Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Trip To Inverary and The Crinan Canal

Rob, Brock and I had a night away staying at The Argyle Hotel in Inverary.

We stopped off at Tarbet for a walk next to Loch Lomond on the way up.
[Please click on any photo to see a larger version.]

We ate lunch at The Village Inn in Arrochar. There used to be a brilliant chef there, maybe 10 - 15 years ago and we ate and stayed there on a number of occasions. Those days are sadly long gone, and it is now more standard pub fare that is offered. Rob and I shared the Mediterranean-style 'sharing platter' priced at £12. I had brought my own gluten free bread along, and just as well, as it was a very meagre selection of tiny pots of hummus, olives (6), sun dried tomatoes (3 halves), feta stuffed pepperdew chillies (2), roasted veg (a small amount of rather tough red onion, and pepper), olive oil/balsamic vinegar and 2 - 3 pieces of standard sliced bread. All quite tasty, but a snack rather than a meal. However, the staff are friendly and the pub has a nice position next to the loch and it has a good atmosphere and pleasant interior decor.

We drove on to Inverary and had a wander round the attractive town and shops before booking in at The Argyle Hotel. We did a bit of Christmas shopping in The Stable Gallery, where you can find hundreds of cards, prints, calendars, mugs and gifts. There are lots of nice, little shops and places to eat. The views over the Loch are stunning, making it a lovely place to stay for a day or two.

[Boats by the harbour in Inverary]

We ate dinner at the Ban-diuc Indian Restaurant. The interior is very nice, with huge, historial paintings on the wall, and smart tables and chairs with modern cutlery and white crockery. Very stylish! We had the usual appetiser of poppadoms and pickles. I had channa masala (spiced chickpeas) to start and Rob had vegetable samosas. Both starters were excellent - very tasty, hot and freshly prepared. Our main courses were slightly less successful. We chose: vegetable dhansak (medium sweet and sour curry with split peas in this case, (normally lentils)), vegetable garlic chilli (hot dish with whole green chillies) and a side dish of aloo gobi (potato and cauliflower), with plain boiled rice and pilau rice. The rice was very good, but although very tasty in themselves, the three curries were so similar in look and taste that we wished we had picked something with more variety. There was plenty of food and we were sorry to leave about a third of it, but we were just too full to finish it. The bill came to around £50 with three drinks. The waiter was very good: friendly and attentive; and I would recommend the restaurant.

Rob had found a good deal on the hotel - £60 bed and breakfast, including a room with loch view + £10 for Brock. The room was small but reasonably comfortable, although there was nowhere to sit, apart from the bed. The bathroom had a shower, but no bath. The room was very warm, we had to turn off all the heating and open the window at one point. The decor was a bit tatty in the stairway and room, but clean enough. The bed was comfortable, but there was quite a lot of noise from other rooms and from the road outside. The breakfast was great with a large choice with cereals, porridge, continental breakfast, cooked breakfast, meats and cheeses, fruit and yoghurts etc. We had a cooked breakfast with a selection of vegetarian items such as mushrooms, tomato, potato scone, eggs, baked beans and toast. I produced a gluten free ciabatta, which the waitress kindly toasted for me. The coffee was a bit ropey (stewed filter coffee), but otherwise it was very good: well cooked and nicely presented. The staff were all friendly and helpful. It was great for Brock, because we only had to step outside for several possible walks to take him on and plenty of green areas.

[Crinan Basin]
On Tuesday, we headed further north to the village of Crinan and Crinan Basin, start (or end?) of the Crinan Canal. The Canal splits Argyll from Ardrishaig on Loch Fyne through 15 locks, over about nine miles, to Crinan, giving access to the west coast Crinan Basin. We were incredibly lucky with the weather, which was warm and mild with hazy sunshine.

We walked for about two miles along beside the canal (and back again), with the open sea on one side and the canal on the other. The views are amazing, with views of Duntrune Castle, and remote houses, boats, wild birds, mud flats, locks, quaint canal-side cottages, trees and woodlands. It was very quiet at this time of year, with just two cyclists and two other walkers passing us.

 [Crinan Lock and view out to sea]
 [Brock kneeling down rather than sitting, for some reason!]
 [Home and studio of artist Fraser MacIver]
 [Silver birch trees]
 [Mudflats and bridge]
 [Remote house on the tip of a peninsula]

We had lunch at The Stag Hotel in Lochgilphead. I had a jacket potato with cheese and coleslaw and Rob had macaroni cheese with chips. The portions were very generous and although it was nothing special, it was good for the price.

It was a nice break and a lovely area to visit. I'm sure we will be back in the future.
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