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Go car-free Scottish island touring & experience a different pace of life on the isles of Mull, Iona and Skye.
This carefully planned car-free Scottish island touring holiday enables you to experience three contrasting Scottish islands without the need to drive. What’s more, it includes memorable train journeys on the famous West Highland Line, often acclaimed as the most scenic rail journey in the world. From the atmospheric tiny island of Iona, to the colourful harbour village of Tobermory and the dramatic Isle of Skye, not to mention glorious trips through the heart of the westerly Scottish Highlands, this week will be a feast for the senses.
*As featured in Wanderlust Magazine “The World’s Top New Trips for 2023” in December 2022*
You start by train from Glasgow, taking the West Highland Line past Loch Lomond, then branching west for the journey past Loch Awe and Kilchurn Castle to the port of Oban. Here you cross by ferry to Mull then use local bus connections and a second short ferry to reach the enchanting 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 Hotel on Iona
The hotel was built in 1868 as the village inn, and is located just 200 yards from the ferry jetty and a short walk from the famous abbey. There are only fifteen cosy bedrooms with ensuite facilities, and the freshly prepared real home-cooking uses many herbs and vegetables from the on-site organic garden.
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.
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
Renovated from a 200 year old Fisherman’s cottage, your accommodation is quirky and boutique. All rooms are completely unique in their shape and style with some offering spectacular views over Tobermory Bay.
Dinner can be enjoyed at the hotel’s restaurant which is popular with residents and locals alike.
A sheer paradise for lovers of Scotland’s natural heritage, Mull boasts an enviable diversity of wildlife thriving everywhere from dense woodland glens to the grassy slopes of Ben More. 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.
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, where you will be met and transferred to your cosy small hotel for an overnight stop.
With views toward Ben Nevis, this family-run small hotel provides comfortable but informal accommodation and a restaurant that prides itself on home-cooked organic food. 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. When the need arises, real fires will warm your toes. This is a perfect haven for a relaxing break, where the pace of life slows the minute you arrive.
After a morning to relax and perhaps take a refreshing walk in the shadow of Ben Nevis, it’s 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 met and transferred to your final lochside hotel.
Nestled in an idyllic spot right by the water’s edge, your whitewashed hotel is the hub of the estate and Gaelic-speaking community. Whether in the main house or adjacent Garden House, rooms enjoy 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 local seafood and game featuring prominently on the menu.
Today you will have the chance to experience the highlights of Skye on a full day tour, led by a local guide.
From your hotel you will head north to Sligachan then probably to Dunvegan via Carbost, past Dunvegan Castle. Other options include a drive into Waternish (Skyeskyns Tannery, Trumpan Church ruins) if the castle tour is omitted. Next you’ll have a short stop in Portree before heading round the Trotternish peninsula before returning to your hotel.
If there is anything in particular that you would like to see, please advise the guide who will try and incorporate this into your tour.
It is now time to leave Skye, by ferry to Mallaig then travel the length of the West Highland Line back to Glasgow, once more crossing the marvellous Glenfinnan Viaduct then traversing the spectacular wilderness of Rannoch Moor. Here the railway parts company with the road and you’ll see nothing but peat bog, occasional trees and looming mountains for mile on end. If you can tear your gaze away from the window, it’s a great chance to reminisce about your favourite moments from your Scottish island hopping adventure.
This holiday is part of our ever-growing collection of public transport based holidays, enabling you to reach less accessible destinations around Scotland – in this case, the Scottish islands of Iona, Mull and Skye without the need to drive. We feel strongly that true sustainability also means promoting and helping to maintain a way of life in areas where the economic benefit of tourism can make a genuine difference to the local community, which is why we have used locally-owned small accommodation and a local guide on this holiday.
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.
£1475 per person for April & October, £1585 per person for May to September.
All prices are based on two people sharing a double or twin room ensuite for seven 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, as well as a guided tour of Skye.
The price for a single traveller, based on sole occupancy of ensuite double rooms is £2125 in April & October, £2235 May to September.
Please note that bus transport on the Isle of Mull to reach Iona and Tobermory is not pre-bookable, so you will need to purchase tickets directly from the driver – allow £20 to £30 per person.
To upgrade to travel on the Jacobite steam train from Fort William to Mallaig, add an additional £55 per person (first class). Please ask if you would like us to arrange this for you.
Before your departure, you will receive personalised holiday information including full directions, recommended routes, and suggestions on places to visit depending on your interests and our local knowledge to help you get the most from your holiday.
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This holiday can be arranged from April to October.
Availability is individually checked for a hand-picked selection of smaller hotels, guest houses and other independent businesses, so please bear with us and we will respond in 1-2 working days.
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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.
My first trip through the western Highlands was a wonderful discovery of old and new. Coming from Ireland originally, I have strong beliefs that the I...
All ran like clockwork. Thank you.Laurel & Susannah, Dorset
We got just what we wanted: a holiday with just the right amount of variety. The scenery on the train journey was knockout!Robin & Hazel, Surrey
We loved the charm of Tobermory, the wild beauty of Mull and the layers of history on Skye.Bryony & Phillip, Victoria, Australia
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