Oban and Lorn
A cluster of houses, shops and attractions can be found around the harbour in Oban, a bustling town known as the Gateway to the Isles, with ferries departing for the Outer and Inner Hebrides.
As you explore, it will not come as a surprise that Oban has a reputation for being the seafood capital of Scotland. The town is also one of Scotland’s oldest sources of single malt scotch whisky, which you can sample for yourself at Oban Distillery. This thriving community boasts one of the most picturesque settings to be found, with houses clinging to steep hillsides surrounding the calm bay. Dominating the skyline is McCaig’s Tower, a monument which rewards visitors with outstanding views across Oban bay to the Isles of Kerrera, Mull and Lismore.
Warmed by the waters of the Gulf Stream, Lorn is the perfect backdrop to the bustling town of Oban. With sweeping mountains and gardens such as An Cala and Ardchattan Priory this is a true horticulturalist’s paradise.
Mull, Iona, Coll and Tiree
Journey across the waters to reach Mull, the largest of the Inner Hebridean isles. Discover the dungeons and state rooms of Duart Castle, which stands proudly on a crag within view of several other castles including Dunstaffnage and Dunollie. Mull is the largest of the islands of Argyll and the third largest in Scotland. It has a rich cultural heritage and some of the most stunning land and seascapes to be found. The island’s main town, Tobermory, is famed for the cheerful colours of its waterfront buildings and the yachts bobbing in the natural harbour.
Follow the coastline to Tobermory where the distinctive colourful houses add a real charm. Used in the popular children’s television series Balamory, this is a fantastic place to visit with the whole family.
Islay, Jura and Colonsay
Whether you are a whisky connoisseur or wish to seek out that first taste, the Isle of Islay boasts eight malt distilleries where the ‘water of life’ truly represents the island’s peaty landscapes, rich farmland and beautiful bays.
From the relatively new distillery at Kilchoman, established in 2005, to the oldest legal distillery on Islay at Bowmore, set up by John Simpson in 1779, few places in the world can offer such a variety of drams.
The history of Islay is fascinating, and is well explained in Port Charlotte’s Museum of Islay Life.
Neighbouring Jura lies across the Sound of Islay and is a very different isle. Sparsely populated and mountainous, red deer roam the land while hillwalkers can uncover views across the surrounding islands as they scale the peaks. The infamous Corryvreckan Whirlpool between the northern tip of Jura and the Isle of Scarba can be a spectacular sight.
To the north west is Colonsay, a much smaller island where you can enjoy Colonsay House & Garden. Explore this informal woodland layout which features an array of plants from around the world. At low tide, take a walk to neighbouring Oronsay to visit the 14th century Augustinian priory.
Mid Argyll (Inveraray, Knapdale, Kilmartin and Crinan)
At every turn, the sea-fringed west Highland landscape of Mid Argyll is steeped in history, from the pre-historic sculptures of Kilmartin and Knapdale to the elegant ducal home of the once feared Clan Campbell.
Mid Argyll is famed for glorious gardens which thrive in the mild climate. Set in the grounds of Kilmory Castle, Kilmory Woodland Park is a magnificent location to begin exploring with a network of paths leading through the trees to a lochside picnic area, bird hide and archaeological interest points.
Inveraray is home to yet another delightful garden at Crarae, where you can admire the national collection of southern beech trees and the fabulous views looking over Loch Fyne. A number of historic attractions can be found in the town, including spooky Inveraray Jail, an award-winning museum detailing stories from medieval times. The spectacular Inveraray Castle is the ancestral home of the Duke of Argyll, Chief of the Clan Campbell, and you can explore its fascinating rooms and wonderful surrounding gardens.
There are more than 800 ancient monuments near Kilmartin, including burial cairns, rock carvings and standing stones. Kilmartin Glen is home to the highest concentration of prehistoric rock art in Europe, and can be found close by the popular Fire Tower cycle trail, with a variety of gentle tracks and challenging climbs.
Crinan offers superb views out over Loch Crinan at the entrance of the well known Crinan Canal.
Kintyre and Gigha
Uncover hidden coves and deserted beaches on the Kintyre Way, a walking route which takes in the charming village of Tarbert and the tranquil Campbeltown. During the summer months, the Kintyre Express links the area with Ballycastle in Northern Ireland.
Campbeltown Heritage Centre is a fascinating way to learn about the cultural, natural and industrial development of Kintyre.
The Gulf Stream warms the waters around Kintyre and wild flowers appear in profusion. The splendid seasonal displays of rhododendrons at Achamore Gardens on the Isle of Gigha offer garden enthusiasts a real treat. The island is also ideal for walks, cycling and birdwatching.
Bute and the Cowal Peninsula
The Cowal Peninsula, a land of beautiful Highland scenery, lies at the western gateway to Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. A short boat ride will transport you across the seas to the tranquil Isle of Bute, a jewel in the treasure trove of Argyll & The Isles.
Getting active couldn’t be easier on the Cowal Peninsula, with Argyll Forest Park offering kayaking on the lochs and horse riding along waymarked trails. The Arrochar Alps are a real draw for serious walkers and hillrunners who particularly love the iconic shapes that include Ben Arthur, otherwise famed as the ‘Cobbler’.
Discover the Cowal Peninsula on foot by following the Cowal Way, a long stretch of 47 miles with glorious scenery, wildlife, standing stones and stone carvings.
Bute is a serene island haven, despite being just a short distance from the mainland, with undulating landscapes, sheltered coves and sandy bays. Visit the Discovery Centre, featuring an exciting interactive exhibition housed in the 1924 Winter Garden. This circular cast iron and glass structure even contains a 90-seat cinema.
Loch Lomond and Helensburgh
Loch Lomond is the largest freshwater loch in the UK and one of over 20 large lochs in the park, which is complemented by a number of smaller lochs and lochans. You can experience a bird’s eye view of Loch Lomond as you soar above the landscape aboard a unique seaplane, or explore the area by foot and take the West Highland Way, Scotland’s first official long distance route.
Helensburgh is renowned for Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Hill House, built as a domestic home in attractive grounds which still boasts the original furniture and interior designs. This picturesque town is the perfect place to wile away an afternoon.