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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.
The hotel was built in 1868 as the village inn and has two comfortable lounges with open fires, a plant-filled sun lounge and spacious dining room filled with antiques and portraits. Relax with a cup of tea or something stronger as you gaze across the Sound of Iona to the pink and blue hills of Mull. There are only fifteen cosy bedrooms with ensuite facilities. The hotel is only 200 yards from the ferry jetty and also lies within short walking distance of Iona’s famous Abbey. 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.
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 the delicious menu highlights local produce. There are lots of other options in Tobermory for evening dining too, including excellent seafood.
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. Sink into the comfy sofas in the small lounge or pop into the bar, a much livelier place frequented by locals, who mix happily with hotel guests, often to the accompaniment of traditional music and Gaelic song.
Whether in the main house or adjacent Garden House, rooms enjoy superb views across the water to the lighthouse of Isle Ornsay. It’s impossible not to reach for your camera. Candlelit meals in the wood-panelled dining room reflect the estate’s culinary riches, with local seafood and game featuring prominently on the menu.
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. If you wish to see more of this large island, we would strongly recommend hiring a car for the day, or booking our expert local guide for a half or full day tour – just ask us for details.
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 starts and finishes in Glasgow, though connecting rail travel from Edinburgh, or any other mainline rail station can be arranged at an additional cost.
£990 per person for April & October, £1070 per person for May, and £1100 for June through 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.
To upgrade to travel in first class on the Jacobite steam train, from Fort William to Mallaig, add an additional £55 per person. Please ask if you would like us to arrange this for you. In 2018 the Jacobite will run from March 30th to October 26th.
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.
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.
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.
Fantastic time. Loved the hotels and food. With Robert's excellent instructions, we traveled around countryside and islands with not one glitch.Marguerite & James, Maryland, USA
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
This holiday can be arranged from April to October.
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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