Saturday, April 29, 2006

A Long Weekend In Argyll - Crarae Garden, Lochgilphead and Crinan

With the prospect of a Monday off of work, we got up sharp on Saturday morning and started hunting for somewhere to stay for a few days over in the Tarbert area. Unfortunately we'd left it a bit late and couldn't find anywhere suitable but we found a B&B in Lochgilphead called The Corran, which turned out not bad at all. It's run by a couple of friendly antipodeans that saw the place for sale while holidaying here and stayed.

Crarae Garden

Anyway, on the way up there, or over there as it's hardly north of Glasgow - just a long way round, we stopped off for a couple of hours at Crarae Garden. Crarae is a very nice hillside garden on the side of Loch Fyne, belonging to the National Trust for Scotland. It's full of exotic trees and shrubs and in Spring, there are loads of rhododendrons, azalias and camellias in bloom.

it's a wee bit more of a rugged garden, being on the hillside, but if you climb up to the top of the garden, it also has some great views out over the trees to the loch beyond. A nice place to pass some time on a pleasant afternoon! The only downside - no tearoom.


We got into Lochgilphead about five-ish, found the B&B easily enough (thank you Multimap), got settled in and relaxed for a while. So, about six, we headed into town looking for somewhere to eat and just to scope the place out a bit. The local yobs were out though, being noisy and generally yobbish so not a great first impression. We'd been here before a few years ago on the way down to camping in Tayinloan but all we did then was buy something from the chippy and ate it sitting in front of the shore.

Eating Out

We tramped around looking for somewhere to eat but there really aren't a lot of options. There's an Indian restaurant, a vegetarian place, a couple of pubs and a Chinese take-away and The Snug, the Argyll Hotel bar, which is where we ended up. The menu looked way better than the average pub fare and, on the whole we weren't disappointed, although more on that later.

We shared starters of potato wedges and garlic mayonnaise and pate with toast. Lorna had the crispy beer-battered fresh haddock and I had the grilled cajun chicken. the food was pretty good and we scoffed the lot but just as Lorna was clearing her plate she spotted a hair that had been under the last of the fish - not a great way to end a meal.


After dinner, we headed off to Crinan to see what it was like and for some views out over the sea and to maybe catch the sunset. Crinan, formally known as Port Righ, is at the western end of the Crinan Canal, the 300 year old waterway running across Kintyre from Ardrishaig in the east.

The Vital Spark

The canal is pretty busy and there were loads of boats in the basin and side locks in Crinan. However, we were suprised to find the Vital Spark languishing at the back of the basin. The Vital Spark is probably the Clyde's most famous wee puffer after starring in the BBC TV series The Tales Of Para Handy, which were an adaptation of the stories of the Vital Spark by Neil Munro. Sad to to see the boat rusting away, uncared for.

The sun was going down and looking like it'd produce a decent sunset over the islands but disaster struck when the camera battery ran out of power. I did manage to get one decent shot in though as a wee boat was turning around and the sun caught it nicely on the side.

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