Islands

An Island Hopping Holiday on the West Coast

Get ready for seven unforgettable days of island adventure! Discover what it means to island hop across the western islands of Scotland. This itinerary takes you from Arran in the Firth of Clyde to the Isle of Skye in The Highlands. As you explore, you'll discover top attractions, see incredible coastline and scenery, and get a taste of island life. A good network of ferry services makes getting around pretty straightforward.

So, what are you waiting for?!

Transport

Days

7

Miles

362

Route

Ardrossan - Kyle of Lochalsh via an array of beautiful islands.

Highlights

Island scenery, wildlife, historic sites, distilleries, outdoor activities, seafood

Areas Covered

West

see full route

Day 1

overview

Isle of Arran

And so you're off! Take the ferry from the Ayrshire port of Ardrossan and spend today discovering the charms of Arran, a small island with bags going on. Due to a government-backed scheme, the price of travelling by ferry to Arran was greatly reduced in October 2014 onwards - how good is that?!
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Brodick Castle and Country Park

First, head to Brodick Castle and Country Park, the only island country park in Britain. Traditionalists will love it; it's the quintessential Victorian Scottish estate. A former seat of the Dukes of Hamilton, the castle is home to fantastic displays of furniture, paintings and trophies. Explore the garden to see the famous collection of rhododendrons. Afterwards, set off along either the coastal road north or south to get a real feel for the island's geography.

Machrie Moor Standing Stones

Get a breath of fresh air and explore an ancient wonder, the stone circles of Machrie Moor. The site dates back 4,500 years and is an archaeologist's dream. There are standing stones taller than those at Calanais on the Isle of Lewis, and the walk through isolated moorland is simply splendid. From the stones, you can see Goatfell, Arran's mountain, and views across the sea.

Arran Distillery

So you've probably worked up a bit of a thirst by now - a visit to Arran's distillery will be very welcome indeed! Head to Lochranza for a distillery tour and discover the story of whisky on the Isle of Arran, see the distilling process in action, and sample the malt whisky and Arran Gold, a delightful, creamy whisky-based liqueur. When it comes to dining out in the evening, choose from one of the many eateries - we recommend trying the island cheese if it's on the menu!

Day 2

overview

Islay

Hop from Arran back to the mainland and make your way to Kennacraig to catch the ferry to Port Ellen on bonnie Islay, where fine malt whisky, pretty villages and beautiful beaches await!
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Bowmore

It would be criminal to come to Islay without paying a visit to a distillery. The island is a whisky region in its own right, renowned for producing malt whiskies which are peaty in character. The only trouble is that with eight active distilleries, it might be hard to choose which ones you visit! How about Bowmore Distillery, north of Port Ellen on the A846? It's the oldest legal distillery in Scotland, set up by John Simpson in 1779.

Museum of Islay Life

Take the A847 westward to visit the Museum of Islay Life. Time to delve into the past! Housed in a former church, the museum is filled with a whole range of curios and objects from different periods, from carved grave slabs dating from 1400-1600 AD to maritime memorabilia recovered from shipwrecks, as well as photographs covering Edwardian and Victorian times.

Loch Gruinart

After you've visited the museum, return east and visit Loch Gruinart, a nature reserve which offers gentle walking past quiet beaches with views out to Colonsay. Ah, bliss! Did you know Loch Gruinart is a working farm as well as a nature reserve? Whatever the season, you're bound to see some of the island's majestic wildlife - wading birds, secretive corncrakes and colourful butterflies. Perhaps you'll join a ranger on a guided walk or pop into the visitor centre to discover the island's natural heritage? When it's time to unwind in the evening, you can tuck into fresh seafood and other island produce in restaurants and pubs - and try a couple more whiskies, of course!

Day 3

overview

Jura


From Islay, take the short ferry crossing from Port Askaig to Jura. It will feel like you've got away from it all.

George Orwell even described it as, 'the most un-get-at-able place' whilst penning 1984. This island has one road, one distillery, one hotel, not many people - and LOTS of red deer! It's a perfect getaway and ideal place for spotting wildlife.

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Paps of Jura

Time to stretch the legs (and, if you've had too many Islay whiskies, blow away the hangover!). Add a challenge to your west coast adventure and climb the Paps of Jura, the distinctive island peaks which can be seen for miles. Scaling the paps will probably take most of the day, so you could find an alternative walk if you're keen to get a distillery visit in, or explore more of the island.

Jura Distillery

Even if there was an abundance of things to do on Jura, we'd still recommend a visit to the famous Jura Distillery. A chat with one of the distillery team is a great way to get an insight into island life. They are a friendly bunch who relish the opportunity to recount stories from the past - once, you've been, you'll want to become an honorary Diurach. And the whisky is pretty wonderful stuff, too!

Day 4

overview

Mull

There's a bit of retracing your steps as you head back to beautiful Islay, and then back to Kennacraig on the mainland before driving north to Oban. Alternatively you can take the ferry from Islay to Oban, via Colonsay, on certain days. But you won't get long to pause for breath - you are off to the largest of the Inner Hebridean islands, the Isle of Mull!
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Duart Castle

Discover the dungeons and state rooms of Duart Castle, a clifftop fortress which is the ancestral home of Clan Maclean. It's a building steeped in history - the Keep dates from the 13th century. Perched on a crag overlooking the Sound of Mull, you can drink in spectacular views from the battlements, and a visit to the tearoom for a hearty slice of home-baked cake is a must!

Eagle watching

Mull is one of the best places in Europe to spot white-tailed sea eagles. Take a guided walk to the bird hide at Glen Seilisdeir and look out for the largest bird of prey in Britain - their wing span can stretch as much as 8 ft! In addition, there are many local experts on the island offering wildlife safaris, or if you're interested in marine life, why not take a boat trip?

Day 5

overview

Mull & Iona

Most of today will be spent on the charming Isle of Iona, situated off the south west of Mull. It's a small island, defined by its peaceful atmosphere and beautiful beaches, and has a fascinating history.
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Iona

Cross on the ferry to Iona, which takes foot passengers only. Explore Iona Abbey, built by St Columba in the sixth century and the burial site of early Scottish kings - it's considered by many to be one of the most sacred sites in western Europe. Afterwards, take a walk and discover the island's beautiful sandy bays.

Tobermory

Leave the island on the ferry back to Mull and drive north to Tobermory - its picture postcard perfect, with colourful shop fronts lining a pretty sheltered bay. Mull's main town has a museum, distillery, craft shops and a gallery, as well as good pubs and seafood restaurants.

Day 6

overview

Skye

Leave Mull on the ferry from Tobermory to Kilchoan, continuing on the B8007 through the beautiful scenery of the Ardnamurchan peninsula. Then follow the A861 and the A830 to the port of Mallaig, where you can take the ferry to Armadale on Skye.
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Armadale Castle Gardens

Visit Armadale Castle Gardens, a beautiful collection of mature gardens with a selection of walking routes and nature trails to follow. The castle is also home to the Museum of the Isles, which tells the story of the powerful Clan Donald. Enjoy a snack in the Stables Café, or have a go at family-friendly instructed outdoor activities, such as archery, axe throwing or air rifle shooting.

Broadford, Elgol & The Cuillin Hills

Take the A851 north and continue on the A87 to Broadford, a village with a range of craft outlets. From Broadford, take the B8083 to Elgol, where there is a signposted walk from the car park on the hill before the harbour. The first part of the walk is gentle and you can enjoy magnificent views of the Cuillin hills across Loch Scavaig.

Day 7

overview

North Skye

Time to experience the majesty of Skye! Today you'll get to see some of the most iconic Scottish landscapes and explore Skye's thrilling past and stunning natural heritage.
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Dunvegan Castle

Take the A87 for Portree, the island's main town, and continue north on the A855, which offers magnificent scenery at several points, including the Quiraing and the Old Man of Storr. Circle west to join the A87, then continue west on the A850 for Dunvegan Castle, the seat of Clan Macleod for seven centuries. Roam around the beautiful formal gardens or browse fascinating historic heirlooms in the castle.

Kyle of Lochalsh and the Seaprobe Atlantis

Leave the Isle of Skye and return to the mainland, crossing the road bridge to Kyle of Lochalsh. From here you can take the Seaprobe Atlantis, the UK's only passenger carrying semi-submersible boat which gives visitors a close-up look at marine life through the underwater observation windows. You might see dolphins, otters and seals, as well as an old shipwreck on the seabed!

Summary

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