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Rugged Arran, the whisky mecca of Islay, captivating Mull and legendary Skye await on this magical Scottish island-hopping escape.
On this eleven day Scottish island-hopping adventure, you’ll experience lots of short ferry trips, have the chance to relax in hand-picked, high quality small hotels and discover the contrasting ways of life on four different isles. From Arran‘s “Scotland in Miniature” landscape to Islay’s whisky distilleries, from Tobermory’s stunning waterfront on Mull, to the brooding Cuillins on Skye, this self-drive holiday gives you ample opportunity to explore. We’ll provide plenty of tips and recommendations to help you meander off the beaten track too.
Your first destination is the ferry port of Ardrossan in Ayrshire from where you catch a ferry to the Isle of Arran.
Located a stone’s throw from the ferry terminal, your hotel is the focal point for the village and offers a perfect base to explore the island. This is a locally owned and family-run hotel that offers modern well-designed rooms in comfortable surroundings. The hotel’s restaurant offers a refreshingly simple menu with an emphasis on good quality local produce. The menus are seasonally driven and make use of home-grown produce with a contemporary twist on flavoursome classics. The bar enjoys the island’s finest collection of local and regional whiskies, served in relaxing, intimate surroundings with views over Brodick Bay.
What to see and do
Often described as Scotland in miniature, Arran is bisected by the Highland Fault – a geological boundary dividing the rugged and mountainous north from the more luscious lowlands of the south. This island offers something for everyone – challenging walks, cycling around the coast (or through the hills if you’re brave enough), ancient monuments, wonderful wildlife and an intriguing smattering of traditional industries: Arran Aromatics and Isle of Arran Brewery are two worthy of a visit. The Arran Heritage Museum in Brodick will give you the local history – or head out to Brodick Castle, an imposing sandstone structure cloaked in dark trees at the foot of brooding Goatfell, the highest mountain on the island. Further afield, the village of Lochranza features the picturesque ruins of a 14th-century castle and the relatively new Arran Distillery, whilst Kildonan Castle on the south coast offers views as far as the Mull of Kintyre.
Cross back to the mainland via the Lochranza ferry in the north of the island. A short hop across the Kintyre peninsula will take you to Kennacraig from where you catch a further ferry to Islay.
Your accommodation on Islay
This picturesque hotel, located in the heart of Islay, is perfectly placed for you to explore everything the island has to offer. Popular with the locals (always a good sign), and offering a well-regarded restaurant you’ll enjoy a comfortable and welcoming stay.
What to see and do
Once the ancestral seat of the Lords of the Isles, Islay is a fertile island of low heather-clad hills, attractive beaches, numerous historical sites and more whisky distilleries than any other Scottish island! A haven for hill-walkers and bird-watchers, it is home to the huge Loch Gruinart bird sanctuary and its vast numbers of migrating geese. In the island capital, Bowmore, you can visit the unusual Round Church (no corners for the devil to hide in!) or, if history is your thing, the Museum of Island Life in Port Charlotte is well worth a visit – as are the ruins of Finlaggan Castle, home of the Macdonald chiefs, and Kildalton Chapel with its early Christian cross. Easily accessible for day-trips are the neighbouring islands of Jura – whose rugged scenery belies the glorious splendour of Jura House Garden and pretty Colonsay (Wednesdays only), which boasts spectacular Kiloran Bay.
Return to Kintyre and drive north through some more stunning west coast scenery. Your route will pass through the atmospheric Kilmartin Glen, site of many ancient standing stones and burial cairns, which are well worth exploring. Your ferry to Mull departs from Oban and the 45-minute crossing will be one of your highlights with, weather permitting, often quite glorious views in all directions as you cross the Sound of Mull. You will stay close to the main island village of Tobermory.
Your Mull Accommodation
Staying in a family run B&B in Tobermory. Here, you escape the village bustle yet still have all the amenities of the waterfront within easy reach.
Alternatively, if you dream of staying in a romantic Scottish castle, far from the cares of the world, with nooks and crannies and turrets and sweeping sea views, ask us about Glengorm Castle. Here, you will receive a very warm welcome – despite the grandeur of the building, you are not just a visitor, but a special guest in a family home. The owners are passionate about the whole estate, and take great pride in introducing you to its many delights – from the café and coffee shop secluded in the grounds, to the wonderful wildlife (guided walks available), from the Victorian bathing pools by the seashore to the distinctive volcano on the ridge.
What to see and do
A sheer paradise for lovers of Scotland’s natural heritage, Mull is an island gem with an enviable diversity of wildlife thriving everywhere – from dense woodland glens to the grassy slopes of Ben More. Its many miles of coastline boast fantastic sandy beaches – particularly at Calgary and Ardalanish – whilst off-shore is one of Europe’s prime habitats for whales and dolphins (we can arrange guided wildlife-watching trips). Meanwhile, lively Tobermory has a bustling vitality and is a great place to spend a couple of days. Brightly painted houses provide a colourful backdrop to the picture-postcard harbour and the “craic” in the waterfront bars rivals anything on the mainland.
A world away from all this, but in reality just a short ferry crossing, tiny Iona is a deeply spiritual place, a historic Christian pilgrimage and yet another peaceful wildlife habitat with some glorious beaches. You can also visit the isles of Ulva and Staffa during your stay.
Return to the mainland via the Tobermory to Kilchoan ferry, then travel through the wild landscape of Ardnamurchan and Moidart, to reach the ferry port at Mallaig. After catching the ferry to Skye, make your way to your hotel, less than 15 minutes away.
Your Hotel on Skye
Sheltered by a gently curving bay, your charming whitewashed hotel sits right on the seashore, enjoying expansive views over the Sound of Sleat to the wilderness of Knoydart. This, the most southerly part of Skye, is an area of great natural beauty, often referred to as the “Garden of Skye” thanks to its abundant birdlife and profusion of wildflowers.
This is a Gaelic-speaking community and the bar is a convivial meeting place for the locals, who mix happily with hotel guests, often to the accompaniment of traditional music and Gaelic song in front of the roaring log fire. Twelve bedrooms (six in the Garden House) are decorated with pretty cotton and linen chintzes and there are four new suites in the recently restored stables, each enjoying superb views across the water to the lighthouse of Isle Ornsay. Candlelit meals in the wood-panelled dining room reflect the estate’s culinary riches, with wonderful shellfish and game featuring prominently on the menu. Langoustines are landed at the old stone pier, and oysters come from the hotel’s own oyster beds.
What to see and do
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 craft shop. The surrounding area of hills, moorland, woodland and seashore offers endless opportunities for walking and drinking in the magnificent sea views. Don’t miss the enchanting walk to the Point of Sleat, from where you can gaze across to the small isles of Rum and Eigg and dream of future visits! On the way down to the Point of Sleat, it’s worth stopping off at the Clan Donald Centre at Armadale with its fine arboretum and lovely garden. Further afield, in the north of the island, you’ll find historic Dunvegan Castle, and Portree, the bustling island capital.
Your island odyssey is complete, you leave Skye by way of the elegant bridge.
Experience the contrasting islands of Arran, Islay, Mull and Skye.
£1545 per person in April & October and £1625 per person from May to September.
All prices based on two adults sharing a room, for 10 nights on a bed & breakfast basis. Several of the hotels offer upgraded rooms for small supplements – ask us for more details.
The prices for this self-drive touring holiday include ferry crossings for a car and two passengers from Ardrossan (Ayrshire) to Brodick (Arran) then from Lochranza (Arran) to Claonaig (Kintyre), from Kennacraig to/from Islay, then from Oban to Mull, from Mull via Ardnamurchan to Skye. The return journey from Skye would be via the Skye bridge.
The price does not include car hire, but we can arrange this to suit, with a range of cars available – 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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While you can start this holiday on any available date, it is worth bearing in mind that some distilleries on Islay and many visitor attractions on Skye are closed on Sundays.
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.
“Somewhere along the Scottish coast An emerald island lies So I will steer my sailing boat Unto the Isle of Skye” [Andrew Peterson] I take a glanc...
We felt the planning that went into the holiday regarding our crossings was excellent so thank you for that.Lester & Penelope, Milton Keynes
Excellent advice given on itinerary, wee personal touches and suggestions. Our holiday was worry free thanks to you.Peter & Marie, Quebec, Canada