West coast island itinerary

Looking over to the Old Man of Storr at the foot of the Storr Mountain on the Trotternish Ridge, Isle of Skye.
The Magic of Skye ››

Discover the magic of Skye, one of Scotland's most beautiful islands, by following this itinerary via public transport.

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Tobermory, Isle of Mull
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Get inspiration by taking a look at the VisitScotland Scottish Islands board on Pinterest.

A man admires the clear sea view as he sits on a rock ledge above a beach where he has left his kayak, Island of Inch Kenneth
Argyll & The Isles ››

Experience Argyll & The Isles and explore charming towns and villages, enjoy clear waters and stroll along empty beaches.

From Arran in the Firth of Clyde to the romance of the Isle of Skye, the western coast of Scotland has islands which vary from the traditional holiday playground to the wild and peaceful. A good network of ferry services makes getting around straightforward and will give you the freedom to hop from island to island.

  • Bowmore jetty, looking across to the distillery, Islay
    Bowmore jetty, looking across to the distillery, Islay
  • A guided tour of Brodick Castle Gardens, Isle of Arran
    A guided tour of Brodick Castle Gardens, Isle of Arran
  • Looking up the main driveway of Dunvegan Castle and Gardens
    Dunvegan Castle and Gardens
  • Iona Abbey, Iona
    Iona Abbey, Iona
  • Tobermory

From the Ayrshire port of Ardrossan, you can take the ferry to Arran. This island has been a popular holiday destination for years, as it offers a package of Scottish landscapes, attractions and activities. Due to a government-backed scheme, the price of travelling by ferry to Arran was reduced from October 2014 onwards.

Brodick Castle and Country Park is a popular attraction for the whole family to visit. A former seat of the Dukes of Hamilton, the castle is home to fantastic displays of furniture, paintings and trophies. Explore the garden to see the famous collection of rhododendrons.

If you want to spend more than a day on Arran, you can take part in activities such as walking, paragliding, golf and cycling or visit attractions including the Isle of Arran Heritage Museum and Lochranza Castle.

Take time to drive around the island by the coast road, passing the historic standing stones of Machrie Moor and offering views of the imposing mountain of Goatfell.

As well as its attractions and activities, the island is well-known for its vast array of local produce. Visit the Isle of Arran Distillery in Lochranza, which offers tours and tastings around the distillery and visitor centre. The island also produces beer, cheese and ice cream.

Leave the island by the seasonal Lochranza to Claonaig ferry which runs until the end of October or out of season back on the ferry to Ardrossan. Arriving in Claonaig on the Kintyre peninsula, take the B8001 north to Kennacraig for the ferry to Islay, arriving at Port Ellen.

Islay is noted for whisky distilling and there is a choice of eight distilleries to visit, including Bowmore Distillery, north of Port Ellen on the A846, the oldest legal distillery in Scotland, set up by John Simpson in 1779.

Take the A847 westward to visit the Museum of Islay Life. Housed in a former church, the museum presents island heritage through artefacts and photographs covering Edwardian and Victorian times and the island’s story of whisky distilling.

Return east after the museum visit to Loch Gruinart, a nature reserve which offers gentle walking past quiet beaches with views out to Colonsay.

Take the short ferry crossing from Port Askaig to Jura. This island has one road, one distillery, one hotel, few people and lots of red deer making it the perfect getaway and ideal place for wildlife.

There is a sign at the end of the public road but beyond this is the remote farmhouse where the writer George Orwell wrote his futuristic novel 1984.

Scale the peaks of the Paps of Jura if you feel like a challenging walk before continuing your whisky tour with a trip to the famous Jura Distillery.

After heading back to Islay from Jura, take the ferry back to Kennacraig for the drive north to Oban. Alternatively you can take the ferry from Islay to Oban, via Colonsay, on certain days.

From Kennacraig, take the A83 north to Lochgilphead and join the A816, heading north to Oban. From this town, known as the Gateway to the Isles, you can take the ferry to Craignure on Mull.

Mull is the largest of the Inner Hebridean isles. Discover the dungeons and state rooms of Duart Castle, a 13th century fortress which was the ancestral home of Clan Maclean. It stands on a crag overlooking the Sound of Mull and spectacular views can be enjoyed from the battlements.

This island is one of the best places in Europe to spot white-tailed sea eagles, and there is a guided walk and bird hide at Glen Seilisdeir. Look out for the largest bird of prey in Britain, with a wing span of up to 8 ft.

Cross on the ferry to Iona, which takes foot passengers only. Explore Iona Abbey, built by St Columba in the sixth century and the burial site of early Scottish kings. The 1,450th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival on the island was marked in 2013.

Take a walk along one of the beautiful beaches before heading back to Mull and along the road to Tobermory, which is known for its colourful houses around the port. Mull’s main town has a museum, distillery, craft shops and a gallery.

Leave Mull on the ferry from Tobermory to Kilchoan, continuing on the B8007 through the beautiful scenery of the Ardnamurchan peninsula.

Take the A861 and the A830 to the port of Mallaig, where you can take the ferry to Armadale on Skye. Visit Armadale Castle Gardens, a beautiful collection of mature gardens with a selection of walking routes and nature trails to follow. The castle is also home to the Museum of the Isles, which tells the story of the powerful Clan Donald.

Take the A851 north for A87 to Broadford, a village with a range of craft outlets. From Broadford, take the B8083 to Elgol, where there is a signposted walk from the car park on the hill before the harbour. The first part of the walk is gentle and you can enjoy magnificent views of the Cuillin hills across Loch Scavaig.

Take the A87 for Portree, the island’s main town, and continue north on the A855, which offers magnificent scenery at several points, including the Quiraing. Circle west to join the A87, then continue west on the A850 for Dunvegan Castle, the seat of Clan Macleod for seven centuries.

Return to the mainland, crossing the Skye road bridge to Kyle of Lochalsh. From here you can take the Seaprobe Atlantis, the UK’s only passenger carrying semi-submersible boat which gives visitors a close-up look at marine life through the underwater observation windows.