Explore the Heart of Argyll
Follow in the footsteps of kings, where primeval civilisations held ancient rituals, buried the dead and erected mysterious stone circles. Once home to a powerful kingdom that straddled Ireland and Scotland, the very rocks here hold secrets of the past. Mid Argyll’s political importance continued into the 17th century, when the Duke of Argyll chose Inveraray as the seat of Clan Campbell. Over 5,000 years of civilisation are here to discover in the Heart of Argyll.
A visit to this amazing part of Scotland starts at Kilmartin Museum, where Argyll’s ancient past comes alive. Artefacts found in the Glen and environs are on display, including rare jewellery and some of the earliest beaker pots in Britain. Educational materials and souvenirs are available, and a snack and a tea at the café rounds out the experience.
Kilmartin Glen is the site of one of the most important Neolithic and Bronze Age landscapes in Scotland, dating to 5,000 years ago. More than 800 significant archaeological sites lie within a six mile radius of the village, including standing stones, a henge, several ossuaries, medieval carved gravestones and burial cairns, many of which are decorated with mysterious cup and ring marks.
One of the most evocative collections of monuments is at Temple Wood, where two impressive stone circles evoke scenes of long forgotten rituals of the ancestors. From the alignments, the ancients would have observed the midwinter sun rising and setting in line with the other stones. It is suggested that inscribed designs on the stones could symbolise this. The direction of the stones also orientate with certain lunar events. At any time of year, Temple Wood is a peaceful place of contemplation, with interpretive markers and walking paths.
Dál Riata...the name suggests a kingdom lost in the mists of time. A visit to Dunadd (‘dun’ means hill fort) near Kilmartin reveals magnificent remains of this important Gaelic civilization. Those who climb to the top today can see the remains of a great fortification- parts of walls, ogam text inscribed in rock, a carving of a boar and a slab with a carved bowl- and eagle-eye views of the countryside. Here, at Dunadd, the grand history of Dál Riata is palpable.
Castle hunters won’t want to miss Carnasserie Castle, north of Kilmartin Glen, a ruined 16th century tower house built by reformation Bishop John Carswell. In summer the site is open and free for visitors, who can explore the keep and the mansion, including a climb to the upper floors and on up to the top via a narrow spiral staircase.
Nicknamed the country’s most beautiful shortcut, the Crinan Canal was completed in 1801 to allow sea-going vessels to avoid the long and potentially dangerous passage around the Mull of Kintyre. It remains popular with leisure vessels from yachts to barges, and a towpath along its length provides a pleasant walk or cycling route – with the option of a mid-way stop in the scenic village of Cairnbaan.
A mile from the Ardrishaig end of the canal is Lochgilphead, the capital of mid Argyll and a good base from which to explore the area, with far-reaching views over Loch Fyne, and an eclectic mix of independent shops and tea rooms.
For a wildlife experience that you won’t get anywhere else in the UK, head to Knapdale Forest, where families can follow a ‘detective trail’ for a chance to encounter beavers living in the wild for the first time in 400 years. You can find out about the project at the visitor’s centre at Barnlusgan. The beaver families may have only been in Scotland for a couple of years, but elsewhere in Knapdale, near Tayvallich, are some of the country’s oldest living residents, the ancient atlantic oaks of the Taynish National Nature Reserve.
Want to explore the Heart of Argyll in luxurious comfort? Let Imagine Alba plan your perfect day out in this spectacular part of Argyll on a private day tour from Oban. On our bespoke private day tours, each detail is catered to your interests and pace, so all you have to do is bring your camera and your appetite!