Buses and trains from Glasgow to Oban pass through Dalmally, a village right in the middle of Argyll on the shores of Loch Awe. Either mode will reward the passer-by with an excellent view over Loch Awe towards a castle that sits on its edge. Kilchurn Castle is gorgeous and this being Scotland, its grey stone walls appear on countless books and tourist brochures. Unlike most other achingly photogenic castles in Scotland, Kilchurn Castle not only isn’t signposted but is absolutely free to get into, along a path from a small car park. I had never been and it was only when passing by one day recently that I finally managed to get there.
It was the start of July and the weather was changing by the minute, the sun appearing then hiding behind the clouds. A jacket was a good bet. We parked in a glorified layby and only realised we were on the right road when we saw a small sign on the ground in Historic Scotland style with an arrow below the words ‘TO THE CASTLE’. Just beyond the gate was a red railway bridge that I recognised as on the West Highland Line to Oban. Around us were fields of grass and hills beyond. Along the shoreline on both sides were tents housing anglers and other campers braving the Scottish summer in all its glory. We soon came to the castle and despite being in the middle of Argyll, there were a good few folk about, tempted by its location possibly, maybe some others familiar and here on purpose. One was a family with a wee boy, not long on his feet by the look of him but merrily toddling around nevertheless.
We had been to quite a few Historic Scotland castles and some much less substantial than Kilchurn. We were impressed. It was ruined but we liked that. There was a tower house with a range that would have housed kitchens and apartments on the northern side. It was very easy to walk around and imagine what had once stood there. What made it, though, was the location. Through every window there was an incredible view, up the loch or across to mountains. We wandered for a while then decided to start south. We weren’t the only ones. When we left the castle, we heard a train approaching up the side of Loch Awe, heading for Glasgow. It probably arrived here much the same time as I did but those on board hopefully looked the right way and saw this castle and wondered and planned a visit here, one day finally coming to fruition.