Walking in Argyll & The Isles

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  • Walking up the main path of Ben Arthur, also known as the Cobbler.
    Walking up Ben Arthur, known as the Cobbler, near Arrochar, Argyll
  • Looking over golden forests and mist to the snow-capped summit of the moutain
    Ben Cruachan near Taynuilt, Argyll
  • Westport beach at Machrihanish on the Kintyre Peninsula.
    Westport beach, Machrihanish
  • A couple walk along the shore at Saddell beach, Kintyre, Argyll.
    Walking on Saddell Beach, Kintyre
  • Tobermory
    Tobermory, Isle of Mull

Blessed with arguably some of the most varied and jaw-dropping landscapes in the country, Argyll & The Isles has it all; staggering mountains, coastline, sea lochs, forests and islands. With such a range of terrain, it’s no coincidence that Argyll has a high footfall amongst walkers.

Walking in Argyll & The Isles

Amongst Argyll’s many offerings are its many Munros. For more of a challenge, try and tackle 22 MacPhies in a day on the Isle of Colonsay, the island’s equivalent to Munro bagging. As well as having a dozen or so large islands to explore, including Mull with its picture perfect capital Tobermory, there is also over 3,000 miles of coastline in the region to be discovered on foot.

You could admire the scenery and imagine what may have happened in the past in the glens and forests you pass through. On the other hand, you can download an mp3 and listen to noted historian Neil Oliver as he walks you through the history of Kilmartin Glen, which boasts over 800 ancient monuments.

Below is just a selection of the many walks that have been mapped out in the region, arranged in level of difficulty. Find out more about walking routes, printable maps and GPS waypoints in Argyll & The Isles.

Easy walks

• Stravanan Bay from Kilchattan Bay
Distance: 5.75km; duration: 1.5 - 2 hours
Discover the remains of a prehistoric stone circle on this route over the narrowest part of the Isle of Bute, taking in stunning views of Stravanan and Kilchattan Bays as well as the Isle of Arran.

• Machrihanish
Distance: 4.5 km; duration: 1.5 hours
This short walk near the village of Machrihanish explores the area’s pristine coastline, including its sandy beaches and views, on a clear day, across to Northern Ireland. The trail offers many excellent wildlife watching opportunities, with grey seal colonies stretching out on the rocks and a bird observatory en route.

• Mull of Oa and the American Monument
Distance: 3.5km; duration: 1 - 1.5 hours
The pinnacle of this walk is the towering American Monument, crowning one of the most dramatic locations in Islay. The lonesome peninsula on which it sits the seas where the lives of American servicemen were lost in the sinking of two troopships off the coast of Islay in 1918.

• Glen Dubh Forest Walk
Distance: 4.5 km; duration: 1.5 – 2 hours
Follow the waymarked trail through this wooded gorge to reach Loch Creran, a lochan in the middle of the Glen Dubh Forest. The return route offers exceptional landscapes, the highlight of which is the views of the mountains of Morven across Loch Creran and down the loch to its islands.

• Calgary Bay and Art in Nature Sculpture Trail
Distance:  3 km; duration: 1 – 2 hours
The short walk to the sandy beach and little harbour at Calgary Bay reveals a treasure trove of sculpture and art work moulded from the natural environment. Expect to see a living willow tunnel, fountain cascades, wood sculptures, a mosaic made from Iona pebbles and more.

Moderate walks

• Crinan and Knapdale Forest
Distance: 3km; duration: 2 hours
Flanked by the Crinan Canal and the Sound of Jura, the Knapdale Forest is in the middle of a National Scenic Area. Stop at the Barnluasgan Information Centre to find out more information about the Scottish Beaver Trail, part of a conservation project which saw  beavers reintroduced to Scotland after an absence of 400 years.

• Black Lochs Circuit and Connel
Distance: 10.5km; duration: 2 - 2.5 hours
Following this route, you’ll discover a series of small lochs, the Black Lochs, hemmed in by woodland with views of Ben Cruachan rising up in the distance. At the start of the walk, you’ll also see the Connel Bridge at the mouth of Loch Etive.

• Kilmun Arboretum
Distance: 2.75km; duration: 1.5 hours
There is a choice of three circuit trails to take which snake through the arboretum, home to 160 different species of trees. The routes are short but strenuous with changing inclines and some steep sections.

• Pulpit Hill and Gallanach
Distance: 7km; duration: 2 hours
Setting off from the centre of picturesque Oban, you’ll climb high above the town to the vantage point of Pulpit Hill for stunning views over the harbour and surrounding area. Continue along the route for views out over the Isle of Kerrera.

• Tobermory Lighthouse circuit
Distance: 5.5km; durations: 2 hours
Setting off on this walk, you’ll first encounter the brightly coloured streets of Tobermory, which have graced TV screens in many guises including children’s programme ‘Balamory’. The culmination of the route is the Rubha nan Gall lighthouse, built in 1859 by the grandfather of Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson. The lighthouse gate is a great vantage point to spot otters.

Strenuous walks

• Beinn Fhionnlaidh
Distance: 16.86km; duration: 6.5 hours
Starting in Glen Etive, this hard walk takes you through forest before entering a clearing and beginning a hill climb to the summit of the Munro Beinn Fhionnlaidh where some minor scrambling on its crags will be required.

• Ben Cruachan
Distance: 19.99km; duration: 7.5 hours
There are two Munros to bagged on this one route. With two peaks, the name Ben Cruachan refers to the mountain as a whole as well as its highest peak but there is also the lesser peak, Stob Diamh. The ascent of craggy Ben Cruachan is steep but easy and includes a circuit of Coire Cruachan and its reservoir.

• Beinn Bheula near Lochgoilhead
Distance: 11.5km; duration: 5 - 6 hours
This Corbett dominates the sea lochs that surround the neck of the Cowal Pennisula so you’ll be guarantee spectacular views of the Loch Lomond National Park and surrounding areas. The rugged mountain has a lot of character, including waterfalls and crags.

• Gigha south coast circular
Distance: 10.5km; duration: 2.5 - 3.5 hours
You’ll need to board the ferry from Tayinloan to reach the Isle of Gigha, the most southerly of the Inner Hebrides and one of the most beautiful. Walking here is fairly challenging but you’ll be rewarded with stunning coastlines and quiet, pristine beaches. Keep an eye out for the island’s impressive windfarm, the standing stones of Bodach and Cailleach and the spouting cave.

• The Cobbler, Arrochar
Distance: 11km; duration: 4 - 6 hours
More commonly known as Ben Arthur, the Cobbler’s distinctive shape has made it extremely popular with walkers. With a much improved path, the route lets you explore both peaks of the mountain before an ascent down a path between the two or for ease; you can return the way you came.

The MacPhies

The Isles of Colonsay and Oronsay, lying north off the coast of Islay, are just a few miles in length but boast some of the best walking in the Argyll & The Isles region thanks to the MacPhies. Named in honour of the islands' historic clan MacPhie, the peaks are Colonsay’s equivalent to Munros but smaller in height. There are 22 MacPhies on the official list, including Beinn Orasa on the Isle of Oronsay which can be reached at low tide by walking across The Strand. Each MacPhie peaks in excess of 300 ft and the challenge is to bag all 22 on a 20-mile connected walk around the islands.

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