7 Best Things to Do in Inveraray, Scotland

From a story-book castle to a historic jail to epic landscapes, here are the very best things to do in Inveraray, Scotland. 

Inveraray is a set piece of Georgian architecture in a remarkable setting. This charming county town of Argyll, with its characteristic black and white terraces, sits on the western shore of Loch Fyne, Scotland’s largest sea loch, and is framed by mountains.

row of whitewashed cottages by side of loch in inveraray scotland

Rich in history, Inveraray was established in 1770 by the Duke of Argyll, the chief of Clan Campbell, who have ruled this area since the 13th Century.

Although it is deservedly popular with day-trippers, there are enough things to do in Inveraray and the surrounding area to warrant an overnight stay. Two days were enough for me to fall in love with the place and explore the surrounding area, including the shores of Loch Lomond and the spectacular scenery from the viewpoint at Tighnabruaich.  

Make the most of your time in this enchanting town, with these best things to do in Inveraray in two days. You’ll also find advice on how to get there and recommendations for where to stay and where to eat.

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How to Get to Inveraray

This is an area where it pays to have a car. However, you can reach Inveraray by public transport.

From Glasgow, take the 926 or 976 bus from Buchanan Bus Station. The journey takes approximately 1 hour 45 minutes. Plan your bus journey with Scottish Citylink

The nearest train station is Dalmally, 15 miles away. From the railway station, the 976 bus will bring you to Inveraray in just under 30 minutes.

Where to Stay in Inveraray

This is one place in Scotland where it is wise to book ahead, particularly in peak season.

Inveraray is small and the choice of accommodation is limited. There is not much in the way of budget or luxury options, with most sitting in the mid-range price bracket.

Thistle House Guest House 

We stayed in this wonderful guest house in St Catherine’s, on the other side of Loch Fyne. Highly recommended for the hospitality of the hosts, Jennifer and Alistair, the hearty Scottish breakfasts and the beautiful property. 


Creggans Inn 

Also across the water in Strachur, the Creggans Inn has incredible views and a great restaurant. 


Brambles of Inveraray

This hotel is slap-bang in the centre of town and has garnered stellar reviews.


The Best Things to Do in Inveraray in Two Days

Here is my pick of things to do if you are spending two days in Inveraray:

  • Visit Inveraray Castle
  • Climb Dun na Chuaiche
  • Visit Inveraray Jail
  • Drive Argyll’s Secret Coast to Tighnabruaich
  • Visit Luss and Loch Lomond
  • Take in the view from Rest And Be Thankful
  • Feast on fabulous seafood

If, like me, you find it helpful to put these places on a map, here’s one to help you on your way:

map of the best things to do in inveraray scotland
Places to See In and Around Inveraray (click on image for interactive map) Map Data @ 2020 Google

Visit Inveraray Castle

Let’s start by visiting the town’s showstopper, Inveraray Castle.

The ancestral home of the Duke of Argyll, visitor numbers to this fairy-tale castle have soared following its appearance in the Christmas 2012 episode of Downton Abbey. In case you missed this episode, stills are proudly displayed in the castle’s rooms.

If you have visited the Loire valley, Inveraray Castle will be instantly recognisable. Built in 1746, it’s a pleasing blend of architectural styles; Baroque meets Gothic and they both shake hands with Palladio. 

Family photographs of past and present Dukes of Argyll on display remind us that this remains a family home.

turrets of grey stones of inveraray castle in scotland
Inveraray Castle, Scotland

Whilst it’s fair to say that Inveraray Castle is more striking on the outside than the inside, its Armoury hall is impressive. Soaring to a height of 21 meters, it is said to be the highest room of any Scottish castle. Its cabinets house an impressive array of items associated with Clan Campbell and Highland history, including a small collection on Rob Roy.

Make sure that you leave enough time to walk in the castle’s grounds, which include manicured gardens and woodlands. If you are very lucky, you’ll spot a rare red squirrel.


Inveraray Castle is open daily from April to the end of September, from 10 am to 5.45 pm (closes at 4.45 pm in September)

An adult ticket for the castle and gardens costs £13.50 (2021 price). If you want to visit the gardens only, this will set you back £6. Family tickets are also available.

Climb to Dun na Chuaiche

Turn your gaze upwards from Inveraray Castle, and you’ll spot an 18th Century watchtower on the top of the hill.

Are you feeling fit? If so, take the 1.5-mile steep walking route from the castle’s car park through woodland to the summit. Allow at least an hour to make the return journey.

Passing lime and conifer trees and the remains of a lime kiln, you’ll reach Dun na Chuaiche – literally meaning ‘the hill of the cup, bowl or quaiche’ – at an elevation of 248 meters. The climb is well worth it for the sweeping views across Inveraray Castle and the town to Loch Fyne and the glens beyond.  

old wooden shack and chair at side of loch fyne in scotland

Visit Inveraray Jail

Strange as it may sound, visiting the old jail is one of the most fun things to do in Inveraray.

When Inveraray Jail welcomed its first guests in 1820, prisoners thanked their lucky stars that they had not been committed 100 years earlier. In the 17th Century, punishment was quick, painful and often final. A lack of prisons meant that custodial sentences were not feasible.

Armed with an excellent audio guide, you first learn about some of the area’s most notorious crimes. Then, witness the re-enactment of a trial, staged in the original courthouse, first used around 170 years ago. The Circuit Court visited Inveraray twice a year to hear the most serious cases and the last hearings were in the 1930s.

mannequins of people in an old court room in Inveraray scotland
Old courtroom, Inveraray Jail

After this, make your way to the old and new prison blocks. Inveraray Jail was no picnic for its first inmates.

Cells were cold and damp. There was no heating of any description, no washroom, no toilet and up to 28 prisoners – men, women and children, the sane and insane – lived cheek-to-jowl in eight overcrowded cells.

The prisoners’ lot became better with the opening of the new prison in 1849. Considered to be a model prison in its day, its four floors boasted individual cells, a toilet on every floor and hot water.


Inveraray Jail is open daily year-round except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. April to October, 10 am to 5 pm; November to March 10 am to 4 pm.

An adult ticket costs £11.50 (2021 price). Discounts may be available if you book your ticket to visit Inveraray Jail online.

Drive Argyll’s Secret Coast to Tighnabruaich

Are you looking for a scenic drive? If so, take the high road from Inveraray to Tighnabruaich.

Sandwiched between Kintyre to the west and Bute to the east, Argyll’s Secret Coast is stuffed full of options for walking and exploration. We took a fabulous drive from Inveraray, via Dunoon – where the US nuclear subs were parked up back in the day – to the conservation village of Tighnabruaich on the shore of the Kyles of Bute.

expansive view of loch and mountains
Argyll Secret Coast road to Tighnabruaich

If you have time, stop en route at Benmore Botanic Garden, famous for its 300 species of rhododendrons and its avenue of 150-year-old giant redwoods.  

Visit Luss and Loch Lomond

By virtue of its legendary beauty, I had great expectations of Loch Lomond and I’m pleased to report that the bonnie, bonnie banks of the UK’s largest inland stretch of water did not disappoint me.

Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park boast lush forest parks, crystalline lochs and 22 mountains (or munros as they are called in Scotland). It’s easy to understand why Loch Lomond is a popular day trip from Glasgow.

I spent one night in Ardlui, a popular stop for those hiking the West Highland Way, before meeting up with friends. But if you have to pick one place to visit on Loch Lomond, I would plump for the conservation village of Luss, which you can easily visit from Inveraray.

row of pretty cottages under blue sky
Luss on Loch Lomond

The village’s postcard-perfect cottages, festooned with elaborate displays of flowers, were built in the 18th and 19th centuries to house those working in the nearby slate quarries. Luss’s location on the shores of Loch Lomond is the icing on the cake.

From the pier, you can take a scenic cruise on the loch and the village also has its own beach.

Getting to Luss from Inveraray

  • If you don’t have a car, take bus 926 or 976. The journey takes around 50 minutes.
  • The journey time from Inveraray to Luss by car is just over half an hour.
  • Luss also makes an excellent stop between Inveraray and Glasgow.

Take In The View From Rest and Be Thankful

Between Luss and Inveraray is Rest And Be Thankful. This famous mountain pass between Glen Kinglass and Glen Croe is in the heart of Argyll Forest Park, which boasts rugged munros, tranquil lochs and lush vegetation.

beautiful mountain valley in scotland
Rest And Be Thankful viewpoint, Argyll Country Park

But what about that name? Rest And Be Thankful were the words inscribed on a stone by soldiers who built a military road here in the 1740s.

How to get from Inveraray to Rest And Be Thankful

  • Rest And Be Thankful is 20 minutes by car from Inveraray via the A82 and A83.
  • Bus numbers 976, 926 and 302 ply this route also. The journey time from Inveraray is 25 minutes.

Feast on Fabulous Seafood

We dined like kings and queens in Inveraray! Here are my recommended places to eat.

The Oyster Catcher, Otter Ferry

Locally sourced food in a wonderful location on the east bank of Loch Fyne.

The Creggans Inn, Strachur

Excellent service and a seasonal menu in a place with an interesting history.

In 1957, Sir Fitzroy MacLean and Lady Veronica MacLean bought Strachur Estate, including The Creggans Inn. Fitzroy MacLean was like a character lifted from the pages of Boys’ Own; an original member of the SAS and also Winston Churchill’s personal representative in German-occupied Yugoslavia. So much so, that it is said that his exploits in the war inspired his friend Ian Fleming to create the character of James Bond.

Loch Fyne Oyster Bar, Inveraray

Not to be confused with the chain of seafood eateries, this restaurant, ten minutes down the road from Inveraray and overlooking Loch Fyne, serves the freshest oysters and sublime seafood. It also has an excellent deli. Loch Fyne Oyster Bar is not open for dinner.

Day Trips to Inveraray

If you prefer, you can take an organised day trip toInveraray from either Glasgow or Edinburgh.

Here are a few that I have found on GetYourGuide, my preferred platform, which offer penalty-free cancellation up to 24 hours before your scheduled departure date. These also include scenic spots such as Loch Lubnaig, Oban, Doune Castle and Glencoe and the bleak wilderness of Rannoch Moor.

Highlights of Scotland from Glasgow

This full-day guided tour includes most of the places mentioned in this article as well as Oban and Glencoe.


West Highlands Lochs & Castles Tour from Edinburgh

If you are looking for a day trip from Edinburgh, check out this Rabbies excursion that visits Doune Castle, Loch Lomond National Park, the “Rest and Be Thankful” viewpoint, Luss and Inveraray Castle.


Highland Lochs, Glens, and Castles Tourfrom Edinburgh

Before reaching Inverarary, this day tour travels to Doune Castle, Callander, Loch Lubnaig and Loch Awe. the return leg takes in the ‘Rest and Be Thankful’ viewpoint, Luss and Loch Lomond.


Solo Travel in Scotland

In my view, Scotland is not only one of Europe’s best places to travel alone but is also one of the best solo travel destinations in the world.

From its lush rolling hills and mirror-like lakes to its blindingly white beaches, Scotland is home to some of the most striking and diverse landscapes to be found anywhere. It’s a walker’s and photographer’s paradise.

Scotland is relatively safe, the locals are very friendly and speak English. There is a wide variety of accommodation, from a thriving hostel scene and cosy bed & breakfasts to boutique and castle hotels.

It’s easy to get around. Whilst driving is the easiest way to explore Scotland, this is not for the faint-hearted. Some roads in the Highlands and islands are single lanes punctuated with passing places that you can pull into if necessary.

I travelled in Scotland without a car and managed just fine using buses, trains and day tours.

Scotland’s major towns and cities are linked by train and bus (Scottish Citylink runs long-distance express coach services).

I have taken day trips with the local Rabbie’s Tours who were excellent. Group sizes are small and the knowledge and humour of their drivers/guides are first-rate.

Is Inveraray Worth Visiting?

For me, Inveraray has it all. Lochside scenery, nearby dramatic mountain passes, one of Scotland’s most magnificent castles and history in spades.

Although most people visit on a day-trip, to experience the magic of the town I urge you to stay at least one night Then, perhaps Inveraray will cast its spell on you too.