Discover Scotland’s wild, west coast on our four day tour from Glasgow to the outstanding islands of Mull, sacred Iona and their tranquil sister isles.
Departing from Glasgow our first port of call is pretty Luss where quaint cottages stretch down to the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond. Our adventure takes us north through Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park before heading into the Highlands, alongside Loch Long, and into the foreboding ‘Arrochar Alps’. Our steep climb ends at the iconic viewpoint the ‘Rest and Be Thankful’ so named by the words etched on stone by weary soldiers who built the military road in 1750.
Your Discover Scotland Tour 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.
Scotland’s rugged west coast calls us next, where shimmering lochs stretch for miles out to sea, mountains tower over glens and pristine sandy beaches rival any holiday destination.
From Oban – ‘The Gateway to the Isles’ – we ferry to the Isle of Mull and head for Tobermory, probably the most photographed town in Scotland with its multi-coloured houses overlooking the harbour, where we’ll stay for three nights.Day 2
From Fionnphort a small passenger ferry guides us over azure waters to the tiny sacred island of Iona. St Columba and his companions came from Ireland to establish a monastery here in 563 AD and it’s been a place of Christian worship and international pilgrimage ever since.
You can visit Iona Abbey and stand on Torr an Aba, the little hill above where St Columba is thought to have had his writing hut. 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 explore. Why not ramble to Iona’s 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. On a really clear day you’ll see Rhum, Eigg and Skye and even the coast of Ireland.
There’s an option to take a three hour boat trip to Fingal’s Cave on uninhabited Staffa, which includes an hour’s visit. 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 your 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 Kilmore standing stones above the village of Dervaig where nearby there are signs of an ancient fort and a Highland clearance village. We’ll pause at one of Scotland’s finest beaches, Calgary Bay, whose glistening white sand rivals any Caribbean destination. You might even spot a white-tailed eagle.
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 suggest human occupation dating back 6,000 years.
In its heyday Ulva had 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 Boathouse 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 you might enjoy its quaint shops, traditional Scottish pubs or a dram of single malt whisky at Tobermory Distillery.Day 4
Our Highlands and islands road trip continues with two brief ferry journeys. 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 your friendly driver-guide will regale you with the history of the 1692 massacre.
Then we’ll emerge from the towering mountains into desolate 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 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.
Our return to Glasgow is via Edinburgh and via the Kelpies, the world’s largest equine sculptures. Standing over 30 metres high, these two giant steel horse heads are a monument to Scotland’s horse-powered industrial heritage.
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