This hiking tour explores Argyll in the south-west Highlands, the heartland of ancient Scotland, along with the islands of the Inner Hebrides: Kerrera, the Garvellachs and Islay, the whisky island.
This walking trip will take us to Argyll in Western Scotland. Inland Argyll has evolved as a landscape of gentle farmland and wide peat bog surrounded by rugged hills, secret glens and hidden lochans. At the edge is a unique seascape, wild and rugged, dotted with islands large and small. The Isle of Islay, once home of the MacDonald 'Lords of the Isles', is famous for its malt whiskies and birdlife as well as for its farming, fishing and shooting. Hills, moors and machair* are edged by an infinitely varied coast, with rocks, beaches and dunes, salt marshes and cliffs. Good walking country.
A little history
The very name 'Scotland' derives from the Roman name for the Iron Age Celtic people who, by the 6th century, occupied both Ulster and Argyll (Irish and Scottish Dalriada), perhaps colonising one from the other. Islay would have been one of the richest parts of Scottish Dalriada, from whose ruling group came the first king of a united nation in the 9th century.
Later, though, especially from the 13th to the 15th centuries, the centralising Scottish state was very effectively resisted by the MacDonald Lords of the Isles - by then practically an independent kingdom. Their power base was at Finlaggan on Islay, which thus has an historical significance that demands a visit. In between times the western seaboard underwent a series of Viking raids. Unlike most of the mainland, raids here were followed by extensive Norse settlement and a period (from 1098 to 1263) under the Norwegian crown. Evidence survives in numerous place names of Norse origin.
But Argyll also has far earlier links with Scotland’s past. Prehistoric remains are found in unusual concentrations throughout Kilmartin Glen, thirty miles south of Oban. The work of Bronze and Stone Age people, these remains take us back as far as 4000 BC and the time of our first settled farming communities.
Modern Islay is a land of farms and of beautiful and distinctive planned villages whose whitewashed houses are a particularly attractive feature. These characteristics, differentiating the island from others in the Hebrides, are partly the result of its geology, topography and relative fertility, but also partly of the management policies of a succession of landowners.
Geology and scenery
If you appreciate how intimately scenery can unite aesthetics and science, you can think of Argyll as a perfect artist’s studio and laboratory in one - a unique volume where the evolution of Scotland itself is written in the rocks and the living biosphere above. Glen Coe, in addition to offering one of the most stunning views in Scotland, is also one of the best-exposed and earliest-studied classic examples of volcanic cauldron subsidence, set where a volcano punched through ancient rocks about 400 million years ago. These ancient so-called ‘Dalradian rocks’ record a continental collision around 500 million years ago, and therefore symbolically unite early America and early Europe.
Islay has a complex geology, with major differences between the land west and east of a fault between Lochs Gruinart and Indaal. Westwards, in the Rhinns and Ardnave, the rocks are extremely old (their age being measured in thousands of millions of years - say nearly half the age of the earth). East of the fault, the slightly less ancient rocks (a mere 600 or so million years old) are also mainly metamorphosed sediments - part of structures that continue north-east through Jura and on into the Grampian highlands.
As well as being blessed with superb views, we will also have the opportunity to see wild flowers and to look for many of our native animals in their natural habitats. During our trip to the Garvellachs and on Islay we will have a good chance of seeing sea eagles, golden eagles, seals, puffins and possibly otters.
About Argyll Walking Holidays offers guided walking holidays and hiking tours in beautiful but undiscovered parts of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. We will take you to quiet, remote corners that can only be reached on foot, enabling you to enjoy the solitude of Scotland's secret places. With About Argyll you can discover more about the history and culture, nature and landscape of what is one of the world's most excitingly varied small countries. We offer both scheduled walking holidays and bespoke private guided hiking trips.
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