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Head off the beaten track and discover empty beaches, island gems and wildlife galore touring Kintyre and Argyll.
From Argyll’s Secret Coast to one of our favourite peninsulas, with a quick detour to the Isle of Gigha to boot. Spend a week off Scotland‘s beaten track, experiencing fabulous seafood, great hospitality, a Scottish island day-out and a couple of short but memorable ferry crossings. Look out for wildlife from seals to otters to eagles as you go.
Begin your Scottish journey with one of the country’s most scenic drives to a largely undiscovered corner by Loch Fyne. Then a short ferry crossing brings you to a jewel-like fishing village, before you plunge south on the finger of land that is the Kintyre peninsula, enjoying spectacular views across to the Isle of Arran. Your next base is in one of Kintyre’s cutest coastal villages. From here you could test out the local craft gin and enjoy lengthy beach walks. Next travel on to the iconic mull, made famous by Sir Paul McCartney. Then return north via the Isle of Gigha and finally to a destination restaurant-with-rooms for a gastro-treat in Knapdale.
Of course, this week-long trip is but a suggestion and can easily be tailor-made to suit your own requirements – perhaps extend with an overnight or two on Gigha or a stay further north in Argyll and its Isles?
Amid talk of Scotland’s popularity as a tourist destination, if one knows where to look, it remains disarmingly easy to escape any crowds and bustle. Your holiday begins in just such a place: Argyll’s Secret Coast, or the Cowal peninsula as it’s more formally known. Arrive here either by ferry to Dunoon from just west of Glasgow, or by taking the long way on a wonderful drive around Loch Lomond, over the often-eerie Rest-and-be-Thankful pass and along the shores of majestic Loch Fyne.
This once industrial nook on Loch Fyne has been skilfully repurposed over the past few years to create a leisure facility of huge appeal. Three distinctly different features are spread around a lengthy inlet incorporating comfortable holiday accommodation, a world-class spa and a small but perfectly formed marina. Guests are invited to roam betwixt and between, perhaps taking a stroll on the lengthy decks to admire the watercraft, or on a longer walk on the Cowal Way. The fully equipped spa features all you’d expect – 16m indoor pool, sauna, steam, treatment rooms and such – but the real clincher is Scotland’s largest heated outdoor infinity pool in a quite breathtaking position overlooking the loch.
Bedrooms are spacious and modern, some featuring views of the loch or over the extensive gardens and marina, and there is a range of dining options here, from fine to casual.
Take your time over breakfast as there’s no hurry to reach the ferry port, mere steps from the front door of your accommodation. Board the ferry late-morning for the short crossing over Loch Fyne to the classic Argyll fishing village of Tarbert. Wander here visiting the harbourfront shops, selling everything from fine whiskies to local crafts, or moody Tarbert Castle before setting off down the peninsula’s eastern coastal route to the village of Carradale.
Set close to the shores of Kilbrannan Sound, your accommodation in Carradale is an imposing Victorian former manse recently rescued from near-collapse by the friendly owners, and transformed in to a guest house of unique appeal. Virtually every inch of the interior has been restored or replaced to exacting standard, with many original features sitting neatly alongside modern touches, antique and reclaim furniture and fittings skilfully placed to make a satisfying whole. Just four guest bedrooms, smartly presented with finest linens, soft furnishings and decoration evoking the local landscape complete the picture.
Downstairs, guests are encouraged to make use of the lovely guest lounge perhaps with a dram from the bar, crackling log fire soothing the chill when required. What’s more, lunch and dinner are served here should you wish to dine, your host serving an elegant menu of Scottish classics created from the very finest ingredients from the local larder.
We never tire of Kintyre, its craggy coastline, golden beaches, forests, distilleries, gardens and more. Drop a little south from Carradale along a terrific driving route, pitching and yawing its way to Campbeltown, once the undisputed centre of whisky production. Along the way, perhaps take in a visit to Torrisdale Distillery, home to crisp Kintyre Gin, the remains of 2000 year-old Kildonan Dun or the ruin of Sandell Abbey. Later, tide-permitting, walk the causeway to Davaar Island to visit its decorated cave and impressive lighthouse.
40 odd years since its residence at the top of the charts, nothing much has changed at the Mull of Kintyre, mist continuing to roll in from the sea and we still would always wish to be here, thank you. This ancient landscape of deep historical significance represents the very origins of Scotland, and continues to evoke a peace and tranquillity unrivalled by almost any corner of the UK. Deserted, golden north Atlantic beaches, rugged cliffs and coastline, and a panoramic view that takes in Arran, Ailsa Craig, Northern Ireland, Rathlin and the Southern Hebrides, it’s difficult to think of a more special place to visit.
This historic hotel once regularly welcomed captains of industry and their families, who descended on Machrihanish for summer holidays with their steamer trunks and visions of relaxing times on the beach and golf links. Now fully restored, with just 22 rooms and suites, it brings sophistication to the area once again. Imagine waking up in the morning to views of the sparkling Atlantic across to the isles of Islay and Jura, enjoying a hearty Scottish breakfast, and then heading out for a day’s exploring.
Be sure to traverse the meandering and bumpy single-track road to the Mull itself for a genuine edge of the world feel. Intrepid travellers will love the challenging walk down to the lighthouse, or maybe you’d prefer to simply sit and be romanced by the views to Ireland (mist permitting!) The coast at the nearby village of Southend is often home to seals and otters, and is the spot where St. Columba first landed before heading to Iona.
This morning sees you return north, up the west coast of Kintyre to Tayinloan, stepping off point for the short ferry-crossing to the island of Gigha. Though tiny (just seven miles long by a mile and a half wide), Gigha is home to a wealth of fascinating history, including ancient standing stones and ruined churches, the fabulous Achamore Gardens, white, sandy beaches and a terrific restaurant serving fresh lobster on a good day. Having fallen in to some decline towards the end of the 20th century, the island was subject to a community buyout in 2002, and is today a thriving community focused on sustainable agriculture, art and tourism, and is a wonderful place to spend a day.
From Tayinloan it’s an hour or so further north to your final base in the hamlet of Kilberry.
This modest, whitewashed former croft on the Knapdale peninsula, surrounded by roses and topped with a bright red corrugated roof, hides a calm and welcoming haven within. The family hosts have spent many years developing a reputation for serving some of the finest food (and negronis!) in the west of Scotland, majoring on the very best produce from the surrounding area including lamb, beef, game, fish and shellfish, their cosy bar popular with locals and tourists alike. Bedrooms are just off the main building, set around a small courtyard and have recently undergone a delightful makeover, with simple fittings and décor ensuring a fuss free and relaxing stay. Dinner is included here on both nights.
The natural beauty of this largely undiscovered corner of Scotland is right on the doorstep of your accommodation, with hidden forest walks and deserted beaches just a stone’s throw away. Take the short stroll towards the shoreline to the arresting Kilberry Scupltured Stones, or further along the coast to Ormsary for views of the Knap peninsula. Chances are, you’ll have all of this to yourself, sharing only with local wildlife, including recently reintroduced beavers, whose trail you can follow while learning about the crucial work going on here to foster the development of their population.
Return to Glasgow and onwards to home. Our suggested route brings you by Inveraray and Loch Fyne, then to Loch Lomond, before picking up the main routes from Glasgow.
Tour Scotland’s best-kept secrets: the Cowal and Kintyre peninsulas.
£985 per person for April & October and £1095 per person for May to September.
All are based on 2 people sharing, for seven nights on a bed and breakfast basis, with dinner included for two nights provided in Kilberry, and also includes a one way fare for the Tarbert to Portavadie ferry, and day return ferry to Gigha for car and passengers.
Car rental is not included, but available for a range of vehicles – do just let us know.
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. Included will be some information on the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust to help you learn more about their work in conserving whales, dolphins and porpoises in Western Scotland, along with how you can help their efforts with their “Whale Track” app and by visiting their discovery centre.
All itineraries and room types are presented subject to availability at specific hotels.
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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...
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