Whisky and the West Coast: 7 Day Sailing Itinerary
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.
- Start / Finish
- Tarbert / Brodick
- Distance138.7 Miles
- Main themeWhisky
- Crinan Canal
- Islay distilleries
- Brodick Castle
- Arran Brewery
- Areas covered
Day 1 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.
On the cusp of the Kintyre Peninsula, the tiny town of Tarbert is a handy place to stop and stretch your legs, 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.Find out more about TarbertTarbert
Portavadie is a 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.Find out more about PortavadiePortavadie
Ardrishaig & Cairnbaan Ardrishaig
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 Hotel 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.Find out more about Ardrishaig & CairnbaanArdrishaig
Day 2 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!
Make a stop at this picture-perfect seaside village. 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!Find out more about CrinanCrinan
Jura Distillery Jura
We'd 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!Find out more about Jura DistilleryIsle of Jura Distillery, Craighouse, Jura, PA60 7XTKey facilities
Paps of Jura Jura
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.Find out more about Paps of Jura
- Time to explore
- 12 hours
Day 3 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.
Port Ellen 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.Find out more about Port EllenPort Ellen
Islay Cycles Port Ellen
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.Find out more about Islay Cycles2 Corrsgeir Place, Port Ellen, Port Ellen, PA42 7EJ
Islay Seafood Port Ellen
Grab a takeaway from the SeaSalt 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.Find out more about Islay Seafood
- Time to explore
- 1 hour
Day 4 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.
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.Find out more about ArdbegArdbeg Distillery, Port Ellen, Islay, PA42 7EA
Lagavulin Distillery Islay
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.Find out more about Lagavulin DistilleryLagavulin Distillery, Port Ellen, Islay, PA42 7DZKey facilities
- Accessible toilets
- On Public Transport Route
Laphroaig Port Ellen
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.Find out more about LaphroaigPort Ellen, Port Ellen, PA42 7DU
Day 5 Mull of Kintyre & Campeltown
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.
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.Find out more about CampbeltownCampbeltown
Springbank Distillery Campbeltown
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.Find out more about Springbank Distillery85 Longrow, Campbeltown, PA28 6EX
Ardshiel Hotel Campbeltown
Spend a pleasant afternoon or evening here in Ardshiel 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.Find out more about Ardshiel HotelKilkerran Road, Campbeltown, PA28 6JLKey facilities
- Pets Welcome
- Accessible Parking Or Drop-off Point
- On Public Transport Route
- Breakfast Available
Day 6 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.
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!Find out more about LochranzaLochranza
Arran Distillery Lochranza
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.Find out more about Arran DistilleryLochranza, Lochranza, KA27 8HJ
Day 7 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.
Brodick Castle and Country Park Brodick
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. Steeped in history, the castle was the ancient seat of the Dukes of Hamilton and houses a fabulous collection of artefacts, from silverware and paintings to even sporting trophies. Explore the garden to see the famous collection of rhododendrons or follow one of the woodland trails - you might even spot rare red squirrels.
Afterwards, set off along either the coastal road north or south to get a real feel for the island's geography. Let the kids blow off some steam at the Isle Be Wild adventure play area and for the adults, take it easy as you stroll through the formal gardens on the Silver Garden Trail.Experience the magic of Brodick CastleIsle Of Arran, Brodick, KA27 8HYKey facilities
- Pets Welcome
- Accessible Parking Or Drop-off Point
- Hearing Loop
- Cafe or Restaurant
We're taking things to dizzying heights on our next stop with a hearty climb up to Goatfell. At 874m (2,867ft), it is the highest peak on the Isle of Arran where you will be treated to incredible panoramic views at the top. The weather in Scotland can be very unpredictable at times and its best you come fully prepared before you set off on your hike.
Along the way, you will discover an abundance of wildlife and fauna including the dwarf juniper, sweet-scented heather, buzzards and golden eagles.Plan your Goatfell hike nowTop tip
Make sure to bring your waterproofs, hiking poles and most importantly wear hiking boots as the ground can be very rocky and rough. If you wish to tackle this hike in the summer months, make sure to stay hydrated and bring plenty of water with you.Arran
Island Cheese Company Arran
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.Find out more about Island Cheese CompanyHome Farm, Brodick, Arran, KA27 8DD
Arran Brewery Brodick
Swap a dram of single malt with a pint from the Arran Brewery, which is 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.Find out more about Arran BreweryCladach, Brodick, KA27 8DE
Other things you might like
Scotland in your inbox
Subscribe to our newsletter and we'll email you with unique attractions, exciting trip ideas and visitor offers.