I recently had the most amazing birthday celebration in Inveraray, a wee town located on the shores of Loch Fyne.
My family flew in to Scotland to celebrate with me, and we somehow managed to squeeze all five of us into a single car. Tightly nestled in the backseat between my sister and my boyfriend, I felt as if I had been transported back in time, reliving the long road trips of my childhood.
We left Glasgow behind in the pursuit of an epic Scottish road trip , and we decided on driving a loop that took us to the Highlands via Rest and Be Thankful, down to the West Coast, before we finally headed back to Glasgow via Argyll and the Arrochar Alps.
After three years filled with many Scottish road trips, I am still amazed by all the beauty that exists only a few hours drive from Glasgow. And I’m not the only one. My sister soon fell in love with the mysterious mountains of Glencoe. My boyfriend loved the romantic and picturesque seaside village of Oban. My parents seemed to prefer the quaintness of Inveraray, a small town in Argyll and Bute, mostly known for the historic Inveraray Jail, the haunted and beautiful Inveraray Castle, and their amazing Loch Fyne oysters.
There’s plenty of Scotland posts coming up over the next few weeks, but I fancied starting right at the end – with an amazing birthday celebration in picturesque Inveraray – and an evening filled with love, champagne, and oysters.
And so, so much happiness.
Checking in at The Inveraray Inn
While they both look charming and can sport a great amount of positive reviews, we eventually settled for the Inveraray Inn as they had recently refurbished their hotel for nearly £4 million. And the result? As charming as it gets.
The Inveraray Inn is the oldest hotel in Inveraray. It was originally designed by John Adam, and it opened as early as in 1755. In other words, they’ve delivered quality to their guests for quite a few centuries now! It was built to accommodate officals visiting the nearby Inveraray Castle (which there will be a separate post on, don’t you worry!)
Today, it’s one of the most iconic hotels on the Scottish west coast. Located directly on Front Street, with rooms overlooking the beautiful Loch Fyne, the hotel now offers 36 beautiful rooms, delicious local food served in both their restaurant and the lounge bar, and the best of traditional Highland hospitality.
We personally fell for the soft beds, the spacious bathrooms and the cozy lounge bar on the ground floor. Oh, and of course, we fell head over heels in love with the view from our bedroom.
Imagine waking up to this amazing view of Loch Fyne every morning.
After a few childish jumps on the bed, we swiftly unpacked our bags and went out to discover Inveraray.
The best things to do in Inveraray and Loch Fyne
So, you’ve made it all the way to Inveraray, but what do you actually do here? Good question!
Well, I should firstly warn you that Inveraray is a small village. It’s not somewhere you stay for weeks. But it still has some pretty spectacular sights and experiences that you need to put on your list. Let’s quickly go through the list of things you need to do in Inveraray:
- Stunning hikes near Loch Fyne
Within seconds of parking your car, you will realize that the area and landscape around Loch Fyne is absolutely spectacular. It’s the perfect place to go for longer hikes in the forest – or to go for romantic strolls along the loch in the evening. We even happened upon a small wedding while we were there – and all the guests were taken by little rowing boats over to a small island in the loch. The surroundings looked absolutely spectacular, and we all imagined how beautiful it would be later, after the ceremony, when all the lanterns and fairy lights would twinkle in the warm Scottish summer night.
- Visit to the infamous Inveraray Jail
This 19th century prison is, along with Inveraray Castle, Inveraray’s ultimate claim to fame. Back in it’s golden age, the prison housed everyone – men, women, children and lunatics. Today, you can walk around the buildings and see how life must have been for the poor prisoners, and to learn how strict the criminals used to be punished. It’s a sad experience, but definitely something you should do if you fancy a glimpse into the dark past of west Scotland.
- Guided tour of the haunted Inveraray Castle
The stunningly beautiful Inveraray Castle is the ancestral home of the Duke of Argyll, Chief of the Clan Campbell. The family still lives in the castle, but most of the building is now dedicated to a permanent exhibition focusing on the great history of the the Campbell clan. Princess Louise, daughter of Queen Victoria, even married into the clan and made this castle her home. Oh, and did I mention that they filmed a few episodes of Downton Abbey here? In other words, this is a rather iconic attraction on the West Coast of Scotland.
- Bar hopping
As you would expect from any Scottish village, there are plenty of waterholes in Inveraray. The massive bar at George Hotel, with an outdoors parlour which is perfect for warm summer days, offered both exotic cocktails, classic ales, and affordable and decent house wines.
The Inverary Inn offers two bars: Argyll bar and the cozy lounge bar inside the hotel, the latter which is cozily decorated with tartan patterns and a huge fireplace. What’s not to like?
- Hiking the Cobbler, Arrochar Alps
It’s not exactly located in Inveraray, but while you’re in the area I can recommend a visit to nearby Arrochar, where you can hike the spectacular Arrochar Alps and the Cobbler. We’ve somehow managed to fall head over heels with the little village and the beautiful mountains surrounding it, so we’ve been there three times over the past year. Crazy, but true. You can find our hiking guide to Arrochar here.
Oysters and Champagne: Sampling the menu at the Inveraray Inn
I love food.
And it’s not just me. My entire family seem passionate about it. My sister is a self-proclaimed pizza connoisseur, with an unexplainable talent for always picking the best pizza ain town. She just knows, I think it’s a talent. My father is an amateur chef who can’t sit still – last year he made his own Italian pizza oven in the garden, this year he’s building his own salmon smokery in the guesthouse. Oh, and he dreams of starting his own aquavit distillery as well, with HQ and factory in our cabin located deep in the Norwegian mountains.
I think it’s only a matter of time before he starts producing his own cookbooks, too.
Still – we had zero expectations to the food served at our hotel. Initially, we turned down the “fine dining a la carte menu” that the receptionist tried to sell us. None of us could imagine anything less intriguing than eating a mass-produced and set three course menu. I’m sure those menus are great for some people, but I’ve never personally been a fan.
We turned the restaurant down, and settled for a birthday meal in the lounge bar instead. And oh my, were we in for a treat. It turns out that once you turn down lukewarm soup and the dry chicken that’s always offered in a la carte menus, the Inveraray Inn can definitely treat you well.
Their menu is basically seafood galore – and all of it sourced locally, too. Of course, they also offer the more typical pub food dishes, too – omelettes, pizzas dripping with cheese, fries and beef burgers.
We went straight for the oysters. I mean, can you really celebrate your birthday in a better way than with copious amounts of champagne and fresh oysters from the nearby Loch?
READ MORE: WHAT TO DO IN BALLOCH, SCOTLAND
Sampling Oysters from Loch Fyne
Loch Fyne is the home of some of the best oysters in Scotland.
And as we were, quite literally, sitting near the shores of Loch Fyne, we simply couldn’t turn down the chance.
As the champagne flowed, we were brought two enormous plates of food. One of the plates were filled with oysters naturel, the other plate offered some delicious grilled oysters with shredded bacon on top.
We toasted and laughed, told stories, and sang. It was the best birthday ever.
After a while, we decided to order what can only be described as the jewel in the crown – ice cream from Isle of Arran, one of the best things to ever come out of Scotland, in my opinion. We ordered a variety of flavour and five spoons, and then we all tasted our way through the soft ice cream. All of us picking a different favourite – mint, raspberry ripple, tablet, vanilla and chocolate.
And long past midnight, full on oysters and ice cream, and drunk on happiness, champagne and whisky, we packed up and found our way back to our rooms. All of us exhausted.
All of us so, so happy.
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