Experience a gentler pace of life when you escape to the Scottish Islands. This tour plan takes you up the west coast in a series of short ferry hops from Arran via Mull to Skye.
Allow a minimum of 8 days to drive this tour route.
The guide contains extra day trip suggestions for extending the tour to 2 weeks +
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Approximately 570 miles / 920 Km
8 to 15 Days
Arrive Glasgow -
We start the route directions from Glasgow and include a summary guide to the main attractions of Scotland’s largest city.
You could also start the tour from Edinburgh as it is a simple motorway drive of ~1 hr / 54 miles to get from city to city. We provide a guide to Edinburgh.
Stopover in Glasgow / Loch Lomond area
Glasgow to Arran -
To maximise your time on Arran, we provide directions for a fast main road route to the Arran Ferry. The crossing to Arran takes less than an hour, but when you arrive you will immediately sense the change of pace as you slip into “island mode”.
~35 miles from Glasgow to the Ferry
Stopover on Isle of Arran
Discover Arran -
Arran is often described as “Scotland in miniature” and this island provides you with a taste of all that Scotland has to offer. The north of the island is defined by mountains with craggy peaks where Golden eagles soar, whilst the scenery of the south is more rolling and fertile. Within a short distance you can experience the grand Brodick castle with its palatial rooms, or the atmospheric ruins of Lochranza castle, a medieval stronghold with connections to King Robert the Bruce. The island has a wealth of Neolithic sites and we can guide you to standing stones on a timeless moorland landscape. The island also has 2 whisky distilleries, a brewery, a cheese factory, a thriving perfumery and lots of golf courses.
Stopover on Isle of Arran
Arran to Oban / Mull -
Sail from Arran to the Kintyre Peninsula and start the drive north to Oban. This is a road that we rate as one of the best scenic drives in Scotland. A highlight of this day is Kilmartin Glen where you find a cluster of standing stones, burial chambers and Neolithic rock art whose meaning has been lost in time.
We guide you to an Iron Age hill fort where you can relive the crowning ceremony of the Kings of Dalriada by standing in the “Footprint of Fealty”. The route also takes you past a lovely botanic garden and we include the option of a detour to an easily accessed island where you can explore some very pretty villages.
In Oban you will find a great choice of seafood restaurants and we would recommend that you spend the night here, but you could aim to take an evening ferry to Mull.
The guide also gives information for taking a half day trip from Oban to the Isle of Kerrera where you can enjoy an easy walk to the hauntingly moody Gylen Castle.
Stopover in Oban Area OR take a late ferry to the Isle of Mull
Discover Mull, Iona, Staffa & Ulva -
You need to stay a minimum of 2 nights on Mull as there is so much to see and you can’t rush around on Mull. The highlights of a visit to Mull are the pretty village of Tobermory with its brightly painted houses, Duart castle which guards the Sound of Mull, the historical Iona Abbey and the “must see” Island of Staffa which inspired Mendelssohn to write a symphony.
In addition to these famous attractions, we will guide you to the less known places where you can connect with the spirit of island life and escape the crowds.
Stopover on Isle of Mull
Mull to Skye -
Leave Mull via the short ferry crossing to the sparsely populated wilderness of Sunart & Moidart. This is a beautiful and quiet part of Scotland that most tourists miss. We guide you north to join the “Road to the Isles” that leads to Mallaig, where you board the ferry to Skye.
The route includes detour options to visit Glenfinnan and to explore the beautiful beaches known as the "Silver Sands of Morar". If you have ever seen the film "Local Hero", you will recognise the scenery around here. We also guide you to find some lovely picnic spots, an excellent smokehouse and the ruins of a castle with a dark history of an evil Clan chief.
You arrive at Armadale on the south coast of Skye. Not far from the ferry terminal, you find the ruins of Armadale castle (a seat of the Clan MacDonald) and the recently opened Torabhaig Distillery. You may wish to stay on Skye, but we also supply a guide to the Lochalsh area of the mainland adjacent to the Skye Bridge.
~68 miles from Mull ferry to Skye ferry (plus 2 ferry crossings of ~20 mins & ~35 mins)
Stopover on Isle of Skye or in nearby Lochalsh area
Day Trips around Skye & Lochalsh -
Skye is a large island with many of its attractions located at the end of single track roads. As a result, you are limited in how much you can cover in a day and you need to schedule at least a 2 night stopover.
Explore Skye - We provide directions for a tour that includes the famous scenic landmarks of Skye as well as Dunvegan Castle, Talisker Distillery, craft shops, tearooms, pubs and walks. More than enough to fill 2 whole days on Skye. ~138 miles
Alternative Day Trip around Loch Alsh & Loch Hourn - Skye can be a very busy place so we also provide directions for a tour around this quieter area where you can take in one of our favourite viewpoints, soak up the atmosphere at mysterious Iron Age Brochs, or enjoy a cup of coffee in one of the remotest tearooms in Scotland. You can return to Skye via a tiny car ferry that operates from Easter – October.
Stopover on Isle of Skye or the nearby Lochalsh area
Skye to Fort William via Loch Ness -
Departing Skye via the bridge, an essential early stop on today’s route is Eilean Donan castle. Thanks to several film appearances and countless calendar pictures, this castle has become an iconic image of Scotland. We give you tips on where to go for some different photo angles.
Heading inland, you travel through the wilderness of Glen Shiel and continue eastwards until you arrive at the shores of Loch Ness. If you want to go monster hunting, you can follow a small detour along the loch to visit Urquhart castle and the touristy “Nessie” attractions.
From the deep dark waters of Loch Ness, you continue along the Great Glen to Ben Nevis and Fort William. Keep a look out as strange creatures have also been sighted in the other lochs that you are passing. The drive ends in the Fort William / Glencoe area where you can take a cable car ride up a mountain, or pull on your boots for a short hike to see the valley where they filmed “Harry Potter’s” Quidditch tournaments.
Stopover in the Lochaber area
Fort William to Edinburgh / Glasgow -
Heading south from Fort William, we guide you through the dramatic scenery of Glen Coe and across the wild timeless expanses of Rannoch Moor to the village of Crianlarich.
Crianlarich translates from the Gaelic for “Low Pass”, and it stands at the junction where the roads to Glasgow and Edinburgh divide.
If returning to Glasgow, you travel down the shores of Loch Lomond and may wish to stop for a short cruise on the loch.
~103 miles to Glasgow
If heading to Edinburgh, you start on a drive through the Trossachs with options to visit the castles at Doune and Stirling before joining the motorway to Edinburgh.
~130 miles to Edinburgh
Stopover in Edinburgh or Glasgow or Loch Lomond Area.
Discover Edinburgh -
To let you adapt the tour for a start / end in Edinburgh, we supply a guide to the Capital city's best attractions, pubs and restaurant.
Edinburgh is a compact city and easy to explore on foot. We provide directions for 3 walking routes that show you different sides of the Capital city; a walk down the historical Royal Mile, a verdant riverside path to the oasis of tranquility that is the Royal Botanic Gardens and a more energetic hike to Arthur’s Seat with the option to continue to an old Inn with lots of history.
The guide also includes some options for day trips around the surrounding area by car or bus / train.
The day trips by car take you to West Lothian, where you can visit many of the sites used in the filming of “Outlander”, and to East Lothian, where you can visit spectacular castle ruins on a cliff top, a whisky distillery, lots of pretty villages and maybe embark on a boat trip to Bass Rock.
To help you book the best places to stay, we offer a guide to Recommended Accommodation along the route of this tour.
We personally visit all the accommodation featured in the guides and only select places where we would wish to stay ourselves. Read More...
When you "Checkout", you will have the option to buy the Accommodation Guide.
When you buy a Secret Scotland Tour Itinerary you will receive a Discount Code that gets you a 10% reduction on the cost of Car Hire from Arnold Clark Rental.
Simply use the Secret Scotland code when you book via the Arnold Clark website and your car hire discount will automatically apply.
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