Ancestry

Things to Do in Argyll & The Isles

Argyll is a beautiful coastal region, featuring many islands, stunning seascapes, welcoming towns, and hundreds of gems and incredible attractions to visit. Situated on the west coast of mainland Scotland, you can delve into the fascinating island culture and way of life whilst witnessing marine wildlife in its natural habitat, exploring many historic sites and enjoying the scenic outdoors .

Or maybe you'd prefer  a relaxing getaway? Slowing down your travels and embracing all that Argyll & The Isles has on offer is a unique way to holiday in Scotland. It's also a great way to make your travel a bit more meaningful, by forming connections with the places you visit, savouring the moment, and embracing the peacefulness of a trip in Scotland. With so many experiences to be had, and all within easy reach, you won't be lost for things to see, do or visit.

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Inveraray, Kilmartin Glen, Oban, Isle of Coll, Isle of Tiree

Highlights

Kilmartin Glen, Inveraray Castle, Inveraray Jail, Crinan Canal, Craignish Cruises, Corryvreckan Whirlpool, Isle of Seil

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Argyll & The Isles

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Inveraray

Located on the banks of Loch Fyne, Inveraray is a traditional town in the region and boasts a spectacular area to explore, including an ancient castle and intriguing attractions.
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Inveraray Castle

Kick start your travels with a trip to Inveraray Castle. Perched on the shores of Loch Fyne, this castle is situated in a stunning location surrounded by natural Scottish landscapes. A walk around the castle and grounds is guaranteed to be relaxing, yet also educational and inspiring. The Armoured Hall boasts an incredible collection of 1,300 pieces, including Brown Bess muskets, Lochaber axes and 18th century Scottish broadswords. Elsewhere, admire magnificent French tapestries in the Tapestry Drawing Room, as well as many examples of intricate Scottish, English and French furniture, and countless artworks too.

Inveraray Jail

Head on next to Inveraray Jail where you can step back in time to uncover the harrowing true tales and stories of the men, women and children who spent time in this prison. The building itself is also an incredibly well-preserved historic site. In fact, it's one of the best-preserved jail and courtrooms in the world. Delve into the gory details of the Torture, Death and Damnation exhibition, take your seat in the courtroom and listen to real excerpts from trials that happened centuries ago, walk the narrow corridors and see the crowded cells of the Old Prison, and wander through the prison grounds where prisoners took their exercise.

Dun Na Cuaiche

Once you've explored some of the sights in Inveraray, it's time to stretch your legs and soak in the beautiful surroundings with a woodland walk. Dun Na Cuaiche peak is located just north of Inveraray and is a prominent feature of Argyll's landscape, and is a great place to get outdoors and admire the views. There is a good marked path to follow for most of the route, although it is a steep ascent so make sure you're properly equipped with the right clothing and footwear.

Cruachan Power Station

If you journey 30 minutes north from Inveraray, you'll come across the Cruachan Power Station. Also known as the Hollow Mountain, a huge cavern is hidden deep within the mountain of Ben Cruachan, which is high enough to house the Tower of London. Inside there are huge turbines which convert the power of water into electricity. This experience is truly unique and is a great learning opportunity for young families and adults alike.

*Guided tours are currently unavailable, but hope to be back up and running in early 2022!

If you're looking for a good night's kip, why not stay nearby in the Ben Cruachan Inn? This award-winning inn offers delightful rooms and self-catering apartment suites, with stunning views across Loch Awe or to the mountains behind.

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Kilmartin

Famous for its numerous historic sites, Kilmartin features more than 350 ancient monuments, 150 of which are prehistoric, including rock carvings, standing stones, and Neolithic and Bronze Age burial cairns. These are the remnants of Dunadd, the capital of an ancient kingdom, and Dalriada, an ancient Gaelic kingdom, can also be found nearby.
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Kilmartin Glen

Up first is Kilmartin Glen. A popular spot located between Oban and Lochgilphead, this ancient site dates back 5,000 years and is considered to have one of the most important concentrations of Neolithic and Bronze Age remains in Scotland. Across the glen you can find an array of cairns, standing stones, carved rocks, stone circles, forts and castles. The glen is also home to a range of walking routes and trails you can enjoy on your trip. Explore Moine Mhor and head up Dunadd where you'll come across the incredible rocky outcrop of Dunadd Hill Fort which has been occupied since the Iron Age.

Crinan Canal

Next up on the itinerary is the Crinan Canal. Scotland may be known for its lochs, but our canals are just as spectacular with plenty to see, do and explore here. Experience Crinan Canal by boat, or paddle your way around by canoe or kayak, or cycle along the peaceful towpaths to avoid the traffic - it's great for families too! If you need to stretch your legs, there are plenty of walking routes and trails that let you explore the surrounding area, and you can soak in the incredible views as you walk from one side of the Mull of Kintyre to the other.

Dalriada Heritage Trail

Another way to see the above attractions and sights mixed together is on the Dalriada Heritage Trail. This walking trail boasts seven miles of stunning Argyll landscapes and encompasses a range of archaeological and natural heritage attractions. Starting at Carnasserie Castle, journey through Kilmartin Glen and the Moine Mhor National Nature Reserve, then on to Dunadd Hill Fort and through ancient Atlantic oak woodlands to the Crinan Canal. The trail even takes you to the Achnabreak Rock Art in Kilmartin Glen - some of the largest and most complex ancient markings in Scotland.

Craignish Cruises

A great way to slow down your travels and soak in the stunning Scottish seascapes, is on a wildlife watching cruise. Craignish Cruises in Ardfern offer a chance to get up close to Scotland's marine wildlife and witness them in their natural habitats. As well as wildlife spotting, why not take a trip through the bumpy Corryvreckan Whirlpool? It is one of the largest permanent whirlpools on earth and one of the most dangerous stretches of water around the British Isles. You'll of course be accompanied by an experienced skipper! Offering a choice of outings lasting just an hour to a full day, you'll have plenty of options to choose from that that whole family will love.

Nearby, stop in for a delicious bite to eat at Lucy's Ardfern - with homemade food and baked goods made fresh every day.

Kintail Birds of Prey

Another great wildlife experience is Kintail Birds of Prey. Here you can enjoy a guided tour of over 25 birds of prey, including the magnificent Golden Eagle as well as smaller species such as owls, then learn all about them whilst they fly around you during your own private falconry display. Some experiences also include learning how to handle them as well as having a go at flying several species too.

If you're looking for some cosy accommodation to stay in, why not head to Winterton B&B for spectacular views and miles of beach walks on your doorstep? Or enjoy the freedom of a self-catering stay at Crinan House, a remarkable 18th-century listed building which sits between the sea at Loch Crinan and the estuary of the River Add. Book into the Galley of Lorne Inn for a romantic and relaxing stay in one of their many suites.

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Oban and the Isle of Seil

Oban is a picturesque town on Scotland's west coast and is an ideal base if you're looking to explore our westerly coasts and islands. Nearby, the Isle of Seil is a delightful place for a day trip. The drive over is scenic and peaceful, and you'll cross the small, elegant 18th century humpback Clachan Bridge, popularly known as the 'Bridge over the Atlantic'. There are also great boat trips out to sea and plenty to chances to spot wildlife here too.
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Oban

Perched on the harbour, Oban is a lovely Scottish town featuring magnificent views out to the surrounding islands. There's plenty to see and do here and it's a great place to stay if you're looking to venture to other locations nearby.

In the town itself, wander up to McCaig's Tower which sits atop Battery Hill, looking over the harbour and offers a magnificent view point. This distinct landmark closely resembles that of a Roman Colosseum but only dates back to 1897 and boasts pretty gardens within the grounds and fascinating architectural features to admire.
If you walk along Oban's waterfront you'll come across the ruins of Dunollie Castle. You can head inside and look out the ancient windows for fantastic panoramic views - particularly stunning at sunset!

Just a five minute drive from Oban, Cologin offers cosy cabins and self-catering cottages to snuggle into. Situated in Lerags Glen 2.5 miles south of Oban, you'll be surrounded by lush, tranquil countryside and curious wildlife as your neighbours - perfect for a family getaway.

If you're feeling peckish, there are plenty of local restaurants and eateries in Oban which serve up delicious dishes made from fresh, locally grown ingredients. Head to The Waterfront Fishouse, located on Oban's south pier, which has been serving up some of the best of Scotland's natural larder for over 20 years. If you're not a fan of seafood, not to worry, there is a great selection of non-seafood options such as steak, pork and pigeon, so there'll be something for everyone.

Sealife Adventures

Head over to the Isle of Seil where you can hop aboard a boat cruise with Sealife Adventures. Journey out to the islands and around some of Scotland's most spectacular coastlines, all in the capable hands of your experienced skipper.

Enjoy an exhilarating trip out to the Corryvreckan Whirlpool with incredible views of the many islands, small and large, that can be found on Scotland's west coast.
Or if you'd prefer a more relaxing trip, experience a range of wildlife spotting and whale watching in one of the longest protected areas in Scotland. Keep your eyes peeled for porpoise, minke whales, dolphins, basking sharks, otters and seals and an array of birdlife too.

Arduaine Garden

Spend the afternoon relaxing in the peaceful setting of Arduaine Gardens, just 30 minutes south of Oban. Here you can wander past the garden's renowned collection of rhododendrons as well as blossoming azaleas and magnolias, bright blue Tibetan poppies, Chatham Island forget-me-nots and giant Himalayan lilies, to name a few.

The garden also features the perfect haven for a range of wildlife. Keep a look out for kestrels, badgers, seals and porpoises out at sea. It's a great choice for the whole family too - the kids will be sure to love the Highland cows, hens and ducks in the neighbouring hotel grounds, as well as the play park and walk to the nearby sandy beach.

Loch Melfort Hotel sits adjacent to Arduaine Garden and offers a delightful, pet-friendly stay, with dozens of rooms to choose from. Enjoy mesmerising sea views from your hotel window, relax in the lounge, and tuck into delicious locally sourced food in the onsite restaurant.

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The Isles of Coll and Tiree

Your last day takes you to the stunning Isles of Coll and Tiree. Situated on the west coast, not far from the Isle of Mull, these stunning islands can be accessed by ferry from Oban on the mainland - it's a stunning journey across the sea.
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Coll's Beaches

Coll is a very small, off-the-beaten track Hebridean island, boasting immense scenery, captivating culture and lots of thrilling things to see and do. Did you Coll is only 13 miles long, but is home to 30 bays and beaches?

Fringing this dazzling island is an array of stunning sandy beaches of varying size and features. Many of Coll's beaches are great for swimming, surfing, catching some sun, and building sandcastles, but others have dangerous undertows and currents so you should always be cautious when entering the water. Some beaches are far from local roads, so you may end up having the beach all to yourself! From Crossapol, the largest beach on Coll; and the Cairns of Coll, which can only be reached by kayak; to Port Aoir Ardnish, a rocky shore; and Gallanach, a beautiful white sandy bay, you have plenty to explore.

Dark Skies

Did you know Coll is a designated Dark Sky Community? This means it is one of the best places in Scotland to see the starry constellations of the night sky due to its very low levels of light pollution. Coll also has no mountains to attract cloud cover build up, so a clear night sky is more likely to be on the cards for an evening of stargazing in the winter months.

If you're lucky, you may be able to experience the rare occurrence of Noctilucent Clouds; night shining clouds of ice crystals some 80km above the islands. Also keep an eye out for the wonder of the Aurora Borealis and Milky Way, which can be seen as early as mid-August as the darker nights start to draw in.

Find out more about stargazing in Scotland.

Blackhouse Watersports, Tiree

Over on Tiree, this island is famed for it's perfect surfing conditions. The Tiree Wave Classic is an annual event on the island and sees a range of surfers, new and pro, take to the waves in a series of events. The sport is even a great time for spectators, with surfing, windsurfing and paddle boarding all available to try out, along with a range of other sports and an event village too.

If you don't want to take on the professionals just yet, why not get to grips with your surf board with the help of an experienced instructor? Blackhouse Watersports is a surfing and kitesurfing school located on the idyllic Balevullin Beach. Catering for all ages and abilities, the whole family can join in and make a splash in this relaxed and friendly environment!

Tiree Glass

Wrap up your travels with a visit to the unique Tiree Glass. This small island business recycles glass bottles, old windows or double glazed units, old shop shelving,  tabletops and even TVs, and turns them into stunning works of art. Using a variety of techniques, this recycled glass is sustainably transformed to create intricate, one-of-a-kind designs - perfect for a souvenir or gift to take home to your loved ones.

If you're looking for a place to stay, Coll Storm-Pods offer an eco-friendly and comfortable self-catering stay where you'll be surrounded by wildlife, secluded beaches and dramatic views towards the Outer Hebrides and the Small Isles. Elsewhere, Coll Bunkhouse provides a 5-star, budget-friendly experience, with great facilities and amenities that make it ideal for accommodating large groups. It's the perfect base for exploring the small islands. If you're feeling peckish and fancy dining out, head to the Isle of Coll's only hotel and pub. Coll Hotel is a stunning place to stay and tuck into a dish or two, serving up only the best of Scotland's larder and featuring fresh, seasonal and local produce too.

On Tiree, Mannal House offers a cosy yet contemporary place stay, featuring a picturesque coastal setting, direct access to the beach and stunning views out to the neighbouring islands. If you're looking for an adventure getaway on the island, The Reef Inn is a great place to stay. This chic and stylish guesthouse boasts luxuriously comfy bedrooms, delectable local food and a fully stocked bar with a friendly and welcoming atmosphere.