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Driving through history around Kilmartin and Loch Awe

Home -> Europe -> Scotland -> Travelogue Scotland -> 26 August 2006

Saturday 26 August, driving through history around Kilmartin and Loch Awe

We sleep for a long time, do we have some sleeping sickness or something else? We have a holiday, so it does not matter that much and since we go to Scotland every year, we are not in a hurry to see everything. What we miss now we will see and do next time. After our classic breakfast (Elisabeth fried eggs with toast and I scrambled eggs with toast) the rain almost stops, it drizzles a little bit. We first dive into the second-hand store next to the hotel, because there is a sign with 'Dutch books for sale'. Half of it is Swedish, and the other half is totally uninteresting, but we do find some nice English books. Then we drive to Kilmartin, in the middle of Kilmartin Glen, the area with the most prehistoric sites in Scotland.
In total there are about 350 prehistoric sites in the area, but also many things have been preserved from later periods. A great area for those who love history. We will visit some of these places in the next days, but we start today with the Kilmartin House Museum which is next to the village church. So we flee the rain and cold for a moment.
Tombstone, KilmartinWe find the museum however rather disappointing. After a 15-minute film (mostly photos shown one after the other) we are not much wiser about the area and the 4 rooms we can visit afterwards are small and, well, a bit ordinary, but at least give a little more information about the area. In any case, we do not have to go there again.
More interesting is the cemetery next to it where several medieval tombstones from the area have been collected, the Kilmartin Crosses.
From Kilmartin we drive to the north where we visit Carnasserie castle, a ruin on a hilltop. Once we are on top of the ruin we can take a few photos from the outside but then the batteries are empty and the spare ones full are still in the car. Too bad, because the castle gives a nice picture of the transition from the 'old-fashioned' real fortified castles to the later castle-country houses. The few photos that we do have will be publishes later on the castles page.
Loch Awe Loch AweThere is no improvement in the weather and now the water falls heavily from the sky so we decide to make a round trip around Loch Awe, a largely new area for us. First we take the narrow road along the east side of the longest freshwater lake in Scotland. The lake has, like so many in Scotland, many myths surrounding it and is supposedly created by the witch Beira. Every day she took water from the spring on Mount Ben Cruachan, but one time she forgot to put the lid back on the well and that night the water came up naturally and the next thing she saw was the new lake that had formed, Loch Awe.
Loch AweShe also had a number of girls who took care of other sources (also with lids that you should not forget to put back on the source) and one of them was named Nessa who once forgot the lid near Inverness; and as you can guess, that is how Loch Ness came about, of course.
It is quiet on the road, we do not see many people and sometimes we have a view through the trees on the elongated loch in which a much more terrible but unknown monster resides than in Loch Ness. We get no glimpse of it, the monster will also prefer to stay underwater with this weather.
Castle hotel Kilchurn castleOn the north side of Loch Awe we see the photogenic Kilchurn Castle (right) nicely hidden in the mist, on an island in the loch, and on the other side we see a castle-like building. Later we find out that this is a castle hotel, but of course we forget to write down the name! The mist that now starts to cover the land envelops Scotland in a mysterious atmosphere and we feel that something magical can now emerge any moment from that mist.
St. Conan’s Kirk A rabbit gargoyleAnd that happens too, suddenly we drive past a very beautiful building. It is St. Conan's Church, a church made with great imagination in a Norman-gothic style, but around 1900 and only used in 1930 for the first time! It is a place where you can absorb the tranquility of Scotland and you have the pleasure to walk around. And say honestly, where else can you find a rabbit as a gargoyle!
Awe River Castle hotel ArdanaiseigWe have to drive all the way along the River Awe to find the way to the loch on the west side again. There are a few dead end roads that we also want to drive and at the end of it we find castle hotels, like hotel Ardanaiseig where a wedding party is underway with a pipeband and all men in kilt. We turn in the parking lot and enjoy the view
Along Loch Awe Harbour on Loch AweThe sky clears now and in Kilchrenan we can even sit outside on a terrace for a cup of soup and a drink. Then we drive the long road along the west bank of the loch back towards Kilmartin. The road is narrow but it is quiet. Beautiful hiking trails have been indicated in various places, but because it is so cold we continue to enjoy the landscape most of the time from the warm car. We drive through New York, but we pass it unnoticed, no sight of a sign nor any skyscrapers.
Nether Largie south cairn Temple wood circleBack at Kilmartin we pass a number of well-known and somewhat more unknown stone circles. We will not mention them all here but there are very interesting ones, especially south of the village, and some are 5,000 years old although later residents of the area have also used them for constructing houses as various finds show. At Temple Wood (right) you can also find some vague engravings on the standing stones, although you have to look very well.
House for sale!When we drive over the B8025 to the south we suddenly recognize a nice house which we also visited in 2000, the East Lodge of Poltalloch House. It is for sale and there are some interested people being shown around. When we later look at the broker's website, we see that bids have start at 325,000 pounds, so over 5 tons in euros. Just a bit too much for us, although we still felt like pretending to be interested ...
CastleSlightly further we see in the distance a real castle or a large country house, but we have no idea what it is called or what it exactly is. Apart from France, we do not know a country where the castles / country houses density is as large as in Scotland. And sometimes the guard houses or gatelodges are even more beautiful than the country houses themselves. In any case they are easier to keep clean, because it is way smaller.
Near Loch CrinanWe drive down the lonely roads to Loch Crinan although we regularly meet cyclists. The sun has disappeared and it feels very cold outside. But the landscape simply remains beautiful. When more than 7000 years ago the first people settled here they probably must have had the same idea ... Hard work but every day a beautiful view!
House at DunaddWe have seen a lot today but on our way to the hotel we also pass Dunadd, at first sight a hill with a little house against it. But in reality there was a fort here that for some time was the capital of the kingdom Dalriada, founded by Irishmen in the 6th century. It seems that the so-called 'real' Scots have mainly Irish blood and have displaced the original Picts (which of course displaced other indigenous peoples) from their place. The famous Stone of Destiny, which now resides in Edinburgh after centuries of living in Westminster Abbey in London, according to the stories was once used for coronation rituals in this place.
Fort Dunadd, ruïn View from fort DunaddThere is now only a ruin of the fort that we can reach along slippery paths. The rain really starts to pour now we can not find the famous silhouette of a wild boar that can be seen here, only a few inscriptions and engravings. It is a beautiful strategic place and was already used by the Picts as a fort before the Irish invaded.
Today we have seen a lot of history and beautiful nature but how much we admire the magical places of the past, the comforts of the present attracts us a bit more in this pouring rain. We drive back to Lochgilphead and after some shopping in the big supermarket we go to our warm room for some food and reading. For today we have seen enough!


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