Inveraray Castle in Argyll is situated on the shore of Loch Fyne in western Scotland where it has been the home of the Dukes of Argyll since the 18th-century. The castle is open to the public for self-guided tours and visitors are also welcome to walk around the beautiful gardens during their visit.
Review of Inveraray Castle
The shores of the longest sea loch in Scotland, Loch Fyne, have served as the ancestral home to the Duke of Argyll, chiefs of Clan Campbell, since the 18th-century. Inveraray Castle is possibly the prettiest castle in Scotland and it has been a focal point of the area since the very first foundation stone was laid in 1746.
This castle is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Argyll with visitors flocking to see its conical roofs, impressive weapons collection and 16 acres of beautifully manicured gardens.
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This is one of the better privately-owned tourist attractions in this part of Scotland and I highly recommend it whether you’re visiting as a couple, a family, or you’re a solo traveller.
The castle is impressive but I think the grounds are even better as they’re absolutely enormous. Plus you can climb a nearby hill that offers stunning views across Loch Fyne – as long as the weather holds out of course.
Go for a hike when Scotland’s often-miserable weather has closed in (as I did on a recent visit) and you’ll find it a much less enjoyable experience.
Even so, a visit to Inveraray Castle really is a great day out and it offers something for all ages. Children will have loads of fun exploring the expansive gardens and mums and dads will enjoy wandering through the ornate rooms. This castle is definitely an attraction to add to your itinerary if you’re in the area.
Things to do at Inveraray Castle
As you walk around the historic attraction you’ll get a real sense of the history that surrounds Inveraray Castle and some of the rooms have to be seen to be believed.
Highlights include the Armoury Hall which has the highest ceiling of any building in Scotland at an incredible 21m and the State Dining Room with its collection of elaborate paintings and enormous dining table with its outstanding collection of silverware.
But even though the castle is filled with extravagances from a bygone age it’s interesting to note that the Duke of Argyll and his family still live in their own private quarters in one of the wings. I can only imagine how much it must cost them to keep the place warm in winter.
Easily rivalling the impressive rooms are the immaculately manicured grounds, and you’re unlikely to see such stunning landscaped gardens anywhere else in Scotland.
Only slightly further away are conifer woodlands which offer very peaceful walks and nearby you’ll find the remains of kilns where limestone was processed over a hundred years ago.
The tracks leading out from the kilns go all the way up to the 248-metre-high summit of Dun na Cuaiche, the hill which can be seen for miles around.
The views from the top are stunning and with the castle clearly visible below and the town of Inveraray and Loch Fyne just behind it you have a photo opportunity you won’t soon forget.
The castle is an easy drive/walk to the centre of Inveraray village so after a visit you can always stop off and explore the wee harbour and walk along the side of Loch Fyne.
But here’s a top tip – before you go for a walk along the loch grab a bag of chips from the chippy near the harbour which are really, really good – but watch out for the seagulls or they’ll nab them before your first bite. I’m telling you that from painful experience.
You’ll probably spend most of the day visiting the castle and village but if you’re interested in exploring more of the area I recommend you drive 16 miles north on the A819 to visit St. Conan’s Kirk and the Hollow Mountain Experience, which is an underground power station beneath Ben Cruachan mountain.
The history of Inveraray Castle
There’s been a castle standing on the shores of Loch Fyne since the 1400s, although the building that we see today began as an idea that was brought to life by the 3rd Duke of Argyle in the 1700s.
In 1877 a devastating fire blazed through Inveraray Castle which led to the third floor and the conical roofs being added during repairs, with another catastrophic fire in 1975 leading to further renovations.
The final gothic-style building that we see today has become world-famous for its architecture and you might recognise it from its appearance in the popular TV series Downton Abbey where it portrayed Duneagle Castle.
Discover other historic fortifications with my Guide to the Best Castles in Scotland.
- The castle is stunning on the outside as well as the inside and the castle grounds are lovely in summer. It’s well worth the entrance fee although it’s a bit pricey for a family.
- You’ll find a nice walk to the rear of the castle but you can easily take a diversion and head to the banks of Loch Fyne instead. There’s a lot to see and do in the area surrounding Inveraray Castle.
- Inveraray village is just a few minutes walk away and features a few places to eat which serve delicious Loch Fyne oysters.
- I recommend you head to the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar just up the road and grab a plate of their oysters. They also sell oysters to take home.
- Take a walk up Dun na Cuaiche hill while you’re at Inveraray Castle. I enjoyed the walk to the top just as much as exploring the castle.
- The castle tearoom has a really good selection of home-baked food so consider grabbing your lunch there if oysters and fish and chips from the village don’t float your boat.
Things to do near Inveraray Castle
- Inveraray village. 10-minute walk. An attractive town near Inveraray castle that sits on the banks of Loch Fyne. In addition to tourist attractions like the town jail, Inveraray allows visitors to explore the loch via footpaths that follow the shoreline in both directions. There are cafés and restaurants in the town centre.
- Inveraray Jail. Church Square, Inveraray PA32 8TX. 13-minute walk. Restored 19th-century jail that features a collection of original artefacts from the jail’s history along with a restored courthouse and prison buildings. Costumed ‘prisoners’ wait in the courtyard jail to answer any questions you might have about prison life in Victorian times.
- Loch Fyne. 10-minute walk. A stunning sea loch that extends 40 miles inland from the Sound of Bute. The loch is renowned for its clean water and the Loch Fyne oysters that are sold all over Scotland. There is a speciality oyster bar at the tip of the loch near Clachan.
- Crarae Garden. Inveraray PA32 8YA. 17-minute drive. A National Trust Scotland woodland garden that has one of Britain’s finest displays of Himalayan plants. There are year-round blooms but the centrepiece of the garden is a waterfall that pours in from the Crarae Burn.
- Dun na Cuaiche Watchtower. Inveraray PA32 8XF. 25-minute walk. A steep yet rewarding hilltop walk that offers stunning views across Inveraray and the surrounding countryside. The hill is reached via a rough path through woodland from Inveraray Castle. The watchtower at the top of the hill is closed to the public.
Address and map
From the village of Inveraray on Loch Fyne follow the tourist signs to the castle.
Tickets and opening times
30th March – 31st October: Open Monday to Sunday, 10:00 – 17:45 (Last admission 17:00).
Photos and video
More places to visit in The Highlands
- Ben Ledi – Stirlingshire: Complete Visitor GuideBen Ledi is an 879-metre high mountain in the lower Scottish Highlands. It can be found 5 miles north-west of the popular country village of Callander in the Trossachs National Park. The Trossachs are famous not just for their mountain ranges but also for their lochs which include the mighty Loch Lomond – one of the most scenic bodies of water in the United Kingdom.
- Muir of Dinnet – Aberdeenshire: Complete Visitor GuideThe Muir of Dinnet is a national nature reserve located on the eastern border of the Cairngorms national park in the Scottish Highlands. The reserve features a wealth of different habitats including heath, woodland and wetland, but it’s perhaps best known for ‘the vat’, a natural gorge formed by glaciers over 10,000 years ago.
- Glen Etive – Inverness: Complete Visitor GuideWhat if I told you there’s a 12-mile stretch of road where you can see those mountains, rivers and forests in a single relatively small area, where gob-smackingly beautiful vistas open up around every corner on a secluded, frequently tourist-free single-track road?
- Faraid Head – Sutherland: Complete Visitor GuideWhile Scotland’s west coast islands usually take first prize for the number of amazing beaches you’ll find (hello Isle of Tiree) you shouldn’t be too quick to discount Scotland’s mainland either, especially in the far north where it’s relatively tourist-free compared to the rest of the country.
- Castle Sinclair Girnigoe – Caithness: Complete Visitor GuideThis castle (actually castles – more on that later) stands on one of the most dramatic viewpoints in Scotland (in my humble opinion) with a wild and windswept coastline that instantly brings to mind a scene from Game of Thrones rather than a tourist attraction thanks to its near-impenetrable cliff-face setting.