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Travel & Holidays in later life

After the excesses of the festive season, the Laterlife travel writing team were in sore need of some relaxation. So while the Editors headed to Italy, teams two and three were dispatched to Ardgarten on the shores of Loch Long. Bill Rintoul, Irene Stakounis with Joan and Phil Watt report on Forest Holidays, Argyll Cabins.

Argyll Cabins Forrest Holidays

A glorious drive up Loch Lomond on a clear winter’s day, surrounded by rugged mountains, their high tips sparkling with snow was an excellent start to our trip. The cabins sit on an outcrop of land, overlooked by the imposing Arrochar Alps, with splendid views of the loch from the huge floor to ceiling windows. Curved around the top end of the loch sits the picture-postcard village of Arrochar, with Coulport nestled at the opposite end. Our accommodation was first class and as warm as the welcome from Ian Grant and his friendly team, who showed us how everything worked - including the hot tub on the deck!


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Getting There

By Car:  this is the sensible option as there's no rail service. Drive frm Glasgow along the west bank of Loch Lomond then follow signs for Arrochar.

By bus: Inveray is on the main bus route from Glasgow to Campbeltown. Scottish Citylink are the operators. Six buses a day make the journey and approximate time is 1 hour 45 minutes. It is also possible to travel on and from Oban.

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Wasting no time we were shortly ensconced in the hot tub, wine glasses in hand, watching the sun set over the loch and the lights of Coulport twinkling in the distance. We sat on, as the stars came out and the temperature plummeted; cold air around us but bathed in the warmth of the hot tub, we discussed what we'd like to do for the next few days. There’s lots to chose from in Argyll Forest Park, including canoeing, walking, rock climbing, cycling and fishing and a range of forest ranger led activities although not all are available in winter. We decided on a walk, a visit to a garden and a day just sightseeing.

Argyll Cabins Forrest Holidays

Next morning saw us dressed in our waterproof gear ready for walking.
The Arrochar Alps boasts four Munros (over 3000ft high) and The Cobbler (just under 3000ft) but we opted for a less strenuous walk along the shores of Loch Long and up into the forest. We walked part way along the shore then up towards Coilessan, where we found the start of the Cats Craig Loop and Glen Croe. It is a very pleasant walk, even on a drizzly day, taking you high up into the forest with superb views along the way, including an aerial one of the loch and the cabins sitting on the shore. If you're lucky you might catch a glimpse of some deer on the way. The walk finished at Ardgartan Tourist Information Office where we admired the wooden carvings of local wildlife.

The next day we drove west along the A83 toward Inverary. We followed the line of the old military road up the Rest and be Thankful and around Loch Fyne. Inverary sits on the shores of the loch, under the watchful eye of Inverary Castle - home to the Duke of Argyll and family seat of Clan Campbell. Inverary itself is an historic town in a spectacular location but the highlight is undoubtedly Inverary Jail!

INverary Jail and Courthouse

There are two jails that together give an insight into life, crime and punishment in the 19th century. The old prison (1820-1848) housed men, women, children, unconvicted prisoners and the insane all in one small building. It had no heating or washing facilities until the 1840s. By contrast the new one (1848-1889) was a model prison with water closets (the original ones can still be seen!), washroom, twelve individual cells, heating and gas lighting. It's a sad fact that many prisoners felt they were better fed and looked after there than in the outside world. Then we came across an 1820s courthouse, apparently in session. People were talking and when we looked in, there was a man staring straight at us! Then we realised it was just a very lifelike model with a looped recording. Very clever! There was even a juror who appeared to have nodded off. Be sure to watch out for him!

Old Courthouse Inverary

From one historic building we made our way to another, The George Hotel, built in 1778, where we enjoyed lunch in front of a roaring log fire. On the way home we stopped at the original Loch Fyne Oyster bar to buy locally caught fresh trout and mussels for our dinner.

The George Hotel Inverary

Our last morning was bright and dry. After breakfast, which included freshly baked bread from the well-stocked site shop, we set off to Ardkinglas Estate at the village of Cairndow. Ardkinglas House featured in the 1998 film, ‘The Crow Road’ based on an Iain Banks novel and starring Bill Patterson and Peter Capaldi. It’s also been in Eastenders, the episode in 2003 where Barry had his wedding before drowning in Loch Fyne. The spacious arboretum on the north bank of the valley of the Kinglas Water with vistas of Glen Fyne and Loch Fyne is open all year round. Although at its most colourful in spring, in January it is still a delight to meander up and down the hillside paths through fully mature specimens of beech and mountain ash, a wide variety of other native and European tree species and plantings of deciduous azaleas and rhododendron hybrids. The most impressive area is the Pinetum, with some of the tallest and largest specimens in the UK : a grand fir reaching over 64 metres in height, a unique silver fir with five massive trunks and several towering western Hemlocks. Although it involves some steep sections of steps on the descent into it, the river gorge is well worth the effort. The Kinglas Water was in full spate, tumbling through its boulder-strewn bed and over the old weir (for the original hydro-electric plant that served the house). After a couple of hours wandering around in the sun it was time for a late lunch. The Village Inn at Arrochar serves food all day and has an excellent bar menu, welcoming log fires and local real ales from Fyne Ales of Cairndow.

Back in Ardgartan we had an evening of relaxation with one last soak in the hot tub. We had a wonderful few days and headed home fully refreshed. We’ll be back to Argyll Cabins, perhaps at a different time of year to try some of those more energetic activities.



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