The Ultimate List of Things to Do on the West Coast of Scotland

The West Coast of Scotland is a treasure trove of delights for visitors, with its sweeping landscapes, big skies, dramatic seascapes, romantic castles, spectacular wildlife, superb food and drink, and friendly locals.

Here’s our ultimate list of things to do when visiting Scotland’s West Coast.

Beaches & Coastline

  1. Calgary Bay, Mull: Quite possibly the best beach in Scotland, Calgary Bay may be small but it’s perfectly formed. It has a sheltered location, backed by a forest and castle straight from a storybook. Best of all, the beach has silver sands and crystal-clear shallow turquoise sea.
  2. Sanna Bay: Located at the most westerly point of mainland Britain at the tip of the Ardnamurchan Peninsula, Sanna Bay is a stunner. It’s is renowned for its magnificent white shell-sand beach, turquoise waters, and stunning views over the isles of Eigg, Rum and Muck.
  3. Kiloran: Situated on the northwest coast of the Isle of Colonsay, Kiloran beach is great for frolicking on the white sands and splashing in the river that meanders across the beach when the tide goes out. A top spot for surfers, it’s also good for wildlife lovers with dolphins and otters regularly seen.
  4. Camusdarach: Lying south of the estuary of Britain’s shortest river, the Morar, Camusdarach is an arc of white sand with stunning views along the coastline, taking in the jagged peaks of Skye’s Cuillin Mountains and the rugged outline of Eigg and Rum. An excellent spot for rock pooling with some fabulous sunsets.
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Calgary Bay

Landscapes & Geography

  1. Cuillin Mountains, Skye: The view of Skye’s Black Cuillins from across Loch Scavaig is one of the most dramatic in the UK. Jump on a boat to the head of the loch for a view to remember.
  2. Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park: Scotland’s first national park is 720 square miles of stunning mountains, glens, lochs, rivers and woodlands. It’s a playground for outdoor enthusiasts who head here to hike, cycle, watch wildlife or participate in a number of adventure sports.
  3. Argyll Forest Park: Take a walk in the woods in Britain’s oldest forest park. Stretching from the Holy Loch on the Firth of Clyde to Arrochar Alps, this is a land of hidden glens, craggy peaks, rushing rivers and peaceful sea lochs.
  4. Glencoe: Magical Glencoe is the most famous and most scenic glen in Scotland. A paradise for walkers and climbers, the region has high mountain peaks and ridges, gushing waterfalls and rivers, and offers Alps-esque views.
Argyll Forest Park

Argyll Forest Park

Wildlife

  1. Sea Eagles: The fourth-largest eagle in the world, sea eagles were wiped out in Britain thanks to the Victorians, but a programme of reintroduction on Mull has been successful and you can watch the birds on their nests.
  2. Whale Watching: The waters around Mull are the best place in the UK to watch whales. Minke whales are the most common here, though you can also see orcas, as well as dolphins, porpoises, and basking sharks.
  3. Lake Sunart: The oak woods by Lake Sunart haven’t been spoiled by tourism, and they’re a fantastic location to spot wild cats, red squirrels, otters and eagles.
  4. Puffins: The unmistakable puffin is a delightful bird. They winter at sea, but head ashore to breed in colonies. One of the best is Lunga in the Treshnish Isles, just off Mull.
  5. Scottish Beaver Trial, Knapdale: This unique conservation project aims to reintroduce beavers into the wild. The project monitored 4 beaver families over a 5-year period and, although the monitoring phase is over, you can still visit the beavers.
Lake Sunart

Lake Sunart

Museums & Historic Buildings

  1. Inveraray Castle: Romantic Inveraray Castle, situated on the banks of Loch Fyne, is one of Scotland’s finest stately homes set in an area of spectacular natural beauty. Its fairytale façade houses an equally enchanting interior, and the gardens are pretty special too.
  2. Castle Stalker: This picturesque castle is surrounded by water at the mouth of Loch Laich. It’s privately owned although tours can be arranged. Most people simply go to admire the iconic view.
  3. Duart Castle: Proudly guarding the sea cliffs at Mull, Duart Castle is the ancestral home of Clan McLean. Wander the ancient keep and spooky dungeons, marvel at the magnificent banqueting hall, walk the battlements and enjoy the view over the Sound of Mull.
  4. Iona Abbey: One of Scotland’s most historic and sacred sites, Iona Abbey was founded in AD 563 and restored at the start of the 20th century. It remains a focus for Christian pilgrimage and retains a peaceful, spiritual atmosphere.
  5. McCaig’s Tower: A prominent landmark overlooking Oban, McCaig’s Tower is a Colosseum-esque folly with spectacular views over Oban Bay and the islands.
  6. Kilmartin Glen: One of the most important archaeological sites in Europe, Kilmartin Glen has an excellent museum and over 350 prehistoric and historic sites within a short distance, including a henge monument, chambered cairns, standing stones, and natural rocks decorated with cup and rings marks.
  7. The Auchindrain Trust: The most complete surviving example of a Highland township, visitors gain an understanding of life in the old Highlands. Wander through the settlement, and explore the restored buildings and everyday objects its inhabitants used.
McCaig’s Tower

McCaig’s Tower

Gardens

  1. Arduaine Garden: This coastal garden is a tranquil oasis on the Arduaine peninsula, south of Oban. It’s a horticultural tour around the temperate world, with giant Himalayan lilies, Blue Tibetan poppies, Chatham Island forget-me-nots, and an array of rhododendrons, azaleas and magnolias.
  2. Crarae Garden: A magical spot near the banks of Loch Fyne, Crarae Garden is an exotic Himalayan-style woodland garden in a dramatic gorge setting. The trees and shrubs have been chosen for their spring flowering and autumn colours, while the rushing water gives it the feel of a Himalayan valley.
  3. Geilston Garden: An intimate, tranquil place, Geilston has an attractive walled garden and a burn winding through woodland. The woodland is a magical area, with mossy paths and bridges over the burn, while the walled garden is a riot of spring and summer colour.
  4. Ardmaddy Castle Gardens: A garden for all seasons, Ardmaddy Castle Gardens are in a spectacular setting, shielded by mature woodland and the elevated castle. The Walled Garden has some unusual plants and shrubs, while the Clock Garden produces cut flowers, fruit and vegetables.
Crarae Garden

Crarae Garden

Towns & Villages

  1. Oban: The busiest and best-known town in Argyll, Oban is the ‘Gateway to the Isles’, as it’s the hub for boats leaving to the Inner and Outer Hebrides. It’s also known as the ‘Seafood Capital of Scotland’.
  2. Inveraray: Situated on the shores of Loch Fyne, Inveraray is noted for its fine Georgian architecture. Popular spots include Inveraray Castle, the jail and the woollen mill, while many come just to witness the stunning reflections of the landscape and town in the still waters of the loch.
  3. Tobermory: The capital of Mull, Tobermory is instantly recognisable thanks to its colourful buildings surrounding the natural harbour. Built as a fishing port, the town has a mix of shops, cafes and restaurants, hotels and guesthouses, and an excellent selection of locally produced arts and crafts. Famous as the setting for the children’s programme, Balamory.
  4. Portree: The main town on Skye, Portree is a bustling port set around a natural harbour. It’s also the cultural hub of Skye, and its Aros Cultural Community Centre runs theatre, concerts and films, plus it has an exhibition about the rare sea eagles that live on the island.
  5. Tarbet: A small but picturesque village, Tarbet sits on a neck of land separating Loch Lomond from Loch Long. It’s connected by the famous West Highland Railway Line and is a popular spot for joining a pleasure cruise around Loch Lomond.
Inveraray

Inveraray

Islands

  1. Skye: The largest island of the Inner Hebrides, Skye is a gem of an island. It has stunning mountain scenery, beautiful sea lochs and some interesting geological features. Swim in the Faerie Pools of Glenbrittle, visit the Old Man of Storr rock pinnacles and keep your eyes peeled for spectacular wildlife.
  2. Mull: One of the most mountainous of Scotland’s islands, Mull is best known for its wonderful wildlife, with nesting sea eagles and plenty of marine life in its waters, including whales. Visit Duart Castle, take a trip on the narrow gauge railway, go hill walking and sample whisky in the local distillery.
  3. Iona: Nestled off the coast of Mull, the peaceful isle of Iona has been a place of pilgrimage for almost 1,500 years. Visit the restored Benedictine Monastery or simply gaze in wonder at the spectacular white sandy beaches.
  4. Arran: The most southerly isle, Arran is small with a remarkable diversity of landscapes and seascapes. Visit the distillery, sample the local beer, explore the standing stones of Machrie Moor, climb Goat Fell and tour Brodick Castle.
  5. Eigg: On a beautiful sunny day on Eigg, you could be forgiven for thinking you’re in the Caribbean. Walk along the singing sands and climb An Sgùrr, the final hurrah of Eigg’s ancient volcano.
  6. Rum: Diamond in shape, the Isle of Rum is a jewel of the Inner Hebrides. Visit the eccentric Kinloch Castle, walk in the stunning mountain and coastal scenery, stroll on the beautiful beaches and enjoy the wildlife, especially the hardy Rum ponies.
  7. Muck: The smallest of the Small Isles, Muck is a low-lying island with sandy beaches and rocky shores. Climb the 452 ft. Beinn Airein for views over the surrounding islands.
  8. Coll: The Isle of Coll is a hidden gem, around 40 miles west of Oban. With numerous sandy beaches and an abundance of wildlife, it’s a little off the beaten track and is tempting for intrepid explorers seeking some peace and tranquillity.
Muck Island

Muck Island

Activities

  1. Sea Kayaking: If you dream of landing on an uninhabited island and lighting a fire on the beach (safely of course!) the Outer Hebrides are a dream location. With over 200 islands, most of which are uninhabited, this is one of the world’s best destinations for sea kayaking.
  2. Kitesurf on Barra: The beach at Traigh Mhor on Barra is the UK’s only sand airstrip. It’s also a prime spot for kitesurfing, thanks to the near-constant wind.
  3. Surfing & Windsurfing: The windy island of Tiree is little more than a raised beach but it’s blessed with wonderful surf, making it a hotspot for surfers and windsurfers. It also has the most hours of sunshine in the UK.
  4. Horse Riding: With its stunning landscapes and variety of terrain, the West Coast of Scotland is the ideal place to go horse riding. Ride along shady forest trails, or gallop along wide, deserted beaches.
Kayaking

Kayaking

Excursions

  1. Fingal’s Cave, Isle of Staffa: This sea cave is composed of hexagonally jointed basalt columns, much like those of the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland. Take a boat trip to this uninhabited island and listen to the eerie echoes in the belly of the caves.
  2. The Jacobite Steam Train: One of the greatest rail journeys in the world, the Jacobite steam train runs between Fort William and Mallaig. Starting near Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, it passes through some splendid scenery including the Glenfinnan viaduct, made famous by the Harry Potter films.

Food & Drink

  1. Explore the Seafood Trail: Seafood and shellfish feature heavily on menus across the region, and the Seafood Trail showcases the best local seafood and an eating experience that values freshness and flair.
  2. Sample Whisky Distilleries: The West Coast is synonymous with whisky, and it’s said Scotland’s single malts vary with the landscapes. Only one way to find out! There are a number of family-owned distilleries to sample, including Oban, Arran, Springbank, Talisker on Skye and Tobermory on Mull.
  3. Try Local Cheeses: Scotland produces some of the world’s finest cheeses, many handmade on the islands. Don’t miss the delicious Isle of Mull cheddar.
  4. Visit the Loch Lomond Farmers’ Market: Farmers’ Markets are popular throughout Scotland. The market on the shores of Loch Lomond is one of the longest running in the country and it’s set in a stunning location.

If you’re planning a trip to explore the wonderful West Coast of Scotland, contact Bonawe House to find the perfect holiday cottage for your stay.

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