge and picking up the A85 to Taynuilt.

Find out more about the private tours.
Kilchurn Castle, Loch Awe
9. Kilchurn Castle, Loch Awe
Follow the A85 to the head of Loch Awe where you’ll find Kilchurn Castle, a striking tower house built in the mid-15th century. Kilchurn’s dramatic situation – at the head of the loch with the peak of Ben Cruachan visible behind – makes it one the most photographed castles in Scotland. Kilchurn was one of many castles erected by the powerful Campbell’s of Glenorchy, who controlled much of western Scotland in the late medieval period. Stand on the tower house’s battlements and gaze out over Loch Awe, the original powerbase of Clan Campbell.

When you’ve finished exploring, continue along the A85 for a short while, turning right on the A819 to Inveraray.

The castle is free to visit and open from April to September.
Inveraray Castle, Inveraray
10. Inveraray Castle, Inveraray
Inveraray Castle is located in the handsome town of Inveraray, a classic example of an eighteenth-century planned town, on the banks of Loch Fyne. The iconic castle is the ancestral home of the Duke of Argyll, Chief of the Clan Campbell, and is one of Scotland’s most magnificent buildings. The castle’s imposing size and impressive turrets are visible for miles around. Inside, view the lavish State Dining Room, the tapestries and the stunning Armoury Hall with its walls adorned with muskets, pole-arms and axes. The castle’s beautifully maintained garden and estate offers wonderful walking with stunning Highland views.

Inveraray is home to a number of other historic attractions, including Inveraray Jail and Inveraray Bell Tower. From Inveraray, it’s about an hour’s drive to Glasgow via the A82.

Check the opening times and admission fees.
   
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