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Car-free Island Hopping

A carefully planned exploration of three contrasting islands for "car-less" travellers

This carefully planned self-guided tour by train and public transport enables you to experience three contrasting Scottish islands, and includes some memorable train journeys on the famous West Highland Line. From the atmospheric tiny island of Iona, to the colourful harbour village of Tobermory and finally the dramatic Isle of Skye, this week will be a feast for the senses.

At A Glance

Best Time To Go

Apr - Sep.

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travel in first class to Mallaig on the Jacobite Steam Train?

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Day One – Glasgow to Iona

You start by train from Glasgow, taking the West Highland Line past Loch Lomond and through dramatic scenery to the ferry port of Oban. Here you cross by ferry to Mull then use local bus connections and a second short ferry to reach the isle of Iona.  This tiny island is a deeply spiritual place – a  historic Christian pilgrimage destination which has drawn travellers to its enigmatic shores for more than a thousand years.

Your Iona hotel

The hotel was built in 1868 as the village inn and has two comfortable  lounges with open fires, a plant-filled sun lounge and a spacious dining  room with antiques and portraits which all overlook the Sound of Iona to the pink and blue hills of Mull. There are only fifteen cosy bedrooms with ensuite facilities, as well as period furniture and  original paintings. The hotel lies within walking distance of Iona’s famous Abbey and only 200 yards from the ferry jetty. The freshly prepared real home-cooking uses many herbs and vegetables from the on-site organic garden.

Day Two – Iona

Iona’s popularity as a daytrip destination is in stark contrast to the numbers of people who stay overnight. You’re in an ideal position to experience the peace and even mysticism of an island which has played a notable role in Scottish society for hundreds of years. The brilliant blue-green waters and clear light here have inspired poets, painters and  pilgrims for centuries. Iona’s historical and spiritual significance dates back to the time of St. Columba, who founded a monastery here and  helped to spread Christianity throughout Scotland. The present Iona Abbey dates from the eleventh century and is a true sanctuary, where  services and special events are held every day throughout the summer  months. The island is also noted for its wonderful sandy beaches and  dramatic cliffs, offering picturesque views over to Mull. As you explore this enchanting wilderness, whether on foot or bicycle, keep an eye out  for some stunning wild flowers and rare birds, including corncrakes, sparrowhawks and buzzards.

Day Three – to Tobermory, Mull

Return by ferry to Mull and make your way by local bus to the main island village of Tobermory, your base for the next two nights.

Your hotel in Tobermory

Basking in the picture-postcard charm of Tobermory’s stunning  waterfront, your hotel has been cleverly converted from a row of  fisherman’s cottages into a delightful family-run establishment.  Comfortable lounges and bedrooms offer a warm welcome just a stone’s  throw from one of the world’s prettiest working harbours. The locally popular restaurant enjoys views across to Calve Island  and offers a simple menu of grills and salads, with an emphasis on local produce. There are lots of other options for evening dining too, including excellent seafood.

Day Four – the Isle of Mull

A sheer paradise for lovers of Scotland’s natural heritage, Mull is  an island gem, with an enviable diversity of wildlife thriving  everywhere from dense woodland glens to the grassy slopes of Ben More.  Its many miles of coastline boast fantastic sandy beaches – particularly  at Calgary and Ardalanish – whilst off-shore is one of Europe’s prime  habitats for whales and dolphins – we can add a wildlife boat trip to your holiday if you wish.   Meanwhile, lively Tobermory has a bustling vitality and is a great place for a few days. Brightly painted houses provide a colourful  backdrop to the picture-postcard harbour and the ‘craic’ in waterfront  bars rivals anything on the mainland.

We can arrange a number of guided tours today, whether you are interested in wildlife, photography or walking.

Day Five – From Mull to Spean Bridge

Today you return by ferry to the mainland and then rejoin the West Highland rail line, travelling from Oban to the Highland village of Spean Bridge for an overnight stop.

Your Hotel

With views toward Ben Nevis, this family-run small hotel is a popular  restaurant serving organic, home-cooked food, which also has  comfortable but informal accommodation. On arrival, you will be greeted  with fresh tea and home-made scones. Settle into your room to unwind, or  take a stroll down the quiet country lanes for amazing views of Ben  Nevis, Loch Lochy and the Great Glen and work up an appetite for dinner.  There are comfy sofas and cosy corners in the sitting rooms, with a  library of books begging to be looked at, and when the need arises, real  fires to warm your toes. This is a perfect haven for a relaxing break  whatever time of year, where the pace of life slows the minute you  arrive.

Day Six – To the Isle of Skye

After a morning to relax and perhaps take a refreshing walk in the shadow of Ben Nevis, its onwards once again on the West Highland Line to Mallaig. Why not upgrade and take the Jacobite Steam Train in first class, for a memorable experience? From here, cross by ferry to the Isle of Skye. You will be transferred to your final lochside hotel.

Your Hotel

Sheltered by a gently curving bay, your charming whitewashed hotel  sits right on the seashore, enjoying expansive views over the Sound of  Sleat to the wilderness of Knoydart. This, the most southerly part of  Skye, is an area of great natural beauty, often referred to as the  “Garden of Skye”, thanks to its abundant bird life and profusion of wild  flowers. This is a Gaelic-speaking community and the bar is a convivial  meeting place for the locals, who mix happily with hotel guests, often  to the accompaniment of traditional music and Gaelic song in front of  the roaring log fire.

Twelve bedrooms (six in the Garden House) are decorated with pretty  cotton and linen chintzes and there are four new suites in the recently  restored stables, each enjoying superb views across the water to the  lighthouse of Isle Ornsay. Candlelit meals in the wood-panelled dining  room reflect the estate’s culinary riches, with wonderful shellfish and  game featuring prominently on the menu.

Day Seven – Relax on Skye

On the little harbour right beside the hotel is the headquarters of  “The Gaelic Whiskies”, where you can sample an excellent range of  connoisseur brands before browsing in the nearby gallery and craft shop.

The  surrounding area of hills, moorland, woodland and seashore offers  endless opportunities for walking and taking in the magnificent sea  views. Armadale Castle and Gardens are accessible by local bus, but to see more of the  island, we would strongly recommend hiring a car for the day, or booking  our expert local guide for a half or full day tour – ask us for details.

Day Eight – Return to Glasgow

It is now time to leave Skye and travel all the way south on the West Highland Line back to Glasgow.


Map Car-Free-Island-Hopping

This holiday starts and finishes in Glasgow, though connecting rail travel from Edinburgh, or any other mainline rail station can be arranged at an additional cost.


£885 per person for April £935 per person for May, June & September, £950 per person for July & August.

All prices are based on 2 people sharing a double or twin room ensuite for 7 nights, with one night on a dinner, bed & breakfast basis and six nights on a bed & breakfast basis. This includes rail travel from Glasgow to Oban, Oban to Mallaig, via Spean Bridge & Mallaig back to Glasgow, return ferry travel to Mull and Skye, and hotel transfers on Skye.

To upgrade and travel in first class on the Jacobite steam train, from Fort William to Mallaig, is an additional £55 per person. Please ask if you would like us to arrange this for you.

To explore the Isle of Skye, as local bus services are quite limited, we strongly recommend taking a guided tour, with one of our local guides. To join a small group guided tour of Skye costs an additional £60 per person. Your driver guide will collect and return you to your hotel on Skye.

The McKinlay Kidd Guarantee

All our holiday prices include a service charge of £9 per person per night towards the costs we incur in researching, planning and designing your holiday.

We guarantee to refund this service charge if you believe that arranging your holiday through McKinlay Kidd has not met your expectations for value. All we ask is that you write to us within 7 days of your return and explain your reason for claiming the refund. This will ensure that we can improve the experience for all our future guests.


Check availability for Car-free Island Hopping

This holiday can be arranged from April to the end of September

To check the latest availability for this holiday complete the form below or call us. We will respond to your availability check within one working day if at all possible. Please bear with us on this - we work with a hand-picked selection of smaller hotels, guest-houses, and other independent businesses, ensuring that you have the chance to explore off the beaten track and really get under the skin of the destination.

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