Inveraray – A stately historic home on the doorstep
Approaching from the South along the shores of Loch Fyne, you catch a perfect glimpse of the
castle, crossing the hump-backed bridge as you reach the Royal Burgh of Inveraray. On arrival a first impression is of part chateau, part fairy-tale castle with its conical turrets at the four corners. Look back to where the waters of the River Aray flow into the loch under the arches of the bridge or up toward the top of Dun na Cuaiche, the hill behind you ; it’s all part of a perfect backdrop.
Over many years of visiting, a passing thought is sometimes how green the exterior appears; the building stone is indeed a green chlorite schist and depending on the weather the hue is rather changeable. Looking more closely you also notice how the builders have gone to trouble of dressing the front of each cut block of stone.
Mounting the steps to the front entrance, you pass under the ornate glass & iron-work canopy of ‘Paddington Station’ so named locally for the architect of the grand station building in London, Matthew Digby Wyatt. If you think the entrance hall is somehow modest then you step into the grandeur of the state dining room and the tapestry drawing room. The gilt-wood chairs, the rich tapestry work all shout of the latest French fashion; the finely hand-painted interiors and the splendid Waterford crystal chandeliers all demonstrate the status of the Campbell family. And of course it is the legacy of the architects that lead the eye onwards into the main hall – this lofty space with its matching staircases and gallery being an echo of great houses like Blenheim designed by Vanbrugh who had a hand in the earliest drafts for Inveraray – the truly impressive collection of armoury is displayed on a spectacular scale.
There is a statement of historical power; not just in the armoury here but in the fine portraits of Earls and Dukes of Argyll by the most renowned painters of their periods, from Thomas Gainsborough to Henry Raeburn and Alan Ramsay. Appearing in contrast to this are the personal artefacts in the Victoria Room. Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Louise married the son of the 8th Duke in 1871. Take a peek in the China Turret, all but hidden beyond the Beauvais Tapestries, where the fine collection of the finest English & European porcelain is beautifully displayed – see if you can get your voice to magically amplify if you stand in the right spot in the centre of the room… and as you near the end of your tour here to reward yourself with coffee or some great home-baking, don’t forget to visit the Old Kitchens; highly polished copper jelly moulds, huge ovens and those brilliant knife cleaners ! Who needs washing up liquid !