Wednesday, 25 June 2014

A weekend to Oban, Staffa and Lunga (Part One)

On Friday David and I took a well earned day off and headed to Oban for the weekend. It was great to escape the packing boxes, lists of things to do, moving and dwindling belongings and take time out for us. Over the weekend we combined our love of travel, food, gardens, history, nature and adding new experiences to life and I survived camping and a small boat!

We meandered our way north via Glasgow to Loch Lomond where we stopped off at my favourite view point on the loch to stretch our legs and take in the view.

Looking north up Loch Lomond

From here we travelled over the Rest and be Thankful to Loch Fyne and down to Inverary. I haven't been here in years, its a pretty little town on the shores of the loch with its white painted buildings and fine views to the mountains beyond the loch. Here we stopped in Brambles Bistro www.bramblesguesthouse.com/restaurant-bistro for a coffee and cake, very nice it was too. 

Buildings in Inveraray

After our refreshments, we headed south along the loch, enjoying the views in the sunshine towards Crarae Gardens. Now run by the National Trust for Scotland, this garden is built round a gorge with tumbling waterfalls and woodland. From informal flower beds outside the visitor centre you climb up gradually along the side of the gorge under giant Rhododendrons.

Rhododendron falconeri
Rhododendrons in sunlight



















Remains of an ancient burial mound
Gunnera




















With views across to the bankings on the other side and the sound of water falls it really feels you are somewhere tropical and not in Scotland. We were a bit too late for the Rhododendrons in flower but there was still plenty colour. Primulas were in flower and Rodgersias with their bronzy leaves brightened the boggy areas next to the stream. Occasionally a small bridge crosses the gorge and you can either follow these paths or continue to the top bridge and down the other side. There are several paths and routes to follow depending on time, your fitness and what you want out of the garden. 

Acers
Crarae House


Some late flowering Rhododendrons
We meandered back down to where the stream levels out through a bamboo tunnel which was really cool. Another idea for the new garden in a year or so's time. After sitting in the sun under huge Philadelphus and roses with their intoxicating scents for a while, we headed back to the car and the next leg of the journey to Oban. 

From Lochgilphead we headed north through Kilmartin Glen. As well as being a pretty glen to drive through, it is steeped in Bronze Age history. Dotted all along the glen are cairns, burial mounds and standing stones.

Inside one of the burial mounds
Steps out




















In Kilmartin village there is a great wee museum about the glen with a fab cafe where we had lunch, very nice. More foodie treats for my birthday foodie. http://www.kilmartin.org  After lunch we walked down the glen to visit four of the cairns, a burial ground and a set of standing stones. I really liked the burial ground amongst the trees. It had a restful tranquil air about it. One of the cairns is accessible down a set of stairs and the burial cist has been left in place. For history fans like us its great to visit these places. The set of standing stones in a nearby field were really interesting in their alignment. Unfortunately there was no passage back to the past... if you are a Diana Gabaldon and Outlander fan, you'll get the link. She's my favourite author and her Outlander series is incredible. 


Temple Wood burial ground

Temple wood
Maintained by Historic Scotland there are comfortable paths and styles to use to visit these ancient sites, the surrounding fields were full of buttercups in full flower and dozing cows, relaxing in the afternoon heat. From here it was a scenic half hour up to Oban and the camp site where we were staying for the weekend. Yes me camping! David is determined to convert me so we can get lots more weekends away cheaply and visit all the places we want to go and do the things we want to experience. I can really see the logic in this and totally agree ...... but camping? Any hoo I survived, but maybe that's because we had great weather so weren't soaked, and huddled in the tent! We are already planning our next trip. 

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