Greenock, Scotland. gateway to the Highlands



Both Scotland and Ireland are notorious for their rain. They are beneficiaries of the North Atlantic Drift, that part of the Gulf Stream that continues on to Europe and brings warm moist water to Scotland, Ireland,  Iceland and Norway. But our ship was fortunate to arrive in Greenock, Scotland on a lovely day.

Glasgow is an industrial city on the Clyde River, but for a long time the Clyde was too shallow for larger ships to reach Glasgow. Greenock was one of the villages built to serve as a port. Subsequently, engineers built bars down the side of the river and the force of the narrowed water carved a channel: “Glasgow made the Clyde and the Clyde made Glasgow” is their saying. At

Dunbarton Rock

Dunbarton Rock

one point, one fifth of the world’s ships were built on the Clyde. Today only a few shipyards survive, but our guide was celebrating two recent orders for ships, one for the military and one she thought was for a hybrid ferryboat that would burn different fuels depending on what was most economical.

Going up river a bit to the Erskine Bridge, we passed Dunbarton Rock, the oldest fortified spot (6th Century) in Britain. We then headed up Loch Long, a salt water intrusion, not a river.



Scotland has a relatively narrow neck between Glasgow and Edinburgh. The land to the east is more fertile and has more farming. The land to the west raises more sheep. A geological fault divides land to the south, the flatter “lowlands,” from that to the north, the more mountainous (3000 to 4000 feet) “highlands.” We left an area of low forested hills and drove into the edge of the “highlands” towards the United Kingdom’s first national park, Loch Lomond. The relatively narrow valleys and hills are reminiscent of western Pennsylvania where my Scotch-Irish ancestors settled.

Loch Lomond

Loch Lomond

Loch Lomond is the largest freshwater lake in Scotland by area. Loch Ness, which is smaller but deeper, has more water (room for Nessie?). Loch Lomond was made a national park in 2002, but unlike in the U.S., the government doesn’t own the land. Like the Lakes District (see September 2013), the national park designation simply imposes use restrictions on the land to better preserve it for the future; too many people already owned the land for it to be acquired at this late date.

Luss, a village on the lake, was owned by the local lord. Its residents once quarried slate nearby, and the cottages all have picturesque slate roofs, lovely gardens and flowers.

Loch Long

Loch Long

We crossed the peninsula between Loch Long and Loch Fyne on a road built by the Hanoverian Kings of England to suppress rebellion in the highlands. The original road winds up the valley below a more modern road built on the  hillside.  Unfortunately, the new highway is on soil that proved to be subject to landslides. We had construction work to deal with but no landslides. Near the top, we came to an Hanoverian era rest stop named “Rest and Be Thankful” by the soldiers who built the road.  We rested an were thankful.

The Campbells, Dukes of Argyle, long ruled the area, but in 1760 one of them decided to build a new more comfortable castle. The local villagers were too close to his preferred site, so he tore down their village and built them a new one, Britain’s first planned community, Inveraray.

Inveraray Castle is still the home to the young 13th Duke of Argyle and his family, but he also has a job and home in London. We were told that when at the castle, he likes to work in the shop and enjoys meeting the tourists while wearing an apron labeled “Duke.”

IMG_6646Over the years the grand hall has been modified into more comfortable dining and sitting areas, and one can actually imagine living in this castle. There is a large high central hall decorated in the 15th Century with the arms of the period – which must be hard to dust – and the family coat of arms on the ceiling high above. A large impressive sculpture of the Black Prince on horseback was on one mantel. It was done by Princess Louisa, one of Queen Victoria’s daughters and wife to one of the Dukes. She was a talented artist.

We walked up a staircase lined with small family portraits (one by Van Dyke) to bedrooms. These, however, were basically museums. The family lives in similar quarters on the other side of the castle.

One large portrait in the dining room was of the Duke of Hamilton. A beautiful young woman, Elizabeth Gunning, married Hamilton and had two sons by him which later also each became a Duke of Hamilton. After his death, she married a Duke of Argyle and had two sons by him each which became a Duke. (I wonder if Hamilton’s portrait hung on the walls during the marriage to Argyle.) We were interested in this woman who married two Dukes and bore four Dukes. And we were more intrigued when we ran across her portrait yet again outside Dublin in another castle, Malahide.


About ralietravels

Ray and Alie (Ralie) are a retired couple who love to travel. Even during our working years, we squeezed a trip in whenever we could, often when we had to stretch the budget to do so. We have been fortunate to vacation in all 50 states, all the provinces of Canada and one territory and a little more than 50 countries. We like to drive, but we particularly love to travel back roads to find unusual sights, people, and experiences.
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One Response to Greenock, Scotland. gateway to the Highlands

  1. Keith and Loraine says:

    The scenery, architecture and the beautiful pieces of gold etc are something else again. It is amazing to know how beautiful the other side of the world is. Thank you for sharing. Love Loraine


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