A short drive from Glasgow is some of the most stunning scenery in the whole of the UK ... and exploring the area by caravan or motorhome gets you closer still.
We share our experience of Argyll & Bute and give you our Top 10 'Best of the West'!
1. Oban. 'The Gateway to the Isles' ... 'Scotland's Seafood Capital'. Oban is all of this and more. Whether you choose to base yourself in Oban to explore the surrounding coast, lochs and glens, or simply spend a day visiting, you'll be glad you did. The friendly town has an abundance of great cafes, bars and restaurants. In the heart of town you will find the Oban Distillery and nearby, the Oban Chocolate Company. If you're feeling energetic - and you can handle it after all the fish, whisky and chocolate! - climb up to McCaig's Tower on Battery Hill for some memorable views of Oban and the islands of Kerrera, Lismore and Mull. Oban is the main departure point for Caledonian MacBrayne ferries to Mull, Colonsay, Lismore, Coll and Tiree.
Just north of Oban at Barcaldine you will find the Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary. Other exciting activities include: sailing, fishing, wildlife tours, island hopping, kayaking and coasteering - all of which are bookable locally.
2. Inveraray. Just an hour north of Glasgow, past Loch Lomond and over the Rest and Be Thankful, lies the lovely town of Inveraray, nestled on the shores of Loch Fyne. The imposing Inveraray Castle (pictured) is home to the Duke of Argyll, famously featured in the Christmas special of Downton Abbey and is open to visitors. The grounds make for a lovely walk in all seasons and you may be lucky to catch a Shinty or 'camanachd' game whilst you're there. The picturesque town also houses the old Inveraray Jail and County Court, thankfully now a museum which tells the story of its villainous past! There is quite a choice of eateries, including the renowned George Hotel and Mr Pia's for fish and chips (or Haggis and chips!), pizza and ice cream, plus a variety of gift shops. It's also worth noting that the town has ample dedicated parking for motorhomes and caravans.
3. Castles. From ancient ruins to palatial pads, Argyll is rich with history. You're never far from a castle ... and the perfect photo opportunity. Some of the best include: Castle Stalker (pictured) on Loch Linnhe, north of Oban; Duart Castle at Craignure on the Isle of Mull (a great view of which you'll get from the Oban to Mull ferry); Kilchurn Castle on Loch Awe, on the road from Inveraray to Oban and Carnasserie Castle at Kilmartin, south of Oban.
4. Gardens. Warm gulf streams and good-old British weather make for some truly stunning gardens on the west coast of Scotland. Some of the most magical include: Arduaine near Craobh Haven, south of Oban; Crarae Gardens on Loch Fyne south of Inveraray and Benmore Botanic Garden by Loch Eck and Glenbranter, north of Dunoon. On your travels you will happen across many 'Open Gardens' and of course there are some spectacular forest walks at every turn!
5. Beaches. The west coast offers some of the best beaches in the world. If you're looking for powdery white sand and turquoise bays, you may find them closer to home than you'd believe. Sunbathing may be a highly irregular occurrence, but nothing beats the feeling of packing a picnic and finding a hidden spot you can call your own for the day.
6. Mull and Iona. Mull is the largest of the islands of Argyll and the third largest in Scotland, with 300 miles of coastline.
The island's main town, Tobermory, is instantly recognisable by its brightly coloured harbour-front buildings -also the setting for the childrens' TV show Balamory.
Some of the most stunning beaches can be found on Mull - Calgary Bay and Kilninian in the north, Loch Buie and Carsaig in the south.
Visitors to Mull are attracted by the abundance of wildlife to be found on land and at sea. Here you can spot not only seals but sometimes great whales, basking sharks and pods of dolphins. The island is also considered one of the best places to see rare sea eagles, along with other seabirds such as puffins.
Boat trips to the neighbouring island of Iona and its monastery are recommended, as are those to Staffa and the legendary Fingal's Cave - formed from giant basalt columns.
7. Bute. Bute is only 33 miles from Glasgow (as the crow flies) and is one of the most accessible of the westerly isles.
Bute is renowned for its glorious gardens and grand architecture, including the Esplanade Gardens near the main ferry terminal, Ardencraig Gardens on Canada Hill which features a walled garden and an exotic aviary, Mount Stuart House and Ascog Fernery.
Although Bute is just 15 miles long by 4 miles wide it offers tranquil spots and opportunities for wildlife viewing. You might see porpoises from the ferry and seals can be seen up-close at Scalpsie Bay.
The West Island Way is an island-long marked trail which can be tackled in sections – it’s a great way to see Bute’s flora and fauna and of course the views to Arran and Cowal. Rothesay and Port Bannatyne are great places for a bite to eat with cafes, bistros, bars and restaurants.
8. Wildlife Watching. Argyll is a haven for wildlife and during your stay you may be lucky enough to watch - or even photograph - some otherwise evasive species in their own territory. On our travels we have seen red squirrels, pine martins, otters, osprey, seals, dolphins and sea eagles.
For an exhilarating experience - and a fair chance of seeing some of the local wildlife - consider a RIB excursion with Seafari Adventures. Based at Easdale, just south of Oban, the company offers wildlife spotting trips and the Corryvreckan whirlpool as well as longer trips to Mull and Iona. You may be lucky enough to sail alongside a curious pod of dolphins, as well as see the ubiquitous seals and seabirds!
9. Islay ... and its Distilleries The Isle of Islay (pronounced 'Eye-La') is also called Queen of the Hebrides. It boasts 8 working whisky distilleries, stunning scenery and an array of wildlife .
Islay is famous for its single malt whisky. Famous names like Ardbeg, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila, Lagavulin and Laphroaig are the established brands and are well known all over the world.
Whilst many people visit Islay for the distilleries, birdwatching is another popular activity throughout the year. Large flocks of wild geese visit Islay every winter (October to May) in addition to the huge variety of rare birds on the island.
Golf, cycling, fishing, horse-riding and hill-walking are other popular activities. There are also several annual festivals on the island which attract many visitors, especially the Islay Festival of Malt and Music, which is held in May. Other festivals are the Islay Jazz Festival, the Rugby Festival and the Cantilena festival.
Islay offers many wonderful beaches all around the island, some more suitable for swimming than others. The Atlantic west coast of Islay is particularly beautiful, with stunning bays at Machir, Saligo and Sanaigmore. Saligo Bay is a must to enjoy one of the most impressive sunsets in Scotland! Interesting and beautiful villages like historic Port Charlotte, Bowmore with its Round Church, Port Ellen and Portnahaven are worth a visit, along with Museum of Islay Life.
10. Tiree. The Isle of Tiree is the most westerly island of the Inner Hebrides. It is small - just twelve miles long by three miles wide - and very flat.
The island has a mild climate with some of the highest levels of sunshine recorded anywhere in the British Isles! The Gulf Stream ensures warm summer evenings and it is even nicknamed the 'Hawaii of the North'.
For stargazers, Tiree is an ideal location. Because the island has no street lights, is sparsely populated, has few cars and no other man made light sources it boasts ideal conditions for viewing the night sky and certain spots have official dark sky status.
There are several festivals that draw crowds every year. The Tiree Music Festival (15-17 July 2016) will host the Levellers, Red Hot Chilli Pipers, Skipinnish and Skerryvore.
The annual Tiree Wave Classic (15-22 October 2016) is the longest running professional windsurfing event in the world. It showcases the best of the UK’s windsurfing talent across a number of fleets ranging from Juniors to World Cup Professional Windsurfers. For spectators the Tiree Wave Classic provides an amazing opportunity to immerse into surf culture for the week. Surfing, windsurfing and paddle boarding are all available to try along with a range of other sports and an event village.
Where to Stay?
Here's our shortlist of some of the best - and most scenic - sites to stay - in Argyll and the Isles:
The Camping and Caravanning Club has a site at Barcaldine by Connel, near Oban.
"Our Oban Club campsite on Scotland’s west coast enjoys a beautifully secluded location hidden in a glorious Victorian walled vegetable garden. The sheltered, level campsite is next door to Sutherland’s grove, a Forestry Commission woodland criss-crossed by colour-coded walks and cycle paths. Opposite the campsite is a marina with a little beach you can walk... "
The Caravan Club has a site at North Ledaig
"North Ledaig Caravan Club Site is one of the best locations on Scotland's west coast. A wonderful 30-acre park that has been awarded the David Bellamy Conservation Award, it is situated on a 2 mile sand and shingle beach on Ardmucknish Bay. Here sailing, water sports and bathing can be enjoyed by all the family. Some pitches at the caravan site are almost on the water's edge and all of them face the sea, offering panoramic view to the beautiful Isle of Mull. The site is ideal for children with an adventure playground on site.
From the North Ledaig Caravan Club Site you can take a scenic walk on the deserted shoreline to watching wading birds, glimpse an otter or photograph the beautiful sunsets. Enjoy a nature walk on the 30-acre Ledaig Moss to see the birds and the rich wildlife that populates the ponds. Nearby Oban is a bustling fishing port and main ferry terminal for the Hebrides and Western Isles. Inland trips to Glencoe, Cruachan Power Station and the historic town of Inveraray are a must for visitors to this idyllic caravan site."
The Caravan Club also has a site at Carradale Bay on the Kintyre Peninsular with spectacular sea views.
Another very popular, privately owned site is Argyll Caravan Park, 3 miles from Inveraray on beautiful Loch Fyne. The site has good facilities and hardstanding pitches for both caravans and motorhomes. Skippers Bistro, the new on-site restaurant and bar is open from 07:30 to late evening and also offers take-away pizza.
Catering for caravanners and motorhomers on the Isles are:
Kintra Farm, Port Ellen
Port Mor Centre & Campsite, Port Charlotte
If you're looking to take a caravan or motorhome trip to Argyll and the Isles we hope we have given you some inspiration. Happy Holidays!
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