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A little under an hour from Glasgow will find you in Ardrossan on the Ayrshire coast for your first ferry crossing, again just under an hour to Brodick on the Isle of Arran. Hebridean in culture and history, though separated from them by Kintyre, Arran is filled with prehistoric and Neolithic sites telling the story of a turbulent past of feuds, battles and complex politics. Its skyline dominated by majestic Goatfell, the island boasts an array of wildlife and some quite superb beaches, alongside expansive moorland, swooping driving routes and endearing villages both coastal and inland. Food and drink lovers will find much to enjoy here, too, with cheese, chocolate, biscuits, beer and whisky, for example, all produced on the island and ready to tempt the taste buds.
Just 10 minutes’ drive from Brodick, the pretty village of Lamlash on the island’s east coast boasts a small, family owned hotel set just back from the shore. With views from its sheltered garden across Lamlash Bay towards enigmatic Holy Isle, this award winning gem features simply decorated, elegant accommodation. The relaxed bistro serves an impressive menu created from the finest local produce.
With 57 miles of coastal road, traversing evocatively named villages like Blackwaterfoot, Thundergay and Sannox, a drive around the island is not to be missed. Stop off along the way for a stroll on one of the island’s terrific – and often deserted – beaches, before heading inland to Machrie Moor to see its imposing Neolithic standing stones. For a more demanding walk, pack a picnic and take the wild and rugged route to remote Loch Tanna, the island’s largest and most beautiful body of water. Arran contains a host of appealing cafes and restaurants to suit any taste and budget, while its dedicated group of producers offer regular tours and tastings delivering some of the most authentic food and drink experiences in Scotland.
Drive 40 minutes north from your hotel to Lochranza to catch the 30 minute ferry crossing to Claonaig on the west coast of the Kintyre peninsula. From here, perhaps make a short detour north to the pretty fishing village of Tarbert, where you’ll find friendly locals, and one or two appealing shops and cafes on the harbourfront.
Later, take the rolling B-road down the west coast of the peninsula to the delightful village of Carradale and your base for the next two nights.
Nestled on the edge of the village of Carradale and recently rescued from near dereliction, your accommodation in Kintyre is an impressive Victorian former manse, just moments’ stroll from the beach. The welcoming owners have created cosy and attractive accommodation, each bedroom furnished with a selection of repurposed and antique pieces. The inviting bay-windowed guest lounge features a crackling fire to warm the toes on cooler evenings, perhaps while enjoying a local dram from the bar. The opportunity to enjoy in-house dinner means you can relax for the evening and take a break from driving.
Kintyre is our favourite Scottish peninsula and we’ll share our local knowledge so that you get the best from 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 loch-side villas. It’s not quite so grand these days but is home to Springbank whisky, famous for its traditional production methods and still run, since 1828, by members of its founding family.
A short drive today will take you to the ferry port for the crossing to Islay, passing the magnificent Paps of neighbouring Jura as you sail.
Situated in the heart of the 18th century ‘island capital’ of Bowmore, this historic whitewashed inn by the harbour has seen a host of changes over the years. Most recently it’s been brought up to date with stylish en-suite bedrooms featuring splashes of tweed and contrasting earthy tones. Downstairs you’ll find a new conservatory with gorgeous views across Loch Indaal. What a great spot in which to enjoy a dram. The hotel’s award winning restaurant offers an “a la carte” menu incorporating seasonal dishes using the finest locally sourced produce, while for more informal dining, the lounge bar offers an all day menu.
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.
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 and along the shores of Loch Lomond leaves Argyll behind. Approach the outskirts of Glasgow and head for home.
This holiday covers the Isle of Arran, the Kintyre Peninsula and the the Isle of Islay.
£1055 per person for April & October, and £1125 per person for May to September.
Prices are based on two people sharing an en-suite room for seven nights on a bed and breakfast basis in our specially chosen selection of small hotels and guest houses, and includes ferry travel for car and passengers in one direction to Arran from Ardrossan, to Kintyre from Arran and return to Islay.
Though not included, car rental is available for a range of vehicles – please just ask for details.
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.
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This holiday can be arranged from April until 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.
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...
Glorious Autumn weather all week made the holiday special. Toured most of Kintyre and Islay - quiet and peaceful with lovely scenery.David & Iris, Leeds, England
Tailored to our requirements and time. Excellent suggestions.Janet & Terry, Suffolk