On my most recent trip to Scotland (two trips in one year!) I finally got to visit Inveraray Castle. I had been to Inveraray twice previously and either the castle wasn’t open as it was out of season or I was passing on my way through to Glasgow. This time I was determined to visit the castle and it did not disappoint. Inveraray Castle is set on the breath-taking shores of Loch Fyne and is home to the Dukes of Argyll; head of the Clan Campbell. Inveraray Castle is one of the earliest built in the gothic revival style of the early eighteenth century with building on the castle starting in 1743.
The castle comprises of a foreboding square shaped building of grey granite with round towers at each corner with conical pitched roofs giving the castle French chateau feel. The castle has been home to the Campbell Clan from at least the 15th century with earlier versions of the castle existing before the current 1743 incumbent. Inveraray Castle sits close to the Georgian splendidness of Inveraray village. A unique village of black and white Scottish Georgian buildings, church, and an old gaol. Complete with fan lights (I can tell a genuine Georgian fan light from forty feet), original windows, and a whitewashed exterior the houses and buildings of Inveraray village are Georgian architecture lover’s delight.
The group I was with consisted of two adults and one student; the adult ticket was £14.50 and the student ticket £12.50. This gets you access to the castle, gardens, extensive woodland walks, and free parking. The free parking proved to be incredibly helpful as we decided to walk into Inveraray town centre on foot as it is only a ten minute walk from the castle. The parking in the town is from what I can see on street and metered parking which is not ideal if you want to spend a couple of hours in the town. We also arrived for the 10.15 slot for access to the castle as we wished to avoid larger groups of people later in the day.
We arrived at the entrance to the castle and were greeted by friendly visitor guides who scanned our QR coded tickets. Top Tip: either download, print-off, or screenshot your tickets before going to the castle as the internet is non-existent in Inveraray. There are guided tours of the castle which I feel would be beneficial to people who do not regularly visit country houses and castles but as a seasoned country house visitor I felt that we did not need to take the guided tour. The tour starts in the impressive atrium or armoury which consists of an epic display of 18th century arms from muskets to axes to pistols; everything and anything 18th century was included in this amazing display of armoury.
Following on from the armoury we went into an 18th century decorated salon or drawing room complete with tapestries, embroidered furniture, gilt framed paintings, and a fantastic moulded and painted ceiling. The views over Loch Fyne from this drawing room are breath-taking and you can see why this would have been the main drawing room in the castle. In each room, including the salon, there are laminated sheets in various languages discussing the history of each room and the people who used to live in the castle.
Additionally, to the right of the right of the salon there was an octagonal room which featured an impressive array of the castle’s china which were used for various occasions from shooting parties to state dinners. The display of china ranged from 18th century to 20th century pottery from such potteries as Royal Doulton and Sevres China from France. The china was displayed in such a way with back lighting and informative exhibition text that if you were not an expert on china you could still learn a little bit about what you were looking at.
In another room adjacent to the main salon there is a small collection of archival material that shows the building, decoration, and maintenance of the castle from the 18th century to the 20th Century. Of particular interest is photographs and ephemera when the castle underwent extensive refurbishment in the 1950s prior to opening for the first time to the public in the mid 1950s as well as information about a disastrous fire in the 1970s. Inveraray castle is not owned or an by a heritage trust as far as I am aware they castle is run by the Campbell family and they still live in parts of the castle not open to the public. By the time we had finished in the ground floor the castle was getting busy and I did not have time to read all of the archival information and unfortunately the visitor flow is a bit disruptive as you have to keep going in and out of rooms rather than following a circular route. This and the crowds of people made it difficult to enjoy the rest of my visit as I felt that I had to hurry up onto the next room to let others enjoy the room that I had just been in.
Once we had finished with the downstairs room we walked up the impressive staircase in the main armoury and through a bedroom haunted by the Grey Lady of which only female members of the Campbell family can see! I did not take any photographs in this room as again there were too many people in the room at any one time. However, not taking photographs was made up in the next room along which was the drawing room or study of Louise, Duchess of Argyll and a daughter of Queen Victoria. The room is painted a rich peach colour (the photo’s do not do the room justice as the walls appear more red here than peach!) with what I think was original William Morris wallpaper on the alcove around Louise’s desk.
The curation of this room was by far my favourite as I could see how a busy Duchess (who also lived in Canada as her husband was Governor and for whom Lake Louise is named after!) would use this room to both keep up with correspondence but also use it to relax in with close family and friends. The portraits on the wall in gilt frames takes away from the heavy and somewhat dark, Victorian furniture whilst also brightening up the room. Before electricity was introduced into the castle I can imagine that the rooms even if they were decorated in light colours could have been quite dark and gloomy especially on a dark winter’s day.
Overall, I enjoyed my visit to Inveraray Castle and the interiors, objects, and furniture are stunning however I would like to visit again at a quieter time of year and have longer to read the information cards and take better photographs of each room. Though I do realize that we visited at the height of the summer season and this always means crowds I felt the other visitors were quite impatient if myself or the two other members of my group wanted to spend longer in the room which is something that I had not experienced before visiting a Scottish Castle. I can only hope on my next visit the visitors will be patient when I want to spend time and read the cards in every room!