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AITO Tour Operator of The Year 2016 - Gold AwardThe Telegraph Travel Awards Winner 2017

Discover Islay & Kintyre

Take a week to explore the hidden-gem delights of the ancient Kingdom of Dalriada.

The Kintyre peninsula is often overlooked, yet it is one of our favourites. Now a little easier to access, with a direct car ferry route from the Ayrshire coast, it’s an area rich with history and superb, empty beaches, just waiting to be discovered. Intrepid drivers can’t resist a trip to the southern tip, the Mull of Kintyre, made world-famous by Sir Paul McCartney. From Kintyre, hop on another ferry to the Hebridean Isle of Islay, for more stunning scenery, wildlife, history and whisky galore. The wildly contrasting Isle of Jura is also just a day-trip away.

At A Glance

Best Time To Go

Apr - Oct

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Day One – To Kintyre

From May to September you can travel direct to Campbeltown on the ferry service from Ayrshire. Departures are mostly in the late afternoon, with an evening arrival in Kintyre.

Your destination is towards the southern end of the peninsula, around five miles’ drive from the ferry port.

Your Hotel

Machrihanish is a sleepy yet beautiful spot. The imposing Victorian hotel has recently undergone a major renovation to restore it to past glories. Rooms are spacious and many have sea views so you can gaze out at the Atlantic rollers rhythmically breaking along mile after mile of golden sandy beach with the island shapes of Islay and Jura providing a sceninc backdrop.  The famous links golf course is just steps from the front door, or the newer and wilder course of Machrihanish Dunes is a short drive away. Alternatively, stroll to the far end of the small village to spot seals and birdlife or watch the waves crashing even more dramatically over the boulders of the Gauldrons. Then when it’s time to kick back, pop into the pub next door for simple bar meals or sample the delights of the hotel’s world-class malt whisky bar, steak house and state-of-the-art Spa.

Days Two & Three

Kintyre is our favourite Scottish peninsula and we’ll share our local knowledge so that you get the best out of it. You’ll find spectacular beaches in all directions, though some are hidden at the end of farm tracks or across fields. Pre-history abounds, with standing stones and burial cairns galore, if you know where to look. It may feel remote now, but centuries ago this was a densely populated area, when the sea was the main travel thoroughfare. Seals are easy to spot – you’ll often find them basking around Machrihanish or Southend at the tip of the peninsula. Look out for the white flashes of gannets diving into the sea. Otters and golden eagles are much trickier to find, but you may strike lucky. Of course, weather and driver’s courage permitting, you must make the journey to the Mull of Kintyre itself, via the seven miles of twists and turns of the single track road.  It’s a wild and desolate place, even when the sun is shining, but, you never know, the mist might just roll in from the sea! Campbeltown, the main settlement, was once the richest town per capita of population in Scotland – look out for the impressive lochside villas. It’s not quite so grand these days but is home to Springbank whisky,  famous for its traditional production methods and still run by members  of the family that founded it in 1828.

Included within this holiday is a day return trip to the ‘wee’ island of Gigha. We recommend leaving the car behind at the ferry port and simply walking or cycling, enabling you to soak up the island atmosphere. The community-run hotel is the perfect spot for lunch and refreshing drinks. There is much more to see and do, depending on your interests, and we will tailor recommendations for you. Walkers can take in stunning panoramic views from wildflower-strewn hillsides and cyclists will discover perfect picnic spots on tiny beaches of pure white sand. The island’s history makes fascinating reading – especially the community buy-out, ensuring Gigha’s future for islanders and visitors alike.

Day Four – To Islay

A short drive north this morning will take you to the ferry port for the crossing to Islay, where your hotel awaits.

Your Guest House

One of the oldest inns on the island, now run by the main estate owners, this historic building offers comfortable, but simple rooms, good food and a very welcoming atmosphere. Its location in the heart of the island’s road system offers good access to all corners. The hotel restaurant offers views of the gardens and guests can sit outside or take a relaxing stroll on fine weather days.

Days Four to Six: Islay

Once the ancestral seat of the Lords of the Isles, Islay is a fertile island of low heather-clad hills. Learn more about its early history with a visit to Finlaggan, home of the Macdonald chiefs or to Kildalton Chapel with its early Christian cross. The Museum of Island Life in Port Charlotte provides a fascinating insight into the social history of the area. In the island capital of Bowmore, you can visit the unusual Round Church – so designed to ensure there were no corners for the devil to hide in!

Like neighbouring Kintyre, attractive beaches and wildlife abound. The island’s main claim to fame is the abundance of whisky distilleries – eight or nine in operation at the last count! The combination of pure water, Hebridean air and smoky peat gives the Islay distillations a particular acquired taste, although they vary greatly from distillery to distillery. Ardbeg and Laphroaig vie with one another to produce the peatiest ever, while young upstarts such as the farm distillery at Kilchoman jostle to establish their own niche. Let us know your favourites and we can pre-arrange tours for you to ensure you don’t miss out. We can help with local taxis, too, if required.

If you fancy bagging another island to add to your collection, it’s perfectly possible to jump on another ferry for the short crossing to Jura, to the north. The contrast is dramatic. The island’s single ribbon of road hugs the eastern shoreline, with the distinctive peaks of the Paps looming in the west beyond acres of wild moorland. You’ll soon understand how George Orwell found the necessary solitude here to write of the Big Brother nightmare in his famous future-gazing novel, 1984.

Day Seven – return home

By ferry back to the mainland, then onwards to Glasgow. Your route will bring you through  the picture postcard village of Inveraray, where you might choose to  stop off and visit the castle – still home to the Duke of Argyll – or  stretch your legs at Crarae Gardens, featuring wonderful species of rhododendron and azalea. A final drive over the aptly named “Rest and Be Thankful” pass then along the shores of Loch Lomond leaves Argyll behind as you approach the outskirts of Glasgow and head for home.


This holiday covers the Kintyre peninsula and the Isle of Islay with a day trip to Gigha. You start with the ferry service from Ardrossan direct to Campbeltown on the Mull of Kintyre.


£825 per person for April & October, and £885 per person for May to September.

Prices are based on two people sharing a room for six nights on a bed & breakfast basis in 4 star small hotels, and include ferry travel for car and passengers in one direction to Campbeltown from Ardrossan, and return to Islay, as well as a day return trip to Gigha.

For holidays in April & October the boat trip will be replaced with a distillery tour and tasting, and travel to Kintyre will be by road rather than ferry.

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 itineraries and room types are presented subject to availability at specific hotels.

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.

A Wild Day in the West of Scotland

A Wild Day in the West of Scotland

Otters are supposedly secretive creatures but not this one! Last weekend we were sitting on our rug on the rocks enjoying peace and quiet and warm sun...


Check availability for Discover Islay & Kintyre

This holiday as described can start on a Thursday, Friday or Sunday. Subject to availability it may be offered in reverse order, starting on a Saturday, Sunday or Monday from April to October.

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