Struan Lodge Beauly
self catering inverness
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Queen Victoria made a royal progression through the Crinan Canal
In 1847, Queen Victoria made a royal progression through the Crinan Canal on her way to the Western Isles. self catering inverness
The Queen’s sumptuously decorated barge was drawn by three horses, guided by postillions arrayed in scarlet. Whilst not quite so awe-inspiring as the earlier crossing of Magnus Barefoot 750 years earlier, it was certainly a passage fit for a Queen Empress. self catering inverness The natives were suitably impressed.
Alas, such glories are no more. Nowadays, the canal is used by the Loch Fyne fishing fleet taking mundane passage to the northern fishing grounds. Only faint echoes of that majestic progress are aroused when lissom thoroughbreds of yachts, bound for a summer cruise of the Western Isles, ease their sleek flanks through the fifteen locks.
At Crinan, on the Sound of Jura, the sea is carpeted with islands. Crinan looks out on the Dorus Mor, the Great Door, between Craignish Point and the island of Garbh Reisa. This is the sea-gateway to the Isles of the Hebrides; a gateway guarded by an all too realistic sea dragon; the roaring whirlpool of Corryvrechan.
The Gulf of Corryvrechan lies between the islands of Jura and Scarba. The flood-tide storms west through the gulf at a furious nine knots, smashing against underwater peaks. The upsurge creates a fearsome whirlpool, which has been the graveyard of countless vessels over the centuries. When a westerly wind blows against the tide-race, the roar of the whirlpool can be heard on the Knapdale coast.
Inverary, at the head of Loch Fyne, is synonymous with the Earls of Argyll, any one of whom – in their medieval heyday – would have given Cesare Borgia a run for his Lira.
Seeing Inverary today, drowsing on a tranquil headland between the River Aray and the tiny stream of the Cromalt, it requires a conscious effort of imagination to visualize its savage past. It seems incongruous that such a sedate little town – keeping its decorous distance from the regal magnificence of Inverary Castle – could have known fire, sword and carnage.
But Inverary’s history was forged in far from sedate times. Fire, sword and carnage it knew to its bitter cost, tied as it was to the fluctuating fortunes of its Campbell grandees. The town’s present ordered state stems from the organizing ability of one man – Archibald, 3rd Duke of Argyll and Lord Justive General of Scotland.
Succeeding to the title at the age of 61, and returning to Inverary for the first time since the rebellion of 1715, he engaged the London architect Roger Morris – with William Adam as his Man Friday on the spot – to supervise the building of a new castle. As the rude huts of his clansmen impaired the landscaping of the castle grounds, Duke Archibald conceived a truly ducal solution; he would lay out a new town.
On his death, his son John took over. The saga of Campbell reconstruction continued with the 5th Duke, who completed the new town of Inverary and refurbished the interior of the castle.
What was once the domain of one of the great notables of the land is now open daily to the public from April to October. Not least among the castle treasures is a magnificent bronze cannon, salvaged from the sunken Spanish galleon in Tobermory Bay, bearing the arms of Francis 1 of France. The old kitchen is preserved as it was of a century ago; a singular monument to the heroic labours of the domestics of the period.
Perhaps the best monuments of all are to be found in the grounds; noble trees, some of them planted by distinguished hands. William Ewart Gladstone and Alfred, Lord Tennyson did their stint.