We were staying in the Shearings Hotel in Oban and one fine afternoon (there weren’t many during our week!) we turned right onto Corran Esplanade and walked along to the woodland trail that we had noticed leading up to Dunollie Castle, home of the MacDougall clan. It was a peaceful stroll through the trees and we came to the Dogstone, a tall craggy rock that, according to legend, was where the giant Ossian used to tie up his hound Bran, when hunting. We paid our entrance money and while waiting for the two o’clock tour, went round to the lovely willow garden where we admired the various structures and lovely carved birds displayed on some of the trees. There was also a pretty little fairy garden with messages left by children who’d visited it.
We looked inside the old weaving shed and saw a loom built in 1853 that was eventually bought by Miss Hope MacDougall who in 1954 used it to weave a long length of her clan tartan. Then we met up with our guide, Mary, who pointed out the old buildings that used to house the dairy and the kitchen. She gave us a brief history of the thousand years of Dunollie which had been the historic stronghold of the MacDougalls. She then led us round to the current house, now a private residence and in glorious sunshine (!) we followed her up the steep and rugged footpath into the Keep, the one piece of the ruined castle still standing and she told us a bit about it.
From out on the grass we looked out over the water to the islands and mountains, with a cruise ship moored in the Bay. Then we went down into the 18th century Laird’s House and saw how the gentry and the servants used to live. Among the items on show was the original lock and key from the Castle’s great hall. Displayed in the old kitchen was a fascinating collection of domestic items over the centuries and I was pointing out to my husband Peter a warming pan like his mother had, when a young chap on duty started chatting to us about the house and people who had lived there. It turned out he was Robin MacDougall, great-nephew of the lady named Hope who had done the weaving. He said that we would be able to learn all about her in the Mirror of History Exhibition upstairs. Sure enough there was a whole room devoted to her life and lots of different exhibits from her from her collection of 5000 items that had all started with a single wooden spoon in 1950.
We really enjoyed our visit and were surprised that no-one had recommended it as a place to go while on holiday in Oban.