When you get to the top of the Rest and Be Thankful by Loch Restal on the A83, you get the feeling of leaving the world behind and it’s a relatively short run before you reach the magical town of Inveraray.
We always make a stop at Loch Fyne Oysters, founded by Ardkinglas Estate laird Jonny Noble in the 1970s, to pick up supplies, then it’s only a half-hour drive to our family cottage further down the loch.
My maternal grandfather’s family lived in Inveraray for generations, my great-great grandfather was a pipe major in the Inveraray pipe band, the world’s first civilian pipe band, and the family ran the local plumbing business. Scottish author and newspaper editor Neil Munro lived in the town and was a great friend of the family.
As a boy, spending time with my great-aunt Isobel and great-uncle Gordon at their house in Inveraray, looking out over Loch Fyne to the Arrochar Alps, was my happy place. The fire was always roaring, drop scones hot from the stove, storytelling, always storytelling, laughter, mirth and sometimes a tear or two later in the night, perhaps when the drams were out, thinking of those who had departed and were now ‘o’er the dyke with the unicorns’.
Sadly, none of my relatives permanently live in Inveraray or Argyll these days, although my parents and two of my uncles have houses in the area. We sat with my Uncle Jim at his home on the Crinan Canal on Saturday afternoon, after a trip to a hidden beach nearby, watching yachts make their way from Loch Gilp to the Sound of Jura and out into the Atlantic. A much needed change of scenery, following months of staring at the same screen and four walls back in Edinburgh.
Sunburnt from our trip to the beach the day before, on Sunday the rain came down like it can only do in Scotland, but we managed a walk up Dunadd hill on Moine Mhor, the great moss of Kilmartin Glen. Historians say the first kings of Scotland hailed from Dunadd and on a clear day, you can see out to the islands of Jura and Mull. Film buffs will also know that 1963 Bond move From Russia With Love used nearby Kilmichael Glassary as a filming location.
Some interesting entrepreneurial businesses have started up in the area since lockdown, including Heathery Heights, a walking tour business run by a seasoned rambler in Lochgilphead, while an old horse cart now serves as an outdoor coffee stop half way down the Crinan Canal at Bellanoch.
On the way back down the road we stopped in at Fyne Ales, surely one of the most beautifully located craft breweries in the world, to pick up some beer. A nice wee interlude before returning the the daily grind.
Nick Freer is the founding director of corporate communications agency the Freer Consultancy