If I could live anywhere in the world, it would have to be somewhere mountainous. I love waking up to mountain views and being able to take scenic walks. The mountains are definitely my happy place! Maybe this is why I loved Scotland so much; I was surrounded by dramatic scenery and there were magical castles waiting to be explored. I visited Scotland for New Years with my boyfriend, Mike. We stayed in Loch Lomond National Park on Loch Goil and had four days to make the most of. As well as hiking, we managed to see many castles in our short time and we were able to travel easily between the places by car. I didn’t see many signs of public transport so I imagine that it’s quite a challenge to get around without a car, in the winter anyway that is.
Kilchurn Castle is an iconic landmark in Scotland. It’s located in Loch Awe which is beautiful itself with lots of little islands dotted in the middle. The castle was built in the 1400s and abandoned in the late 1700s. We had a car so drove around Loch Awe to see the castle from different points. We managed to catch it in the perfect light from the other side and it looked glorious. If you’re travelling in the winter, remember your wellies. It was very squishy mud!
Just down the road from the view point we saw some highland cattle. Mike stopped the car and I excitedly ran over to take a photo (with my zoom lens, I didn’t get too close).
Loch Goil Hike
We stayed on the western edge of Loch Lomond National Park in a hotel overlooking Loch Goil. There were mountains all around us so I was in dreamland and it was the perfect place for hiking. We opted for a hike starting at our hotel (Drymsynie Estate). Behind the caravan site is a trail leading up the mountain. We followed that and had endless views over the Loch. At some point we took a wrong turn but ended up at a waterfall, and who doesn’t love a waterfall? Further on the hike we approached a bridge towering over the waterfall. Overall the hike took 3/4 hours. It started raining half way through our hike but that didn’t stop us!
Iveraray Castle was definitely the most Disney-looking one which we spotted (if you’d like to see the actual castle which Disney castles were based on see my post here). For more than 500 years, the castle has stood proud on the Western shore of Loch Fyne, Scotland’s longest saltwater sea loch and it took 43 years to build. Unfortunately the castle was closed to look around in the winter months but we could still wander around the grounds and appreciate it from the outside. When the castle is open, 2 floors are lived in and the rest are open to the public. Iveraray Castle is now home to the 13th Duke of Argyll. Fun fact: His wife’s family own the Cadbury’s chocolate empire!
Dun Na Cuaiche Woodland Walk
Right by Iveraray Castle is a beautiful walk. From the castle car park, the walk begins over the bridge and is sign posted with blue arrows the whole way. We crossed fields with sheep and wandered through forests. The walk was steep in parts but fairly easy overall. The views were impressive on the incline but the view at the top was the main event (as with most mountains!) We could see over the Loch Fyne even spotted the castle.
We stopped at Dumbarton Castle on our journey up to Scotland. One thing that stood out about the castle is that it’s built into volcanic rock. It just looked like a small building from the outside but the grounds are actually vast.
This is another derelict castle, which there seem to be many of in Scotland. It’s located in Balloch Castle Country Park which overlooks lakes and mountains. The views were beautiful but I can imagine they’d be even better on a summers day. I suppose I’ll have to return! Since the 1990s, Balloch Castle Country Park has hosted music events including oasis and R.E.M.
Have you ever visited any Scottish castles? Let me know in the comments as I’d love to return to Scotland!