From rural getaways to isles lying just off the mainland, Scotland’s west coast is easy to explore with the affordable and reliable ferry services.
Oban’s bustling port is an excellent place to start island hopping as it is well-known as the Gateway to the Isles. Admire the beautiful landscapes of Lorn on a sea cruise along Loch Etive, before making your way round the jagged coast to admire the iconic Castle Stalker, which enjoys a superb setting, overlooking Loch Linnhe.
Head to Mull, to explore Tobermory’s brightly coloured seafront buildings and the fascinating Mull Museum. During your visit, bag a Munro by climbing Ben More, and soak up the panoramic views over the Sound of Mull, Staffa, Ulva and Iona.
For a more relaxing break, take the short boat trip to tranquil Iona, which is a tiny island close to the southern tip of Mull, to absorb the deep spirituality of Iona Abbey and explore the historic sites with Pictish carvings and Celtic crosses that have made their mark on the island’s strong heritage. 2013 marks the 1,450th anniversary of the arrival of St Columba on Iona.
Sail to Fingal’s Cave on the uninhabited island of Staffa to hear the unique acoustics that inspired Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture before carrying on island hopping to uncover the unspoilt northerly isles of Tiree and Coll. Adrenaline junkies can make the most of the crashing waves of Scotland’s surfing capital, Tiree, with sailing and other watersports also available.
On Islay meanwhile, there are eight distilleries where you can taste the distinctively peaty flavours of the Whisky Coast. Nearby Jura has a larger population of deer than people and nearby you can witness the dramatic Corryvreckan Whirlpool, the world’s third largest whirlpool on a guided boat tour. The pounding roar of the swirling waters can sometimes be heard over 10 miles away.
Bute sits right next to the Cowal Peninsula, and is easily accessible with regular ferry services. The island has a rich heritage, with rugged open spaces and amazing views. Visit the town of Rothesay which has a Victorian frontage cradling a picturesque bay and a great 13th century castle. The 19th century Gothic mansion of Mount Stuart is inspired by art, history, mythology and astrology, while the Bute Discovery Centre offers historic insights and a genealogy centre. To explore the island on foot, follow the West Island Way, a 30 mile route around the coast and inland.