Our four day tour from Edinburgh transports you to Scotland’s rugged west coast and the outstanding islands of Mull, sacred Iona and their tranquil sister isles.
Departing from Edinburgh we call in at Scotland’s biggest city, Glasgow, before heading north into Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. We drop into the quaint conservation village of Luss on the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond before heading into the Highlands, alongside Loch Long, and into the ‘Arrochar Alps’. Our steep climb ends at the iconic viewpoint the ‘Rest and Be Thankful’ where these words were etched on stone by weary soldiers who built the military road in 1750.
Our Highlands and islands road trip stops for lunch at Inveraray on Loch Fyne. Scotland’s first planned town, it was built in 1745 by the 3rd Duke of Argyll, chief of the powerful Clan Campbell. Its white-washed buildings are a great example of Scottish Georgian architecture. You can stroll around the town or explore Inveraray Castle and its resplendent gardens, where the Duke of Argyll still lives today.
We’re soon adventuring on to Scotland’s rugged west coast, famous for sea lochs that stretch out for miles, towering mountains and pristine sandy beaches.
The busy port of Oban, ‘The Gateway to the Isles’, welcomes us and we board the ferry to the Isle of Mull. After disembarking there’s a picturesque drive to Tobermory, probably the most photographed town in Scotland with its brightly painted houses overlooking the harbour, where we’ll stay for three nights.Day 2
Day two sees us drive to Fionnphort for the short passenger ferry to the tiny sacred island of Iona. It’s been a place of Christian worship and pilgrimage ever since St Columba and his companions came from Ireland to establish a monastery here in 563 AD.
You can visit Iona Abbey and take a walk up Torr an Aba, the little hill above where St Columba’s writing hut is thought to have stood. Explore St Oran’s Chapel and Reilig Òdhrain, the graveyard where 48 ancient kings of Scotland, including Macbeth, are said to be buried.
At just one and a half miles wide and three miles long, it’s easy to appreciate Iona’s charms. Why not ramble to the highest point at Dun I and sip from the Well of Eternal Youth, a little pool said to have been blessed by St Brigid of Ireland. You’ll be rewarded with panoramic views to other Hebridean islands such as Tiree, Coll and the Treshnish Islands and on a really clear day you’ll see Rhum, Eigg and Skye and even the coast of Ireland.
Wildlife lovers might enjoy the option to take a three hour boat trip to Fingal’s Cave on uninhabited Staffa, which includes an hour spent on the island. The best time to see puffins is from early May to early August and you might also spot gannets, guillemots and razorbills. Dolphins and porpoises are often playing in the water and in summer look out for minke and fin whales or even the elusive basking shark whose fin breaks the water as it feeds.
Fingal’s Cave is a geological wonder with its hexagonal basalt rock columns formed millions of years ago by volcanic eruptions. Its evocative acoustics inspired Mendelssohn to compose his Hebrides Overture (Fingal’s Cave) after he visited in 1829. One of Pink Floyd’s unreleased tracks from their 1970 Zabriskie Point soundtrack sessions is also called Fingal’s Cave.
After a full day our small group heads back to Tobermory where you can spend the evening at your leisure.Day 3
A short drive in your luxury mini coach takes you to the small village of Dervaig which was established, in its current form, in 1799 by the Laird of Coll. The Kilmore standing stones lie above the village and nearby there are signs of an ancient fort and a Highland clearance village. We can’t miss out a visit to one of Scotland’s finest sandy beaches at Calgary Bay, where glistening white sands rival any foreign destination.
A one-minute ferry takes us to Ulva, an island haven for walkers and wildlife enthusiasts that’s definitely off the beaten track. Around 800 AD the Vikings landed and named it Ulfur, meaning wolf island. But they weren’t the first residents as standing stones date to around 1500 BC and artefacts found in the area suggest human life dating back 6,000 years.
Once upon a time Ulva boasted around 800 residents but today there are just five. As a result it’s a truly unspoilt isle with pristine blue waters rolling onto white shell beaches and woods carpeted in billiard green moss. Keep an eye out for sea eagles, golden eagles and otters.
The isle’s Boathouse restaurant serves tasty home-baking and local oysters and there’s even a museum and heritage centre housed in the thatched ‘Sheila’s Cottage’.
Back in Tobermory there are traditional Scottish pubs, souvenir shops and Tobermory Distillery to enjoy where a dram of single malt awaits.Day 4
After a short drive to Fishnish our first ferry of the day takes us over the Sound of Mull to Lochaline in Morvern on Scotland’s mainland. This spectacular peninsula was shaped thousands of years ago by volcanoes and ice. An hour later we’re lining up for the small Corran Ferry en route to our lunch stop in Glencoe where you can ask your friendly driver-guide about the infamous 1692 massacre.
Then we’ll emerge from the towering mountains into bleak but beautiful Rannoch Moor, one of Europe’s last great wildernesses, and head into picturesque Killin. You’ll want to pose for selfies at the village’s dramatic river rapids, the Falls of Dochart.
Our adventure continues passed Loch Lubnaig, through the Pass of Leny and Callander to another favourite photo stop at mysterious Doune Castle. Dating from around the 14th century you’ll see why it’s a film-makers favourite and starred in Outlander as Castle Leoch, Game of Thrones as Winterfell and in cult comedy Monty Python as Swamp Castle, Castle Anthrax and Camelot.
From ancient architecture to a feat of modern-day engineering at the Kelpies. Standing over 30 metres high, these two giant steel horse heads are the world’s largest equine sculptures and a monument to Scotland’s horse-powered industrial heritage. From there we deliver you back to Edinburgh.
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