Autumn and winter are wonderful times of year to explore Argyll & The Isles. Blessed with the warming effect of the Gulf Stream, this unique coastal region with its shimmering lochs, dramatic glens and island jewels remains vibrant as ever.
Whether it’s an invigorating break crammed with outdoor activities and sight-seeing, or time spent relaxing, shopping and making fantastic new foodie discoveries, Argyll & The Isles have something to offer visitors of all interests and all ages.
Here are just some ways you can set about experiencing the best the region has to offer this season and beyond.
EXPLORE BY BIKE
- Wild About Argyll Bikepacking Trail. This thrilling route spans varied terrain over 650 km and is a great option for those looking to spend a few days exploring the region’s best-loved spots including Helensburgh, Oban, Cowal and Kintyre. While it’s best tackled by gravel and mountain bikes, there are plenty stretches of quiet tarmacked road and flat cycle paths perfectly suited for regular road bikes. If you get tired, simply hop on a train from one of several stations located along the route.
- Argyll’s Secret Coast. Uncover a magical escape on the Cowal peninsula, a hauntingly beautiful landscape nestled between Loch Fyne and the Kyles of Bute. Spend a day exploring it on two wheels and follow a 108 km loop which starts along the first 25 km of the Sustrans NCN 75. Beyond that the route unfurls along the banks of beautiful lochs, lofty mountain heights and untouched coastline.
- National Route 78. Tackle a section of the Caledonia Way, one of Scotland’s most epic cycling trails. It runs from Campbeltown to Inverness, taking in iconic locations like Kintyre and the Great Glen. From exhilarating upland sections to endless tracts of traffic-free road, it’s a great choice for cyclists of all abilities, showcasing some of the finest scenery the west coast has to offer.
LOCHSIDE RETREATS & COASTAL ADVENTURES
- Staffa Tours. Choose from four boat tours departing from Oban to see remarkable wildlife of Staffa, Mull and the Treshnish isles. At this time of year, the islands remain a magnet for thousands of wintering birds while the beaches see the arrival of grey seal pups. Keep your eyes peeled for red deer stags rutting on windswept hillsides, golden eagles soaring overhead and otters frolicking in the shallows. Some tours also include a visit to the geological phenomenon of Fingal’s Cave found on uninhabited Staffa. Experience the structure’s tremendous acoustics and huge interior composed of immense hexagonal columns of basalt, both of which have inspired great art, music and ancient legends.
- Loch Linnhe. No visit to Argyll is complete without a stop to admire one of Scotland’s most scenic and photographed lochs. Watch as the sun dips behind the inky silhouette of Castle Stalker and witness one of the loch’s mesmerising sunsets. They are never so vivid than during the winter season.
- Portavadie Spa & Leisure. After a busy day soaking up the beauty of Loch Fyne, check-in to this Lochside spa resort and let your troubles float away in the outdoor heated infinity pool before retiring to your modern yet cosy self-catering cottage or apartment. There’s also a gym and indoor pool as well as spa treatments and an award-winning restaurant with panoramic views. For those after something a little more rustic there’s also a brand-new campsite area.
FAMILY DAYS OUT
- Inveraray Jail & Country Court. Experience a different kind of lockdown at this 19th century prison. Download the free audio guide to your smartphone and listen to colourful characters from the jail’s storied past as you step inside the original cells and the historic country courtroom.
- Kilmartin Glen. Boasting more than 350 ancient monuments within a 6-mile radius, explore one of the most precious archaeological sites in Europe. The museum is currently closed but you and the kids can still venture outside and discover Neolithic and Bronze Age cairns, standing stones, stone circles, forts and rocks imprinted with ancient human hands.
- Seafari Adventures. The coastal waters of Argyll are teeming with wildlife at this time of year. Organise a private charter aboard an open rigid inflatable boat (RIB) in search of whales, porpoises, seal, dolphins, basking sharks, or maybe even a rare otter sighting, and pay a visit to the Gulf of Corryvreckan to see the world’s third largest whirlpool.
- Glenbranter Forest. Set in the Argyll Forest Park, this tranquil forest of towering oaks is perfect for a leisurely family stroll. It also happens to be a red squirrel stronghold making it an instant hit with younger kids. Keep a look out for the furry creatures while following the Broadleaves Trail or the Waterfall Trail which leads to the impressive Allt Robuic gorge. Please not the terrain of the latter is steep and uneven in parts.
EAT, SHOP & STAY
- Spirited Soaps. Pick up a deliciously scented stocking filler at this small artisan soap works and shop located in Islay town of Bowmore. The handcrafted whisky bar soaps and bath products are best-sellers.
- Glenegedale House. The magnificent seasonal platters served at this sumptuous period property are worth the ferry ticket to Islay alone. Served on reclaimed whisky barrels, guests are treated to a tantalising selection of fresh seafood, locally smoked charcuterie and the finest Scottish cheeses; all accompanied by homemade bread, oatcakes, and signature Islay malts. Be sure to leave room for the traditional Scottish breakfast the next day.
- Islay Oysters. Hop on the ferry from Kennacraig to Islay and get a taste of traditional island life – and locally grown oysters – while staying in the self-catering cottage of this family-run oyster farm. Harvested from the nutrient-rich Atlantic sea water heated by the Gulf Stream, enjoy these sweet and succulent delicacies with a wee dram of local whisky.
- Argyll Coffee Roasters. Spending some time on Argyll’s Secret Coast? If you’re in the vicinity of the village of Tighnabruaich, stop for a cup of coffee brewed from seasonal hand-roasted beans at the Botanica at the Barn café, located five minutes down the road from this independent roastery.
- Fynewood Gallery. Visiting the charming Victorian resort town of Dunoon on the Cowal Peninsula? Browse an incredible array of artworks and crafts created across Argyll under the single roof of this gallery. You can also peruse the beautiful timber creations including bespoke sculptures, furniture, home accessories and gifts.
Tempted to book an overnight stay or longer in Argyll & The Isles? There are many fantastic properties ready to welcome guests. Use our accommodation listings to find the place that’s right for you, from country house hotels to cosy cottages.