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Living close to its edge, we perhaps take Loch Lomond for granted, but really, when you consider it takes around 20 minutes to reach from Scotland’s largest city it’s kind of incredible. Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park covers over 700 square miles of staggeringly beautiful landscape, with rolling lowland to the south and soaring mountains to the north surrounding this most majestic of lochs. We’ll provide a tailor-made route to get here from wherever you choose to set off.
Your first ‘proper’ day on the road. Heading away from Loch Lomond, soon you’re crossing the ‘Arrochar Alps’ on the Rest and Be Thankful pass, at the top of which you’ll want to stop and admire the view of the route you just followed. Pressing on, the road turns left as you make your way on to the Cowal Peninsula, Argyll’s Secret Coast – aptly named, as you’ll often have the route to yourself. Take the long way along the south coast of Loch Fyne, making time to visit the ruins of 15th-century Castle Lachlan. Scythe through forest before the road descends towards the Kyles of Bute and around Loch Ruel to your base for the next two nights in a tiny village by the water’s edge.
Your Hotel on the Secret Coast
Nestled away between hill and loch, your accommodation is as calm as they come; a lovely little four-room hotel with a popular bar and a restaurant that punches well above its weight – we’ll never forget the Bute Beef. If the weather is with you, the garden is a superb spot to enjoy a cold one after a long day on the road, and the en-suite bedrooms with their original Victorian floorboards, giant windows and sky-high ceilings couldn’t be comfier.
A number of terrific driving routes fan out from your location, high past Loch Tarasan and on to Holy Loch and Loch Long, looping back around the peninsula, where you’ll want to discover the vibrant lochside villages of Kames and Tighnabruaich. Or, just a few steps from your hotel, you could choose to take Scotland’s shortest scheduled ferry crossing on to the Isle of Bute, home to extravagant Mount Stuart mansion and gardens, and another fine driving route around the circumference of the island.
Time to continue your Scottish road trip, starting with spectacular views of the Kyles of Bute on your way to Portavadie for the 30-minute ferry crossing over the mouth of Loch Fyne to the classic fishing port of Tarbert. From here, gather yourself for the journey the length of the enigmatic Kintyre peninsula via its lesser-travelled east coast, the Isle of Arran glowing offshore. Take your time along this rugged coastline, where your next base is in the small fishing village of Carradale.
Your Accommodation in Kintyre
This is an impressive Victorian former manse, just a few minutes’ walk from the beach. The welcoming owners have created cosy and attractive accommodation, each bedroom furnished with a selection of repurposed and antique pieces, skilfully placed alongside more modern beds, high-spec en-suites and atmospheric lighting. 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, and the opportunity to enjoy in-house dinner means you can relax for the evening and take a break from driving.
Today just might be your day to reach the southern tip and the Mull of Kintyre, just 11 miles from the island of Ireland, easily viewable on a clear day. Drive first through the village of Southend then climb a meandering single track route, stopping to admire the stupendous coastal views back across to the Isle of Sanda and Ailsa Craig rock. Continue on the pitching, lonely road towards the Mull of Kintyre lighthouse, the final mile doable only on foot – a good opportunity to don the boots and stretch the legs. This is a dramatic spot, whether you happen upon sunshine and blue skies or swirling winds pulling in the infamous mists. Making your way back north, take time to explore Campbeltown, once home to some 29 distilleries – more than any other location – though today you’ll find just Springbank and Glen Scotia, either well worth a tour, with drivers given the chance to take home a dram for enjoying later. Or if beaches are more your preference, you’ll be spoilt for choice with miles of empty, golden strands just begging to be walked.
A chance to test your driving skill today, as you spear north along the west coast of Kintyre, the isle of Gigha shining in the water, Islay and Jura in the distance. Hang a left and twist your way around the wild Knapdale peninsula, home to an extensive nature reserve and the Scottish Beaver Trail. A little further, you could detour again for a fine seafood lunch at the western end of the Crinan Canal, ‘Scotland’s prettiest shortcut’. Back on the road, the route carries you through pre-historic Kilmartin Glen, seat of ancient Scottish Kings and home to some of the earliest evidence of mainland habitation. Often-overlooked, it is one of our favourite corners of Scotland, crammed with stories and legends. Then it’s just a little further to tonight’s stopping point.
Your Hotel by Arduaine
What a gorgeous spot in which to spend an evening; on a raised position overlooking the Slate Islands with Luing in the distance, this family owned hotel could be the perfect highland retreat. 17 acres of pristine gardens tumble towards the shoreline, and one of the west-coast’s finest garden attractions is just on the doorstep. Inside, the friendly hosts have really made their mark, with particular attention paid to the quality of food served in the bistro or restaurant, and to the cosseting comfort of the accommodation.
After breakfast, maybe a stroll around the nearby gardens is a fine way to start the day before once more hitting the road. And what a route is in store today, as you wend your way north, first through the bustling port of Oban, home to one of the country’s oldest distilleries and hopping-off point for the Hebrides. Carrying on, you drive along the shores of sparkling Loch Linnhe and across the bridge at Ballachulish. Here, board the tiny car ferry for the short sailing across the loch and on to the Ardnamurchan peninsula, a fabulous wilderness and home to the UK mainland’s westernmost point. The often single-track route takes visitors through tiny hamlets in the shadow of forbidding peaks as it yaws its way to the edge of Loch Ailort and the Road to the Isles. You’ll soon reach your next base, in the coastal village of Arisaig.
Your Accommodation in Arisaig
Long ago, your accommodation in Arisaig, a former library, was the hub of this former fishing community for one reason, while now it’s at the centre for quite another. Recently taken under the wings of an enthusiastic local family, this appealing restaurant with rooms has seen a host of upgrades, its four ensuite rooms modernised in elegant, simple style, the dining room and menu overhauled, with local seafood taking centre-stage.
Just 10 minutes’ drive from Arisaig will find you in the busy port of Mallaig, home to the end of the legendary West Highland Railway and the ferry to the Isle of Skye. You’ll enjoy an hour-long wildlife cruise today, Mallaig on to Loch Nevis, for views of remote Knoydart and the residents of Seal Island, perhaps before fish and chips sat on the harbourside watching the comings and goings of this bustling community. Then you’ll have time to explore the beaches in this corner of Scotland’s West Coast, rivalling the most beautiful in the world in our opinion, with glorious views to the Small Isles – no wonder the 1980s classic movie Local Hero chose this as a key location.
Back to Mallaig after breakfast, this time to board the ferry for the short crossing to Armadale on the Isle of Skye. While there’s no doubt Skye has seen a recent uplift in popularity, this stupendous and deceptively large island is also one of the easiest places in which to find yourself completely alone with the landscape. Intimidating peaks, raw coastlines, bleak moorland and a colourful ‘capital’ make this a fabulous place to explore in a day, ended by taking yourself across the bridge back to the mainland, for a quick hop north to your final stop in the enchanting loch-side village of Plockton.
Your Accommodation in Plockton
On the ancient main street of this classic Highland village, your hotel in Plockton is a long-established inn owned and run for many years by the friendliest of families. Having spent the day taking in the island of Skye, the popular bar is a welcoming haven, or, weather permitting, tables at the front give cracking views of Loch Carron while you sip on a cold one. A tempting menu of Scottish classics is served either in the bar or the relaxed restaurant.
Some of the best driving routes in Scotland are right within touching-distance of Plockton. A little over an hour away, around the heads of Lochs Carron and Kishorn, the turn-off Bealach na Ba (the Pass of the Cattle) awaits the intrepid. This highest of UK mountain passes contorts its way upwards on the way to the village of Applecross, a fine spot for lunch amidst incredible views of Raasay and Rona. Drop down the northern side of the peninsula around Lochs Shieldaig and Torridon on to the wilderness of Achnasheen on your way back to Plockton for your final night.
A last day of superb scenery and challenging driving roads awaits as you make your way southwards. First through desolate Glen Garry and along the shores of shining Loch Lochy, you’ll drive through the shadow of Ben Nevis and onwards to the scowling valley of Glencoe. From here, cross Rannoch Moor and drop further towards Loch Lomond. Congratulate yourself on completing McKinlay Kidd’s West Coast 500 before picking up the motorway near Glasgow.
All McKinlay Kidd self-drive holidays are planned and booked on a tailor-made basis, so can easily be adapted to suit your personal requirements – dally a bit longer, add in an island adventure or celebrate a special occasion – just let us know your thoughts when you enquire.
This road trip holiday begins in Loch Lomond, before veering into Argyll’s Cowal peninsula, then across Loch Fyne to Kintyre before looping back north through Kilmartin Glen. You then head further north to Arisaig and then hop across the sea to Skye for the day before travelling to your final base in Plockton. The return journey to complete your circuit brings you through brooding Glencoe.
£1055 per person in March & November, £1145 per person in April & October and £1195 in May to September.
Prices based on two adults sharing double or twin ensuite accommodation for 10 nights on a bed and breakfast basis. Ferry crossing for car and passengers from Portavadie to Tarbert and from Mallaig to Armadale is also included, as well as a one-hour boat trip from Mallaig as part of a small group.
Car rental is not included, and of course we would delighted to provide you a quotation from a wide range of vehicles. We would also be delighted to assist with any travel arrangements to and from Scotland you may wish to make.
Before your departure, you will receive personalised holiday information including full directions and recommended routes from your specified starting point, 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 March to November.
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.