Crinan, Argyll

Outdoors

What happens when you mix water, wind, whisky and a week of freedom? Well, you have an unforgettable sailing holiday in Scotland, of course!

Spend seven days at sea navigating around the glistening west coast, stopping off at some incredible towns, villages, seafood spots, distilleries and attractions in Argyll & The Isles and the Isle of Arran. Along the way, you'll sample some of Scotland's finest single malts from distilleries in Islay, Jura, Arran and Campbeltown. A sailing trip just wouldn't feel right without some whisky, would it?

Our itinerary highlights exciting things to see and do along the west coast which will sometimes include slight detours from the most popular sailing routes. For more detailed route suggestions and practical information please visit the Sail Scotland website.

Transport

Sail Car

Days

7

Miles

110

Route

Loch Fyne to Cairnbaan, Crinan Canal & Isle of Jura, Isle of Islay, Mull of Kintyre & Campbeltown, Arran.

Highlights

Crinal Canal, Islay distilleries, seafood, Campbeltown, Brodick Castle, Arran Brewery

Areas Covered

Argyll & The Isles, Arran, Campbeltown

see full route

Day 1

overview

Loch Fyne to Cairnbaan

Embarking from Largs, your adventure begins by sailing across the Firth of Clyde and up Loch Fyne to the Ardrishaig, and the start of the Crinan Canal. Make stops along the way at Portavadie or Tarbert, with their local seafood offerings and stunning scenery. Remember to check the Scottish Canals website which publishes passage instructions and opening times.
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Boats at Ardrishaig, Argyll

Tarbert

On the cusp of the Kintyre Peninsula, the tiny town of Tarbert is a handy place to stop and stretch your legs on dry land, with several walks and hikes nearby. Take in the views from Robert the Bruce's 14th century castle which towers above the town, or go for a walk to the shell-strewn beach at the end of Pier Road.

Portavadie

Portavadie is another lovely stop on Loch Fyne directly across from Tarbert, with incredible views along the loch and towards Kintyre. With some pleasant coastal paths, you can stretch your legs for a little while or rent bicycles and explore the area. There are several dining options and luxury waterside accommodation too, if you want to stop here for longer.

Ardrishaig & Cairnbaan

The starting point of the Crinan Canal offers a breathtaking backdrop with Knapdale Forest and Kilmartin Glen forming the surrounding landscape. In Ardrishaig, you can stock up on amenities and have a bite to eat in the hearty Grey Gull Inn with stunning views across Loch Gilp.

Continue onwards to Cairnbaan, where you'll find a peaceful night's slumber with several accommodation options. This passage can take a few hours in high season.

Day 2

overview

Crinan & Isle of Jura

Cruise along the Crinan Canal and watch as vistas of the Inner Hebrides open up before you. Head towards Craighouse on the Isle of Jura. It's important to check the tides before you embark on this part of the journey, or you may end up struggling to make headway.

Once you arrive on Jura, it's whisky o'clock!

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Paps of Jura, Inner Hebrides

Crinan

Make a stop at this picture-perfect seaside village before sailing down the Sound of Jura. In Crinan, you can absorb a little of the region's history with walks through the leafy Knapdale Forest, Crinan Wood and upwards to the highest point at Castle Dounie. A bustling place for visiting boats, you are bound to meet a few new yachting buddies!

Isle of Jura Distillery

Drop anchor in Jura and your first stop may well be the island's famous distillery. The only distillery on the isle, the tastes of this single malt will leave a lasting impression with its contrasting sweet and smoky flavours. Sláinte!

And, this is just the start. There will be plenty more drams to come!

Paps of Jura

One of the first things you'll notice are the imposing Paps of Jura. These three peaks, made from rock and scree, offer a challenging but rewarding ascent to the top and the views are certainly worth the scramble.  

Day 3

overview

Islay

From Jura to her sister island Islay, the whisky-tasting experience continues. Begin your escapades on Islay by getting to know Port Ellen, one of the isle's prettiest towns. Next, try peaty drams from three of the isle's eight working distilleries; Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Laphroaig are handily located just a few miles away from the harbour. 

You can rent a car from Islay Car Hire to visit the nearby distilleries, or to explore the whole island. You can choose to pick up the car at Port Ellen. 
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Port Ellen, Islay

Port Ellen

When arriving at Port Ellen by boat, the striking, square-shaped Carraig Fhada Lighthouse is a useful landmark. With excellent pontoon facilities available from March - October, visiting boats can stop here with ease. Enjoy a hearty pub lunch or perhaps an evening of live music. Port Ellen is also home to one of the island's Calmac ferry terminals, making it a hub of activity and the first stop for many visitors to Islay.

Islay Cycles 

Rent a bike and discover Islay on two wheels. Bikes can be rented and returned to Islay Cycles in Port Ellen, so you can explore the beaches, distilleries and island communities at your own pace.

Seafood specialities  

Grab a takeaway from the Sea Salt Bistro or sit down for a delicious dinner at the Islay Hotel, which has a changing seasonal menu, often featuring freshly caught salmon, langoustines and oysters from local fishermen. 

There are some lovely places to stay in Port Ellen too, with several cosy B&Bs, hotels and self-catering properties. 

Day 4

overview

Islay distilleries

Of course, Islay is most famous for its peaty, smoky whiskies which are enjoyed all over the world. Whisky lovers and novices alike will be fascinated by the history of whisky-making on the island, so why not stop by a few distilleries and find your new favourite? These three distilleries are all within a few miles of Port Ellen.
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Lagavulin Distillery, Isle of Islay

Ardbeg

With big claims that it is the 'peatiest whisky' on Islay (it's got some tough competition), Ardbeg offers a range of fascinating distillery tours and tastings. The Old Kiln Café also produces delicious homemade lunches from 12 - 4pm.

Lagavulin Distillery

Situated in a small bay in the shadows of Dunyveg Castle's ruins, Lagavulin Distillery has a history which dates back to 1742, which includes illicit whisky distilling and a friendly rivalry with its neighbour, Laphroaig.

Laphroaig

The unmistakable flavour of this single malt is thought to be one of the most distinctive tastes in the world. Learn about 200 years of whisky-making from a tight community of islanders who are passionate about this spirit.

Day 5

overview

Mull of Kintyre & Campbeltown

Sail towards the Mull of Kintyre, the south westerly point of the Kintyre Peninsula. This stretch is a superb place for watching marine life, with porpoises, dolphins and other mammals frequenting these seas. Sail past Sanda Island, a fabulous bird-watching spot which welcomes puffins during breeding season.
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Springbank Distillery, Kintyre

Campbeltown

With new facilities and services for visiting boats, a stop in the town of Campbeltown is a fantastic base for exploring this peaceful corner of Scotland. Located on a deep bay sheltered by Davaar Island and the surrounding hills, Campbeltown was once 'the whisky capital of the world' and home to 30 distilleries. It now just has three - Glen Scotia, Glen Gyle and Springbank - each still actively producing excellent whisky. Golfers also have plenty choice with Machrihanish, Machrihanish Dunes and Dunaverty courses nearby.

Springbank Distillery

The only distillery that you can still visit today in the region, Springbank offers tours for whisky lovers eager to learn more about the peninsula's long history of distilling and production. There are several pubs, hotels and inns in the town where you can try a few more drams, or settle down for a cosy dinner.

Ardshiel Hotel

Spend a pleasant afternoon or evening here in Ardsheil Hotel's relaxed and laidback surroundings. With its impressive period features, the building dates back to 1877. Indulge in some delicious comfort food in the Garden Restaurant, or enjoy a drink in the award-winning bar. It's also possible to stay over for the night.

There are plenty of other food producers selling their specialities in the town - try local favourites such as Mull of Kintyre Cheddar and marmalades and jams by Kintyre Preserves.

Day 6

overview

Campbeltown to Lochranza

It might seem too soon to leave the beautifully peaceful Kintyre, but don't worry. The final leg of your sailing adventure includes a voyage to another magical island, Arran. Sail into Lochranza in the north edge of the island, where you'll be on the cusp of many exciting discoveries. In fact, there are so many possibilities that it is easy to spend a couple of days on the isle before sailing back to the mainland.

There is also the alternative option of sailing into Lamlash or Brodick, depending on what you'd like to see and do on Arran.

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Lochranza Castle, Arran

Lochranza

Named after the rugged shores of Loch Ranza, the village is one of Arran's most scenic places, complete with towering mountains and a ruined castle, which dates back to the 1200s and was built for the influential MacSween family. The village also has a 9-hole golf course, and a hotel serving up some fine local dishes - perfect for hungry sailors! 

Isle of Arran Distillery

One of the village's most exciting additions, the Isle of Arran Distillery crafts one of Scotland's newest single malts and it's the first legal distillery on Arran for 160 years. Production began here in 1995 and it now offers a selection of single malts, including the Arran 14-year old, the Robert Burns special edition, and several others which you can try at the distillery. 

Day 7

overview

Isle of Arran

Arran is an island which really has a little bit of everything - mountains, castles, lochs, cheese and craft beer! If you've got time, it's worth spending another day on the Isle of Arran to explore more of the island, before heading back over the seas to Largs.

Don't forget to visit the Sail Scotland website for handy planning tips for your next sailing holiday.

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North Goatfell, Isle of Arran © Fotolia - David Woods

Brodick Castle

Perched on the dramatic peak of Goatfell, the castle overlooks the Firth of Clyde and Brodick Bay. Learn all about the history of this grand fortress and explore the grounds and woodland trails. The castle's interior is really outstanding, with its elegant décor and fine furnishings. 

Goatfell

From Brodick Castle, you can continue traversing all the way up the island's Corbett standing at 2,866 ft above sea level. Wild and open, its mist-shrouded peaks and mysterious pathways make for an enjoyable ascent. Make sure you are well-equipped with warm clothes and a sturdy pair of walking boots. This hike on a clear day will reward you with beautiful views.  

Island Cheese Company

Arran is definitely famed for its tasty local produce, especially its delicious creamy cheese. At the farm shop, you can watch as the cheese is made using milk from three local producers. Stock up on a few cheesy treats before heading back to the mainland, or purchase a selection of cheeses from the shop and have a picnic on the island. 

Arran Brewery

Is it time for a change of beverage? Swap a dram of single malt with a pint from the Arran Brewery, which is also based near Brodick. Here, you can see how Arran Premium Ales and craft beers are brewed to perfection and take in all of the brewery's enticing sights and smells.

Summary

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