Feast your imagination and fill up your senses on our six day island hopping tour of Mull, Iona & Skye from Glasgow.
Departing from Glasgow on Monday, we're soon in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. We call in at the idyllic village of Luss, a picture postcard destination where quaint 18th and 19th century cottages wynd down to the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond. The church is worth a visit and you can learn about the remarkable history of this 1500-year-old settlement. Look for the Viking grave in the churchyard, a classic example of a 'hogback' lair. We'll make our way over the mountain pass through the ‘Arrochar Alps’ which peaks at the ‘Rest and Be Thankful’, a famous Scottish landmark. A band of soldiers etched the words in stone as they constructed the military road in 1750. As the road loops round the northern tip of Loch Fyne you’ll catch site of the white Georgian buildings of Inveraray, Scotland’s first planned community. You can explore the town’s quaint streets during our lunch stop, or visit grand Inveraray Castle and its magnificent gardens.
Our Highland tour continues through Scotland’s untamed west coast and you won’t be short of photo opportunities of lochs, glens, mountains and castles. The pretty fishing village of Oban, ‘The Gateway to the Isles’, is now a bustling tourist town and where we board the ferry to begin our island adventure. Arriving on spectacular Mull we head for Tobermory where we stay for three nights. You’ll recognise the town’s brightly-painted harbour buildings from many a postcard and painting.
Our second day starts with a drive to the small ferry landing at Fionnphort. The sacred Isle of Iona has been a place of Christian pilgrimage for centuries and you’ll start to appreciate its unique atmosphere as our small passenger ferry glides over turquoise waters to land us there in 10 short minutes. The Celtic Christian religion was founded here by St Columba and his companions when they arrived from Ireland in 563 AD. Enjoy the tranquillity of Iona Abbey and then stroll up Torr an Aba, a rocky outcrop where archaeologists believe St Columba’s writing hut stood. You can also discover the small stone building of St Oran’s Chapel and the graveyard Reilig Òdhrain, thought to be the burial place of 48 ancient kings of Scotland including Macbeth.
If you hike up to Iona’s highest point at Dun I you’ll enjoy wide views to other Hebridean islands such as Tiree, Coll and the Treshnish Islands. On a cloudless day you can glimpse the Small Isles of Rhum and Eigg as well as Skye and even the coast of Ireland. If you’re an explorer, why not take the three hour boat ride to uninhabited Staffa to see the unique geological features of Fingal’s Cave. Mendelssohn was moved to write his Hebrides overture after a visit. You’ll have an hour to spend here and the chance to see lots of sea life such as puffins, razorbills, guillemots and gannets. You might be rewarded with a ringside seat to watch dolphins and porpoises playing, or even spot minke and fin whales or the elusive basking shark.
A tour of the Isle of Mull wouldn’t be complete without encountering the Kilmore standing stones near Dervaig. There are remains of a Highland clearance village and signs of an ancient fort close by. Calgary Bay is one of Scotland’s most spectacular beaches and we’ll have a break here so you can appreciate its sparkling white sands. Look out for the white-tailed eagle. The tiny Isle of Ulva is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts who love to glimpse sea eagles, golden eagles and otters. We’ll take the short ferry ride over so you can see the standing stones that date back to around 1500 BC and appreciate the untouched shell beaches and lush woodland. This wee island even has a café where you can try local oysters and a museum and heritage centre under the thatched roof of ‘Sheila’s Cottage’. Back in Tobermory there’s a dram of single malt whisky to be savoured at its distillery and restaurants and traditional Scottish pubs to spend an evening in.
Enjoy a lovely view of the Sound of Mull as our ferry departs Fishnish to reach the mainland and the Morvern peninsula. After a short drive and ferry ride across Loch Linnhe, we’re soon delivered into dramatic Glencoe where jagged mountains trail down to the narrow road. It’s easy to picture the bleak February night of 1692 when the MacDonalds were massacred by the Campbells after days of sharing hospitality. In Glencoe your small group joins our Skye tour so you can continue on the second half of your Highlands and islands adventure.
Your tour will travel through the Highland holiday resort of Fort William on route to the Glenfinnan Viaduct, famous as the bridge on the way to Hogwarts. Be ready for stunning panoramic views of Glenfinnan where Loch Shiel extends 17 miles away. This is one of Scotland’s most romantic and legendary spots, the point where Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his army to help him claim the throne for the exiled Stuarts. Eight months later his claim ended in failure at the Battle of Culloden. His fallen clansmen are remembered by the poignant Glenfinnan Monument with its lonely piper on top. From Glenfinnan your tour will continue north through Glens Garry, Clunie & Shiel to one of Scotland’s most iconic castles Eilean Donan. The fortress rises proudly out of its small island and has been immortalised in movies such as Highlander, Loch Ness and James Bond epic The World is Not Enough. From here it is a short drive to the village of Kyleakin which will be home for the next two nights.
A full day on the romantic Isle of Skye will leave you in wonder at its unique natural beauty and wildlife. Whatever the conditions, your driver-guide will make sure you experience its best. The island’s famous mountains, the Cuillins, dominate the landscape as they rise either side of Glen Sligachan. Much of Skye has an other-worldly quality to it, like the Fairy Pools in Glenbrittle with their glinting blue waters where you can dip your toe in or even swim around. After lunch in the main town of Portree the Trotternish Peninsula will amaze you. Curious rocky pinnacles and crags punctuate the landscape, like the ancient landslide of the Quiraing and Kilt Rock, which descends in columns like the Scottish national dress. The Mealt waterfalls crash off a cliff face into the sea below. If reachable we’ll visit the bizarre grassy mounds and small pools of Fairy Glen. We’ll stop for photos at another geological creation, the Old Man of Storr, before returning to Kyleakin for an evening at your leisure.
We'll board the ferry ‘over the sea from Skye’. A unique experience as the ferry at Kylerhea is the last manual turntable ferry in Scotland. Another mountain range, the Five Sisters of Kintail, can best be seen from Glenelg viewpoint. Our Highland tour continues to mysterious Loch Ness for lunch and a wander beside the intriguing locks of the Caledonian Canal, a great waterway of the world. For dedicated Loch Ness monster hunters, there’s an optional boat trip. Traversing through the Cairngorms National Park, we’re in ‘Monarch of the Glen’ country with the chance to spot the red deer stag, osprey or even golden eagle. We stop at Dalwhinnie Distillery for a dram of single malt whisky and a chocolate tasting session.Heading south into Perthshire, your driver-guide will point out regal Blair Castle, ancient seat of the Dukes of Atholl and location of Europe’s last remaining private army the Atholl Highlanders. The Victorian resort of Pitlochry provides our final refreshment break. Returning to Glasgow via Edinburgh, there are feats of engineering to behold as we drive over the Queensferry Crossing, which opened in August 2017, and look left to the Forth Bridge. Its iconic red cantilevers have UNESCO world heritage site status alongside the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China.
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