Inveraray Castle was used in a two-hour episode of Downton Abbey

Inveraray Castle is a great day trip for British Isles cruise passengers or Scottish Highlands explorers

Inveraray Scotland Castle featured on “Downton Abbey” and “Great Estates Scotland”

Inveraray Castle and the nearby town of Inveraray, Scotland are favorites of B and Thorny, discovered during our British Isles cruise. Sitting magically along Loch Fyne, Inveraray Castle should be on your list of “best castles in Scotland.”

This adventure begins with our cruise ship docked at Greencock, outside of Glasgow. Most of our shipmates ventured to Glasgow, but we opted for a private tour into the Scottish Highlands. It was a magical day with the navigation and delightful commentary of our driver, Gordon, of Inverclyde Taxi.

Gordon timed our Inveraray Castle arrival to avoid the big tour groups, so we explored freely with only a handful of visitors. What makes this castle so cool is knowing it has been continuously occupied since the 1300s by chiefs of the Campbell clan. The current Duke and Duchess of Argyll live in the home with their children. The Duke is often found working in the gift shop and autographing books. Family photos trace the history, including the Duke’s two elephant polo world championships, which was a completely new sport to me.

Inveraray Castle first view
This is our first glimpse of Inveraray Castle as we drove in.
Scotland Inveraray Castle garden grounds
Scotland's Inveraray Castle is surrounded by beautiful gardens and grounds.

Allow two hours for touring Inveraray Castle, then visit the gardens

This is actually the “new” castle, built in the 1700s adjacent to the former estate. Do the photos somehow seem familiar? Inveraray Castle served as fictional “Duneagle Castle” for the Downton Abbey 2012 season finale. The show features interior and exterior castle scenes, as well as the surrounding countryside. Inveraray was also featured in the PBS series “Great Estates Scotland.”

The day of our visit was dreary and overcast, not unusual for the British Isles. Our exterior photos certainly don’t do the place justice. You’ll have to imagine a blue sky with billowing clouds and sunshine bringing out the castle stonework’s fine details.

Allow two hours for touring the castle interior. Highlights include visits to the State Dining Room, Tapestry Drawing Room, Armoury Hall, Gallery, Clan Room, Victorian Room, MacArthur Room and Picture Turret. The interior tour concludes in the original basement kitchen, used until the 1950s. Copper pots still hang on the walls and sit atop stoves as if dinner will be prepared any moment.

Inveraray castle scotland dining room
The dining room looks like guests should be coming in any moment.
Inveraray Castle Armoury Hall antique weapons
Inveraray Castle Armoury Hall has an amazing display of antique weapons.

Continue your Inveraray tour with 16 acres of garden

Your interior journey complete, visit the Tearoom if you need food or drink; take a potty break; check out the gift shop and then head outside to tour the extensive grounds and gardens. Due to time constraints, we barely touched the gardens, but what we saw was beautiful and we want to get back and spend more time; a lot more time. The gardens cover 16 acres, including two acres of formal lawns and beds. Beyond the gardens, walking trails take you deeper into the estate grounds, with a guide of key points along the way.

We had lunch in the nearby town of Inveraray, built simultaneously with the castle. The town seems frozen in time. Take away the cars and it’s easy to image you’re walking the streets of a magical village in the 1700s. There are good hotels and restaurants in Inveraray should you be traveling by car or tour group. That gives you time to explore the region’s heritage of whisky, prehistoric sites and yes, more castles.

Learn about the flower houses of Luss and other nearby attractions

kitchen
Copper pots seem to hang ready for use in the old kitchen.
MacArthur Room haunted
The MacArthur Room includes this impressive bed ... but it is rumored to be haunted!