Inveraray is a bustling little town with an old-world charm and loads of things to see and do. It’s a classic example of an eighteenth-century planned town with a truly memorable setting. So after you’ve spent a few hours enjoying Inveraray Jail and all it has to offer, why not explore Inveraray? You’ll find independent shops selling all sorts of high-quality Scottish products, historic buildings, glorious gardens and a warm and friendly welcome from the townsfolk!
Gavin Dick, Inveraray Jail’s Prison Governor, reckons your first port of call should be the Inveraray Bell Tower, which is just a stone’s throw from the jail. He says it’s well worth making the effort to climb the 176 steps to the top of the tower for the stunning views over Inveraray and Loch Fyne to the Arrochar Alps beyond. The Bell Tower closes for the season on the 13th of September – so you’ll need to be quick if you want to visit it this year.
Inveraray Castle, which is about ten minutes down the road from the jail, is another Inveraray attraction to add to your itinerary. The ancestral home of the Duke of Argyll, Chief of the Clan Campbell, it’s one of Scotland’s most magnificent buildings. If you’re a Downton Abbey fan, you’ll have seen the castle featured in the programme’s 2012 Christmas special. Its imposing size and impressive turrets are visible for miles around. Inside, view the lavish State Dining Room, the tapestries and the stunning Armoury Hall with its walls adorned with muskets, pole-arms and axes. The surrounding estate also offers some lovely walks. Gavin recommends popping into the traditional tearoom for some home-baking.
Now it’s time for a spot of shopping. You’ll find most of Inveraray’s shops in and around the handsome Main Street, which is flanked by white-washed terraces with distinctive black window casements. Top of your list should be the famous Loch Fyne Whisky Shop, an award-winning vendor of whisky and whisky-related products. Purdies Scottish Soap Co is also worth a peek. This beautifully scented shop sells a huge range of natural handmade soaps and beauty products. If you have a sweet tooth, then Sweet Memories, a traditional shop selling good old-fashioned sweeties, is a must. And if you fancy some tartan or tweed, pop in to Alexander MacIntyre & Co, which offers a large selection of kilts and tartans produced to the highest traditional standards.
After you’ve browsed Inveraray’s shops why not have a bite to eat? You’re spoilt for choice. For a family-friendly pub lunch, Gavin recommends the George Hotel. It’s famous for its cosy dining room and bar with flagstone floor and roaring log fire. The hotel has been managed by the same family since 1860! For coffee and cakes, head to Brambles café. If you fancy a fast-food alternative look no further than Mr Pia’s Fish and Chip Restaurant.
If you like a post-lunch stroll, Gavin says you can’t beat walking up Dun na Cuaiche. It’s a circular route of about 4.5km. The plucky runners who take on this hill during the annual Jailbreak Run do it in about 25 minutes, but if you’re walking you should give yourself a couple of hours. For other energetic activities, such as rock climbing, horse-riding and paintballing, Argyll Adventure, located just outside Inveraray, is the place to go.
Inveraray is also known for its lively music scene and varied programme of events. This weekend (23rd, 24th and 25th August 2013) you can enjoy three days of fantastic free music at the Disconnect Festival at The George Hotel. For even more great live music, including Skerryvore, the Red Hot Chilli Pipers and Skipinnish, plus local food, whisky tasting and crafts, make a beeline for the Best of the West Festival on the 14th and 15th September 2013 in the grounds of Inveraray Castle. Inveraray Jail is sponsoring the Children’s Tent along with Argyll Adventures, and there will be lots of free activities including face-painting, story-telling, trampolining and a climbing wall.
Remember that your Inveraray Jail ticket is valid for the whole day, so you can come and go as you please. Break out of jail for a bit of shopping and then get locked up again in the afternoon.