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.
Although it is 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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Top 5 Places to Visit
- Inveraray Castle
- Inveraray Jail
- Dun na Chuaiche
- Loch Fyne
- Rest And Be Thankful viewpoint
Recommended Places to Stay
Recommended Places to Eat
- The Oyster Catcher, Otter Ferry
- The Creggans Inn, Strachur
- Loch Fyne Oyster Bar, Inveraray
Day Trips to Inveraray
What is Inveraray Famous for?
Inveraray is best known for its historic castle that is home to the Duke of Argyll, chief of Clan Campbell. This clan, one of Scotland’s most powerful, has ruled the area since the 13th Century.
It is also famous for its 18th Century prison, Inveraray Jail, and its spectacular setting on the shore of Loch Fyne. Some of the best seafood in Scotland are farmed from the waters of the loch.
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
- Soak up the timeless views of Loch Fyne
- Feast on fabulous seafood
- Go whisky shopping at Loch Fyne Whiskies
- Take in the views from Inveraray Bell Tower
- Drive Argyll’s Secret Coast to Tighnabruaich
- Visit Luss and Loch Lomond
- Take in the view from Rest And Be Thankful
- Visit Oban
If, like me, you find it helpful to put these places on a map, here’s one to help you on your way. For an interactive map, click here or on the image itself. You can save it to your Google Maps app by clicking on the star icon.
1. 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.
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 in 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 until the end of September, from 10 am to 5 pm (it closes at 4 pm in October)
An adult ticket for the castle and gardens costs £16 (2023 price). If you want to visit the gardens only, this will set you back £8.50. Family tickets are also available.
2. 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.
3. 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.
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 from 10 am to 5 pm except for Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. An adult ticket costs £13.50 (2023 price).
Find out more here.
4. Soak up the timeless views of Loch Fyne
Much of the town’s charm comes from its spectacular setting on the western shore of Loch Fyne. One of the best things to do in Inverarary is to simply grab a coffee and soak up this timeless view from a prime position on a loch-side bench.
Stretching for approximately 40 miles from the mouth of the River Clyde to Inveraray, this is Scotalnd’s longest sea lochs. At its widest point, near the head of the loch, it is approximately 3 miles wide.
It is a quintessential Scottish loch, encircled by rugged mountains and dense forests, and is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including seals, otters and a variety of bird species. Loch Fyne is also an important breeding ground for salmon and sea trout.
5. Feast on fabulous seafood
Loch Fyne is famous for its high-quality fish and seafood, especially oysters. If you love seafood, make a beeline for the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar and Restaurant, located in Cairndow near the northern tip of the loch.
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. We had an excellent there.
It also has an excellent deli. Loch Fyne Oyster Bar is not open for dinner.
6. Go whisky shopping at Loch Fyne Whiskies
Let’s face it. A Scottish holiday is not complete without the involvement of whisky somewhere along the line.
Pay a visit to Loch Fyne Whiskies, Inveraray’s whisky wonderland. This picturesque emporium is packed floor-to-ceiling with an enormous range of bottles from the Highlands, the Lowlands, the Islands and Speyside, including the local-distilled Loch Fyne whisky. I was delighted to see that they stocked my favourite Oban Whisky.
You’ll find Loch Fyne Whiskies on Inveraray’s Main Street.
7. Take in the views from Inveraray Bell Tower
Are you up for a spot of tower climbing? If so, huff and puff your way up the 176 steps to the roof of Inveraray Bell Tower. Your effort will be rewarded with panoramic views of Inveraray, Loch Fyne and the surrounding mountains.
This 126-foot-high bell tower was commissioned by the 10th Duke of Argyll, Niall Diarmid Campbell, as a memorial to commemorate the Clan Campbell dead. Work began on the tower in 1921 and it was completed ten years later.
The Bell Tower is open from 10:30 am until 4:30 pm on Monday to Friday during the summer months (July to September 2022).
In 2023, the entrance fee is £5 for adults, £4 for concessions, £3 for children or £12 for a family ticket.
8. 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.
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.
9. 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.
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.
10. 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.
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.
11. Visit Oban
Oban is one of my favourite places in Scotland and an easy day trip from Inverarary, even by bus. This Victorian seaside town is the gateway to the romance of the far-flung Hebridean islands and is known as the seafood capital of Scotland.
Set in a majestic horseshoe-shaped bay, its horizon dominated by the mist-capped mountains of Mull, this is a quietly seductive town. Climb up Mc Caig’s Tower, Oban’s iconic landmark, for panoramic views over the Sound of Kerrera and the islands near Oban bay or refine your whisky palate by visiting Oban Distillery.
From Oban, you can catch a Calmac ferry to Mull, Staffa and Iona, amongst other Hebridean islands (I loved Mull). Alternatively, continue to Fort William, the Outdoor Capital of the UK, a jumping-off point for epic walks in Glencoe and the start of the magnificent Jacobite Express train to Mallaig.
How to get from Inveraray to Oban
- It will take you around an hour to drive from Inveraray to Oban.
- If you are using public transport, catch the CityLink 976 bus. This will take 1 hour and 20 minutes. You can check the bus times here.
The Best Time to Visit Inveraray
Like much of Scotland, summer is the best time to visit Inveraray.
The weather between May and September is warm and dry(ish) and the days are long. That said, Scottish weather is famously fickle. Come prepared for wet days
If you are planning to visit Inveraray Castle, avoid October until the end of March when it is closed to the public.
How to Get to Inveraray
This is an area where it pays to have a car. However, you can reach Inveraray by public transport.
Getting to Inveraray by car
To get a sense of how long it will take you to drive to Inveraray from other towns and cities in Scotland, here are the distances involved and the approximate journey time. It makes sense to break up your journey with side trips to scenic spots along the way.
- From Glasgow – 64 miles | 90 minutes
- From Edinburgh – 110 miles | 3 hours
- From Oban – 37 miles | 1 hour
- From Fort William – 73 miles | 1 hour 45 minutes
- From Inverness – 139 miles | 3 hours 30 minutes
- From Perth – 85 miles | 2 hours 20 minutes
We drove from Glasgow, stopping at Luss and the Rest and Be Thankful viewpoint. It is a super scenic journey.
Take the A82 north towards Loch Lomond. At Tarbet, take the A83 which will take you west to Inveraray. The journey time is between 90 minutes and two hours.
You have a choice of routes if you are driving from Edinburgh. The best route is via Falkirk and Stirling (both good stops en route) and along the western shore of Loch Lomond.
Take the M9 out of the city towards Sirling and then the A811 towards Balloch where you will pick up the A82.
Parking is plentiful in Inveraray.
Getting to Inveraray by public transport
From Glasgow, take the 926 or 976 Scottish Citylink bus from Buchanan Bus Station. The journey takes approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes.
There is no direct bus from Edinburgh. You will need to make your way to Glasgow by bus or train where you will transfer to the 926 / 976 bus for Inveraray.
If you are travelling from Oban to Inveraray, catch the 976 bus from Oban Train Station.
The best way to plan your journey and book bus tickets is via the official website for Citylink Scotland here.
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.
To search across both trains and buses, click here.
Visiting Inveraray on a day tour
If you prefer, you can take an organised day trip to Inveraray from either Glasgow or Edinburgh.
Not only do you not have to worry about transport arrangements, but you will also benefit from a guide and it’s a way of squeezing more into your vacation to Scotland. If you are travelling alone, a day tour is also an excellent way to meet other travellers.
Here are a few day excursions that I have found on GetYourGuide, my preferred platform, which offers 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.
Oban, Glencoe, Highland Lochs & Castles Tour from Glasgow
This full-day guided tour includes most of the places mentioned in this article as well as Oban and Glencoe.
>>> CLICK HERE TO BOOK
West Highland Lochs & Castles Full-Day Trip from Edinburgh
If you are looking for a day trip from Edinburgh, check out this excursion that visits Doune Castle, Loch Lomond National Park, the Rest and Be Thankful viewpoint, Luss and Inveraray Castle.
>>> CLICK HERE TO BOOK
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.
>>> CLICK HERE TO CHECK RATES & BOOK
Also across the water in Strachur, the Creggans Inn has incredible views and a great restaurant.
>>> CLICK HERE TO CHECK RATES & BOOK
Brambles of Inveraray
This hotel is slap-bang in the centre of town and has garnered stellar reviews.
>>> CLICK HERE TO CHECK RATES & BOOK
Places to Eat in Inveraray
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.
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
This restaurant on the shores of Loch Fyne is the best choice in town for seafood. It’s a shame that it is not open for dinner.
Is Inveraray Worth Visiting?
Inveraray is the whole package. 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.
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