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Isles W Highlands of Scotland

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  Home > Scotland Tourist Info > Argyll and Western Highlands > The small isles of Scotland


The small islands off the central west coast of Scotland - Delightful, romantic, tranquil, weathered, acres of nothing... the small isles not so far from the mainland - you'll find a grand welcome



Hotels in the West Highlands of Scotland


The Isle of Bute sits in the Clyde estuary and is not far from the peninsula of Cowal. Rothesay was a popular resort in Victorian times when steamers brought workers from Glasgow on their annual holiday. Heather covered low hills and sheltered sandy bays. While there see Mount Stuart House & Gardens. Victorian Gothic. Interior and gardens. Arboretum, exotic gardens, walks. Three hundred acres of ground and gardens. Tel 01700 503877


Coll. Characteristic landscape is weathered rock in hummocks. Dunes and machair on the west side. Crofting and lobster fishing are the main enterprise on the island. Apart from bird watching, walking, archaeology and nature you'll just have to sit and enjoy the tranquillity - what a shame!


Colonsay and Oronsay. Only 8 miles long with wonderful beaches. The island of Colonsay is a haven for wildlife including seals and migrant eagles.


Iona. Take a pilgrimage to the birthplace of Christianity. Sacred Iona Abbey is a peaceful stage with its ancient Celtic crosses. Wander round the island. Best accessed via passenger ferry at Fionnphort on Mull.


Islay. The Queen of the Hebrides is known best for its whiskies - and maybe golf! Islay malts have a special peaty quality not found elsewhere - even Black Bottle which is not a malt oozes peat. The island was the seat of power for the Lords of the Isles who used to gather at Loch Finlaggan in defiance against Scotland's monarchy.


Jura and Islay offer super wildlife watching opportunities, including seals, otters and wintering geese. This is where George Orwell wrote '1984'. To get here you'll need the ferry from Port Askaig on Islay - the link to the ferry times starts on the Argyll-Bute web site - go to 'Getting about' then 'Ferry' link. The exact link may change from time to time so this is the most accurate way of finding it - sorry! Jura and Scarba are separated by the perilous Corryvreckan Whirlpool (just to put you at your ease!)


Staffa. Tiny uninhabited island with Fingal's Cave, a columnar rock formation. 7 miles west of Mull. Here Mendelssohn was moved to write his inspiring Hebrides Overture. Sailings from Iona and Fionnphort and Ulva Ferry Mull and Oban.


Tiree. Known as the sunniest place in Britain and a haven for surfers with wide golden beaches.


Gigha - this tiny island lies between Islay and the Kintyre. White sandy beaches. Gardens at Achmore House, the Gam Stone with its ancient Celtic writing. Old forts and standing stones.


Mull offers more room and a choice of mainland connections as well as superb coastal scenery. The colourful town of Tobermory is worth a visit, even for youngsters to visit the home of Balamory, Castle Torosay and Duart Castle are open to visitors and from Mull it an easy crossing to Iona, the home of Christianity in Scotland thanks to St Columba.


For ferry times and bookings to the islands go to the Caledonian MacBrayne site.


With Caledonian MacBrayne ferry you can take an Island Hopscotch/Rover ticket. Valid for one month from the date of your first journey. Create your own adventure.


Some things to see & do on the islands:


Achmore Gardens. Gigha

Over 50 acres of garden. Walled garden and herbaceous border.. Ferries to Isle of Ghia from Tayinloan - Ardminish. the gardens are about1.5 mile walks from pier.

01583 505254


Ascog Hall Fernery and Garden. Restored Victorian fern house with collection of ferns. Restored garden feature paths.

Three miles south of Rothesay Bute on A844.

Easter - Oct - closed Mon and Tue)

0170500 4555


Ardencraig Gardens. Rothesay. Bute

Walled garden with pot plants and water garden.

E of Rothesay on A844.


01700 504644


Bute Museum situated behind the castle at Rothesay. Bute

01700 505067


Bute sailing School. Sailing courses as well as day sails and cruises to Islay distilleries, St Kilda and Ireland.

Battery Place Rothesay. Bute


01700 504881


Rothesay Castle. 13th century circular castle. in the Centre of Rothsay. Bute


Bute Discovery Centre. Grade A Listed Winter Garden. 1920's domed building made of glass and iron.

By the seafront in Rothesay. Bute

01700 502151


Mount Stuart. Victorian Gothic house. Three hundred acres of landscape and woodland. Ranger service with guided island walks.


Five miles south of Rothesay. Bute


Colonsay House Garden. Isle of Colonsay. Woodland garden and walled garden. 30 acre informal woodland.

Ferries depart from Oban Sun.Wed. Fri or Kennacraig on Wed. Transport available from pier to garden.

01951 200211


Iona Abbey & Nunnery. Iona

Founded by St Columba in 563.Take a pilgrimage to the birthplace of Christianity. Sacred Iona Abbey is a peaceful stage with its ancient Celtic crosses. Wander round the island. Best accessed via a regular passenger ferry at Fionnphort on Mull which is non-bookable. Only takes about ten minutes. Iona Abbey is run by Historic Scotland and is open all year. a 15 minute walk from the ferry.


Iona: Sailing trips and boat hire from Iona. If you appreciate the atmosphere of sea then this is for you - sail with a poet! 


Bird Watching & more: comprehensive bird watching tours of Islay


Ardbeg Distillery. Islay.

Take a tour and try a wee dram.

Three miles from Port Ellen.

Open all yar with winter restrictions.

01496 302244


Bowmore Distillery. The oldest distillery on Islay.

Off A846 on shores of Loch Indaal, Bowmore.

Winter restrictions


Bunnahabhain Distillery. Islay. Bunnahabhain and Black Bottle, a blend of all seven Islay malts.

Visit by appointment.

01496 840646


Caol Ila Distilery. Tours and a wee dram. Islay

by Port Askaig on A846.

01496 840207


Lagavulin Distillery. Islay.

Three miles east of Port Ellen A846

Tours by appointment

01496 302400 


Loch Gruinart RSPB Nature Reserve. Islay. Guided walks are organised once a week. Hides provide views across the loch.

Loch Gruinart on north side of Islay

01496 850505


Duart Castle Mull. Home of Chief of Clan Maclean. See fourteenth century keep, dungeons and state rooms. A ferry runs from Oban weather permitting.

East side of Mull off A849 between Craignure and Lochdon.

Spring - Oct


Sea Life Surveys. Visitor Centre displays and interactive. Whale and dolphin watching trips operated by Sea Life Surveys. Pre booking essential.

From Ledaig pontoon in Tobermory Mull

Hebridean Whale & Dolphin Trust


Torosay Castle and Gardens Mull. Twelve acres of garden, terraced and woodland. Two miles south east of Craignure on A849. You can arrive by steam train

01680 812421


Mull Rail Miniature steam or diesel train. From Craignure to Torosay Castle where you can look around the gardens and castle.

Old Pier Station near Craignure ferry terminal off A849.

Easter - Oct


Tobermory Distillery The only distillery on the island of Mull. In Tobermory.


Interesting site for 'lonely isles'


For information on Lochalsh & Skye

For information on the Outer Hebrides