Dustaffnage Castle and Oban, Scotland
Aside from a shout in the dark sometime after midnight, when I thought that rain might be coming in the roof hatches of the caravan (it wasn’t), I slept well and entered the morning , ready for the next adventure. Jim had another little walk in mind – along the coastline to a place called Dustaffnage Castle. Jim hadn’t been on that path before so off we went with a trail guide and no map.
Tough to get completely lost with the sea on one side and a major highway not far away on the other side but at least we could give it a valiant effort. With Jim still recovering from some ailments and me beginning to feel the delayed effects of my long hike along Offa’s Dyke we didn’t break any hiking speed limits along this path for certain.
The trail guide rated the trail as being pretty simple except that at one point it was necessary to carefully step down off a rock and cross a small crevice. I managed to misjudge the distance down to terra firma (I blame the glasses), and managed to end up on my back lying across the crevice with my feet holding onto one side of the crevice and my head snugly crunched against the other side. Thankfully the crevice was less than 6 feet across or I would have likely ended our walk right then and there. No harm done, just a bit of a stiff neck and headache for a few days. I was wearing my Tilley hat and it cushioned the head bump just enough to prevent any abrasions or serious damage so I pulled myself back up to vertical and off we tramped to Dustaffnage Castle.
The thing that I found interesting about this castle is the fact that the castle was built on a large naturally formed knob of rock outcropping. In this photo from the exterior, you can see the demarcation line where the outside curtain wall meets that natural outcropping. Dustaffnage castle dates back to the 13th century and is one of Scotland’s oldest stone castles.
From Wiki, “A ruined 13th century chapel lies around 150 metres (490 ft) to the south-west of the castle. This was also built by Duncan MacDougall of Lorn, as a private chapel, and features detailed stonework of outstanding quality. The chapel is 20 by 6 metres (66 by 20 ft), and formerly had a timber roof. The lancet windows carry dog-tooth carving, and have fine wide-splayed arches internally. The chapel was already ruinous in 1740, when a burial aisle was built on to the east end, to serve as a resting place for the Captains of Dunstaffnage and their families.”
We had brought sandwiches with us for lunch so sat on benches by the castle and were joined by some fo the local bird population eager for us to drop a crumb or two.
After our lunch we continued the hike back to our vehicle and decided to head over to Oban, Scotland for a look around. Oban is a popular seaside tourist town and boat access to the surrounding islands. it is also home to the Oban Distillery and high on the hill overlooking the harbour is McCaig’s Tower, an architectural “folly” commissioned by John Stuart McCaig at the end of the 19th century. Only the walls were completed and today it remains as an interesting structure to visit
Getting to the “folly” is a bit of a task with two options, a walk up winding roads or a more direct but steeper combination of staircases and roadways. We chose the more gradual way up and the steeper route down. The folly is a circular wall about 200 feet in diameter with an inner space of various elevations occupied by gardens and bushes. Maintained pathways and lawns provide easy access to all parts of the folly as well as good view of the port of Oban below and the neighboring islands out to sea.
The tide was out while we were visiting Oban. In Canada, I live far from the ocean and don’t see the effect of tides coming and going every day so the sea shore changes between high and low tide continue to amaze me.
We had a wonderful day of exploring, and decided that take away fish & chips would be a good idea back at the caravan so we found a good takeaway on a busy street with no available parking and did the “drive around a bit” before getting an available spot. Back at the caravan, eating the fish and chips really hit the spot. After this sumptuous meal (I love fish and chips!), I decided that my legs weren’t completely exhausted and headed north on a pathway alongside the highway to where I found the village of Benderloch and the Cafe Ben Lora. The management and staff were most helpful, told me many tidbits of information about the history and geography of the area and pointed me further north to the edge of the village where I found the beautiful stonework of St. Modan’s Church as well as an example of a Standing Stone right in the middle of the schoolyard of Locknell Primary School.
The standing stone in the school yard was about 1.5 meters in height. I was totally amazed that something like this would be still standing undamaged in a schoolyard without a large chainlink fence around it. For more information about standing stones in the Benderloch see: Standing Stones