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Raise the mainsail and set a course for Argyll & the Isles

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There’s no question that Scotland offers some of the finest sailing experiences in the world, with its breath-taking coastal scenery, quiet coves and myriads of islands.

One of Scotland’s most dramatic and enduring seascapes can be found in Argyll on the west coast and a wonderful way to experience it is from the deck of a yacht or boat.

Our voyage heads south to north, taking advantage of prevailing south westerly winds and explores some stunning places, many of which are easier to reach by boat.

So whether you’re an experienced sailor or just fancy chartering a yacht and a skipper and kicking back, enjoy a sailing holiday in Scotland and let our enchanting coast and inspiring islands seduce your imagination.

Campbeltown

Davaar Island near Campbeltown, Argyll

Davaar Island near Campbeltown, Argyll

Our journey begins in this vibrant Argyll town – one of the largest in the region. Located in the south east of the wild Kintyre peninsula, it’s only 40 miles from Glasgow as the crow flies, but actually a 140-mile drive by road. Summertime ferry services connect Ardrossan and Brodick with the town, and there are scheduled flights from Glasgow. Campbeltown is Scotland’s smallest whisky region consisting of just three distilleries – Scotia, Glengyle and Springbank. In its heyday however, there were 34.

  • Overnight at Campbeltown Marina, in the town centre, has 30 visitor pontoon berths with facilities including toilets and showers, shore power, WiFi, gas and petrol and repair facilities. There’s a well-stocked chandlery and plenty of places to eat out in the town.
  • Don’t miss Glen Scotia, Springbank, and Glengyle distilleries, which all offer tours. Cadenheads Whisky Shop, is a local temple to the ‘water of life’. Golfers will enjoy Machrihanish and Dunaverty golf clubs and Machrihanish Dunes.
  • See a life size cave painting depicting the crucifixion on a lovely walk from Campbeltown to the island of Davaar via a natural shingle causeway. Davaar is a tidal island, so check tide times before you go and keep checking your watch to avoid getting stranded!
  • Eating ashore there are many options locally and the Garden Restaurant at the Ardshiel Hotel and Café Bluebell are well worth visiting.
  • Getting around West Coast Motors run regular bus services (service 200/442) between Campbeltown and Machrihanish and bike hire is also available in town.

Isle of Islay

Yachts moored up at Port Ellen, Isle of Islay

Yachts moored at Port Ellen, Isle of Islay

Another of Scotland’s whisky regions, the beautiful island of Islay, or ‘Scotland’s Whisky Isle’, is a must-visit. Now home to a remarkable nine distilleries with Ardnahoe opening this year, Islay is ideal if you’re fond of a wee dram, enjoy watching wildlife, or simply like strolling along beautiful broad beaches.

  • Overnight you’ll find 18 clearly marked visitor berths at Port Ellen Marina pontoons, which are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The port is quite shallow and fees include water and electricity, showers, laundry and other facilities are available locally.
  • Don’t miss the Three Distilleries Trail, starting at Port Ellen. It’s a popular footpath connecting the distilleries of Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg, which all welcome visitors.
  • See thousands of over-wintering birds as they arrive at Loch Indaal each autumn. Getting to Bowmore or Bruichladdich on the shores of Loch Indaal is easy using the 450/451 bus service. This is also the perfect opportunity to explore another two of Islay’s distilleries – Bruichladdich and Bowmore. If the sun is over the yardarm and you prefer gin, Bruichladdich also produces The Botanist!
  • Eating ashore linger awhile at Ardbeg Distillery and enjoy something tasty at the Old Kiln Café.  You’ll also find the Sea Salt Bistro & Takeaway and the Islay Hotel in Port Ellen and the local Spar shop has a great deli and makes really good filled rolls!
  • Getting around there are regular bus services between major settlements including Port Ellen, Bowmore, Port Askaig, Port Charlotte and Portnahaven.

Isle of Jura

The Jura Hotel and Jura Distillery, Isle of Jura, Argyll

The Jura Hotel and Jura Distillery, Craighouse, Isle of Jura © VisitScotland/John Duncan

Untamed and wild Jura, north of Islay, is probably best known for its iconic peaks and the Corryvreckan Whirlpool, the third largest in the world, which lies between Jura and neighbouring Scarba. Jura is the best place to escape the everyday – it certainly worked for writer George Orwell, who completed his famous dystopian novel 1984 here in the mid 1940’s.

  • Overnight head for Craighouse Pier on the east of the island, where you’ll find 8 moorings. There are coin-operated shower and laundry facilities at the nearby Jura Hotel.
  • Don’t miss the Isle of Jura distillery just along the road from the Jura Hotel in Craighouse. Hillwalking the Paps of Jura for suitably experienced and equipped walkers is a must, with panoramic views to Islay, Colonsay, Gigha, Kintyre and Mull.
  • See and hear the haunting red deer stag rut each autumn. Jura’s red deer population outnumbers islanders by 25:1.
  • Eating ashore Jura is a sparsely populated island, so options for eating out are limited, but there’s great food and drink available at the Jura Hotel and at The Antlers Bistro, both in Craighouse.
  • Getting around Garelochhead Coaches operate limited bus services on the island between Feolin and Craighouse and Craighouse and Inverlussa.

Crinan

Lock Number 9 at Cairnbaan, Crinan Canal, Argyll

Lock Number 9 at Cairnbaan, Crinan Canal, Argyll © Richard Elliot

This lovely harbour village is perhaps best known for Britain’s most beautiful shortcut – the 9-mile Crinan Canal, which connects the Sound of Jura with Loch Gilp and Loch Fyne. There’s a great network of paths here including a lovely walk to Castle Dounie and the canal towpath, leading into the heart of Knapdale and eventually to Ardrishaig, is perfect for walking or cycling.

Kilmelford

Loch Melfort Hotel, Arduaine, Argyll

Loch Melfort Hotel, Arduaine, Argyll

The sheltered anchorage of Loch Melfort makes Kilmelford a popular haven for yachts. This is an incredibly scenic part of Scotland and there are many lovely walks to enjoy and some great trout fishing available in local hill lochs.  

  • Overnight Kilmelford Yacht Haven offers 15 visitor berths and facilities include free WiFi, toilets and showers, shore power, a boat hoist, a slipway, a fuel berth, gas supplies, chandlery and repair facilities.
  • If you prefer a shorter leg from Crinan, then stop off at Craobh Marina, which has 20 visitor berths or Ardfern Yacht Centre, a little further south has 20+ visitor berths.
  • Don’t miss historic Kilmartin Glen, which is 13 miles south of Kilmelford. Here you’ll find more than 350 ancient monuments within a six mile radius of the village. West Coast Motors operate bus service 23/423 between Kilmelford and Kilmartin.
  • See colourful floral displays at Arduaine Gardens – one of the Glorious Gardens of Argyll – located around 4 miles south of Kilmelford and also on the 23/423 bus route.
  • Eating ashore the Loch Melfort Hotel is a short walk from the yacht haven. A little off the main road, but worth a visit is the Galley of Lorn Inn at Ardfern about 9 miles south of Kilmelford.
  • Getting around West Coast Motors operate bus service 23/423, which runs between Oban and Lochgilphead.

Oban

Gylen Castle, Isle of Kerrera, Argyll

Gylen Castle, Isle of Kerrera, Argyll

This busy ferry port is Argyll’s biggest town and principal transport hub with road, rail, ferry and air links. Enjoy lovely views towards the Isle of Mull from McCaig’s Tower, perched high above the town, stroll along its busy high street and nearby Ganavan Sands or relax in one of Oban’s pubs or restaurants.

Lochaline

White-tailed sea eagles are often seen around Mull

White-tailed sea eagles are often seen around Mull and Lochaline © Neil McIntyre

This pretty village in the Sound of Mull, might only have 300 locals, but it’s spectacularly secluded and scenic and bursting with wildlife, so it’s well worth mooring up here.

  • Overnight Lochaline Harbour provides 30 berths for visitors and Lochaline village is just a short walk away. Facilities include WiFi, toilets and coin operated shower and laundry facilities, power and water are included in the fees.
  • Don’t miss diving in clear waters with Lochaline Dive Centre. There are a number of wrecks to explore and you might be lucky enough to swim with 30 ft long plankton-feeding basking sharks in the summer months.
  • See basking sharks (summer months), seals, otters, white-tailed sea eagles and other marine wildlife.
  • Eating ashore the Lochaline Hotel offers tasty home-cooked meals and there’s the 02 Café at Lochaline Dive Centre. Don’t miss the excellent award-winning Whitehouse Restaurant – Scottish Sourcing category winners in the recent Scotland Food & Drink Excellence Awards.

Tobermory

An aerial view of Tobermory and harbour

An aerial view of Tobermory and harbour © VisitScotland/John Duncan

Journey’s end leads us to the colourful town of Tobermory on the beautiful Isle of Mull, Scotland’s third largest island. There’s lots to explore in the town, including a whisky distillery, chocolate shop, bakery, candle company, silversmith, art gallery and there are some great pubs and eateries here too.

  • Overnight Tobermory Harbour has 50 berths for visitors and full facilities are available. Within the harbour building is Mull Aquarium and the Tobermory Distillery, museum, arts centre and theatre are all close by. There are lovely walks in adjacent Aros Park and to the local lighthouse.
  • Don’t miss a tour of Tobermory Distillery, established in 1798. It’s also well worth taking a walk around Aros Park’s lovely woodlands, especially during the autumn months.
  • See magnificent white-tailed sea eagles with Mull Eagle Watch from their hide at Craignure – the island is renowned for these ‘flying barn doors’. A wildlife trip with Sea Life Surveys might provide sightings of dolphins, whales and other wildlife in the Sound of Mull. Or call into the Hebridean Whale & Dolphin Trust’s Discovery Centre to learn about these fascinating creatures?
  • Eating ashore if you love seafood, then visit The Mishdish Seafood Restaurant & Oyster Bar at the Mishnish. The seafood theme continues in the award-winning Café Fish. The Hebridean Lodge serves dinner Monday to Friday or for something more al fresco, try the Tobermory Chip Van, where the best quality fish and scallops are cooked to order.
  • Getting around West Coast Motors run regular daytime and early evening bus services between Tobermory and Craignure.

Visit the Sail Scotland website for much more detailed information about sailing in Argyll & the Isles. If you’re shorter on time, then take a look at the 7 day Argyll whisky and sailing itinerary. May you always have fair winds and following seas!

 

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