Free places to go
In Argyll & The Isles many museums are free to enter, although they are often supported by donations, and are staffed by knowledgeable volunteers. From Campbeltown Heritage Museum on the eastern tip of the Kintyre Peninsula to island exhibits at Mull Museum and Skerryvore Lighthouse Museum on Tiree, they are full of fascinating artefacts and stories which really bring history to life.
The stunning landscapes of Argyll & The Isles have long inspired artists, so there are many art galleries to browse. Most offer free admission and a chance to pick up something unique to take home. Juno Design Gallery in Dunoon on the Cowal Peninsula features changing exhibitions of jewellery and artworks. Other free galleries include An Tobar on Mull, which is also a vibrant arts venue and café, and Blue Beyond on Tiree where islanders Colin and Susan Woodcock display their wares.
Historic landmarks feature greatly across the landscape of Argyll & The Isles. Many ruins, standing stones and monuments are free to explore. The loch-side ruins of Castle Sween in Achnamara are the remains of one of Scotland’s oldest castles. Carnasserie Castle in Kilmartin was once the home of John Carswell, the publisher of the first book printed in Scottish Gaelic. The landscape of Kilmartin Glen is dotted with hundreds of historic landmarks, including carved stones and prehistoric burial sites.
Look out for other low cost ways to enjoy a day out, such as special offers and deals – did you know that any visitor who arrives at Argyll’s unusual power station Cruachan, The Hollow Mountain by public transport or bike will get a free tour? Meanwhile, once you’ve toured Bruichladdich Distillery Visitor Centre on Islay it’s possible to redeem your ticket as a voucher towards a bottle of whisky to take home.
Cycling past Castle Stalker near Appin, Argyll
Free outdoor activities
The mountain peaks, quiet island tracks, white sandy beaches and large nature reserves of Argyll & The Isles lend themselves to whiling away a free day out in the open-air. There are a range of cycling experiences to enjoy across the region - keen mountain bikers can take on challenging routes such as the Firetower Trails in Achnabreac Forest, while those who prefer road cycling can follow National Cycle Route 78 which runs down Argyll through both Oban and Campbeltown.
There are a range of walks to go on too, including Argyll’s stunning glens and long distance routes such as the Kintyre Way. Whether you walk by the soaring Douglas Firs at Sutherland’s Grove in Balcardine, follow the artists trail through Calgary Woods on the Isle of Mull, or soak up the scenery of Puck’s Glen in Argyll Forest Park on the Cowal Peninsula, you’ll experience Scotland’s outdoors free of charge.
The area’s nature reserves are also great to explore for free, and home to fascinating wildlife. Burg on the Isle of Mull is a National Scenic Area featuring interesting fossils and is also an excellent place to spot golden eagles, red deer and rare moths. At the Knapdale Beaver Trial near Lochgilphead you can see the signs of beaver life as you walk by Loch Dubh, and perhaps spot these re-introduced mammals.
Oban Winter Festival © Stephen Lawson Photography
Expect a warm welcome at events in Argyll & The Isles, including at a range of great occasions across the year which are free to attend.
During Cowal Open Studios in September the peninsula’s artists open their workshop and studio doors to display works such as paintings, pottery and jewellery. Tarbert on Loch Fyne hosts a range of festivals throughout the year which have no entry fee, including Tarbet Seafood Festival. Another favourite is Oban Winter Festival which embraces the festive spirit in November with market stalls and celebrations, including the reindeer parade, street entertainment and fire, light and sound displays.
Smaller free events range from themed family activities at museums and ranger walks on nature reserves to folk music sessions in local pubs and farmers’ markets.