Our top travel destinations
Based in Argyll on Scotlands west coast we are lucky enough to have some of the most breathtaking destinations within driving distance. Since owning our campervans we have been lucky to have visited over half of the Scottish Islands and explored most areas in between.
We have compiled a quick guide of our best bits to inspire your travels.
(Please note the below recommendations are based on our own experiences and we advise when planning a trip of your own to research area policies, campsites, wild camping regulations and read the informal camping code at www.snh.scot)
ISLE OF ARRAN
The most southerly of the Scottish Islands, Arran is dubbed as Scotland in miniature and has a little something for everyone. The ferry is a relaxing 50 minute crossing from the North Ayrshire town of Ardrossan.
On arrival on Arran, Brodick is the main port town with plenty of little shops to explore and cafes and restaurants for a quick bite. Little Rock café is a must for a leisurely lunch with lots of outdoor seating (if the sun happens to shine) and an internal dog friendly area if you’re travelling with your four legged friend.Other eateries on the island worth a visit are, Mara Seafood Deli, The Wineport, Café Thyme, The Old Pier Tearoom, Stags Pavillion and Blackwaterfoot Bakehouse.
The island is renowned for hillwalking and with copious options you’ll never be short of a route and a stunning view along the way. Goatfell, possibly the most well-known, is just shy of a mountain and towers over the island. If you’re a keen walker, it’s definitely worth a shot, but do go prepared with sensible clothing and footwear. Other walks for those looking for a gentler stroll can be found across the island, but some of our favourites are Glen Rosa, Sannox beach, The Kings caves, Machrie Moor standing stones and Lagin Cottage in Lochranza.
For camping spots the island has plenty, Lochranza in the north of the island has a great campsite with affordable pitches, red deer roaming the grounds, a restaurant on site and the distillery across the road so it’s a win win, seal shore to the south is another great site living up to its name with a beach front location
ARGYLL AND BUTE
Argyll, although not one of the islands still comes with charm of its own, packed with things to do and places to see covering a vast expanse of the Scottish west coast. Hiring a van from us puts you in prime location to explore the area with Dunoon being the most populated town in Argyll, surprisingly topping Oban.If you’re looking to get exploring straight away we are lucky to have great activities and sights right on our doorstep. Benmore Botanic Gardens is one of our favourites, with 7 miles of trails and attractions such as the famous Golden Gates and restored Victorian fernery it’s worth a visit. The gardens open March – October with an adult ticket at £6.50 and children go free.
Other areas of interest include Portavadie, a man made marina with a stunning seafront resort, host to restaurants, spa and leisure facilities with heated outdoor infinity pool, whiittt wooo!
Portavadie has its own designated campsite new to 2020. Onwards from Portavadie you can catch a short ferry to Tarbert, home to the yearly seafood festival and fishing fleet.
If you choose a different route from Dunoon follow the A815 alongside Loch Eck, which will lead towards Inverary, famed by its neo-Gothic Castle, still home to the Duke of Argyll has lovely grounds to explore before a bite to eat at the cosy George Hotel.
An hour onwards you can reach Oban, gateway to the islands and home to Scottish seafood.
Oban’s caravan and camping park is a great spot to stay, with pitches at £21 per night including the use of electric hook up if required. The park is a short ten minute drive from the town centre but is worth is for the elevated views over to the Isle of Kerrera.
ISLE OF GIGHA
Leaving from the Kintyre peninsula you can reach the Isle of Gigha via a short 20 minute ferry crossing. The islands by no means big and with one main road you’ll be sure to cover all it has to offer in no time at all.
The main village consisting of a little shop, hotel and gallery greets you on arrival to the island. The shop along with the essentials sells the local ‘Kintyre’ Gin, which is one of my favourites and worth a try if gins your tipple of choice.
Gigha named by the Vikings 'Gudey', The Good Isle or God's Isle due to its stunning beauty sure lives up to its name. If you’re into silver beaches, rolling fields and clear waters well this one will tick all your boxes. During our stay we visited Auchemore Gardens, which is now run by the gardens trust since the community bought out the island back in 2012. With its walled gardens and bamboo maze it’s easy to feel transported to a foreign land, but a short uphill climb will bring you back to Scottish shores with the viewpoint providing an outstanding vista to Islay and Jura.
The islands beaches come in all shapes and sizes complete with soft white sand and turquoise seas, bound to impress. If you fancy hitting the water yourself you can hire kayaks, rowing boats or even paddle boards from the activity centre from March onwards.
Fancy a night off the cooking, the Boathouse restaurant with a menu to make any mouth water it’s definitely the place to be. It’s a pretty busy little spot and booking is recommend. They also offer camping facilities just a stones throw from the ferry terminal.
ISLE OF BARRA
On arrival to the island the epic views continue and welcome you to this little slice of Scottish paradise, after all the island does have the nickname of Barra-dise! The island isn’t the biggest in fact at 8 miles long and 5 miles at its widest point I guess you could class it as ‘wee’, however they do say good things come in small packages.
The beaches of Barra are possibly some of the most beautiful we’ve seen, we were lucky enough to get a rare sunny spell on our visit and it could have been easily confused for a tropical paradise with crystal clear waters and endless white sand stretching all around the island.
Vatersay at the most southerly part of the island is worth a visit, its infact an island of its own connected to Barra by a small causeway, if you’ve the notion for a little exercise or just a bit of fresh air the cycle is short but hilly, if you don’t happen to have your own bikes there are hire facilities in Castlebay.
Barra Airport is a must, it’s not your everyday aviation experience with the world’s only commercial beach landing it makes for great viewing. You can park close to the airport and watch the planes come all the way to a stand and can grab something from the on-sight café. Borve and Wavecrest campsite on the west are lovely, affordable and right on the beach front. Joan's pizza and Cafe Kismul are our top foody picks.
NORTH & SOUTH UIST
Onwards from Barra you can take another ferry crossing to the next northerly island of Eriskay, South Uist (we had bought an island hopping ticket when planning our trip). The ferry departs from Ardmohor to the Isle of Eriskay which is adjoined to South Uist by causeway. On arrival keep an eye out for The Eriskay ponies, a protected breed native to the island.
South Uist provides a wild, barren, yet beautiful landscape looking back across the Atlantic to Barra, the 1750’s Polochar Inn has stunning views with cold pints and outdoor seating for soaking it all in. If your looking for an established campsite there are three across the ‘Uists’ - Kilbride Campsite in the south and Balranald in the North. Clachan sands is wonderful too with an honesty box system for payment and wonderful views.
Heading north the landscape remains the same and the Islands all connected have the same sense of being raw and untouched, almost as if you’ve been transported back in time, very relaxing when escaping the everyday.
For those who like local produce and craft, Shoreline Stoneware Pottery in Locheport, North Uist is a lovely stop off. The studio itself boasts stunning views along with handmade pottery treats of which you can take away an affordable fridge magnet or splash some cash on a larger piece to treasure. Similar to Shoreline Stone wear unique shops and cafes are dotted across the islands.
If you happen to be catching the ferry North again the Cal Mac service runs from Berneray to Leverburgh, Harris.
HARRIS & LEWIS
Harris and Lewis, the biggest of the Hebridean islands and possibly the most travelled, come with days’ worth of exploring.
Harris offers a similar landscape to that on Barra with famously stunning white sand beaches and marbled blue seas such as Luskentyre beach, often voted amongst the world’s top 5! And not to forget the infamous brand of Harris Tweed, visit the shop in Tarbert for tweed from top to toe.
We departed the boat and headed for Hushinish which is a scenic twisting road leading to a stunning bay with nothing but peace, quiet and one of the best sunsets we’ve been lucky enough to witness. Campsites on Harris feature those run by the west harris trust, and Lickisco and Minch view on the East.
Tarbert the main port town offers shops, eateries and attractions such as the Harris Tweed shop and Harris Distillery. The distillery producers of delicious gin is very much part of the local community. The gin – which is bloomin’ brilliant, features sea kelp harvested by a local diver and even the bottle itself is inspired by the seas surrounding the island. The distillery offers tours and has a café on site, perfect for passing an afternoon away.
Although referred to as an island of its own Harris and Lewis are adjoined and you simply cross the border from one to another, with Lewis being the most populated of the Hebridean islands. From the neat Victorian homes lining the streets of Stornoway in the east, to the stretching white sands of Bosta on Great Bernera the island has lots on offer for every type of traveler.
If you’re not quite ready to head back to civilization, Callanish standing stones will certainly take you back in time, they were erected in the late Neolithic era, and were a focus for ritual activity during the Bronze Age.
Again Lewis comes dotted with stunning beach locations if you’re still keen to get sand between your toes. Bosta beach on the east of the Island is a perfect example. Take time to enjoy a stroll along the sparkling white shell sands which has links with the Iron Age, the Vikings and the Highland Clearances. You can learn more about the island of Great Bernera at the Bosta Iron Age House which is located on the Beach.
ISLE OF SKYE
Skye, the only Island accesible via bridge, is one of the most popluar choices due to ease of access. The island does have various ferry crossings from other islands and can be reached from the scottish mainland via Mallaig.
Skye is a ruggedly beautiful place with crashing oceans, impressive mountainscapes and some of Scotland’s most iconic vistas. If you choose to explore any of the sights Skye has in store be sure to take sturdy boots and prepare for rain, its always better to be safe than sorry.
One of the most iconic walks on Skye is ‘the old man of storr’, 6 miles north of Portree. It’s hard to miss the 50m high pinacle emerging from the clouds and its whereabouts also become pretty apparent from the lines of vehicles parked at the base of the track (its a busy place even on the dampest of days). The two mile round track is steep but worth it for the staggering views to the ‘storr’ itself and back down the glen and across the Skye landscape.
Portree, the main town on the Isle of Skye, is a bustling port and a thriving cultural centre. Set around a natural harbour the town is a popular tourists’ destination. It boasts excellent leisure facilities including a swimming pool, pony-trekking and boat cruises along with ample shopping opportunities and eateries. On our visit we came across café Arriba, with its quirky décor and great views over the harbour it comes highly recommended, the food is locally sourced and organic where possible and the cake selection is to die for. Torvaig Campsite provides a good base for exploring Portree and other parts of the island. Pitches come in at under £25 per night, but be sure to book in advance as Skye’s a popular choice and fills up fast.
At the south of the Island you can depart via ferry on the short crossing to Mallaig. Armadale, the port location is a busy little hub with a few shops to peruse while waiting for the next crossing, why not try Grumpy George for fun bits and bobs, or wander to Maggie Zerafa ceramics for a last minute holiday splurge.
ISLE OF MULL
The Isle of Mull possibly best known for the picturesque village of Tobermory is the third largest of the Scottish islands and one of the most accessible being served by three ferries.
Pretty Tobermory is the island's main town, located in the north east. It's a charming wee place that begs to be explored, visit for the brightly painted buildings that line the waterfront or take a wander through the array of independent businesses including a chocolate shop, bakery, candle company, silversmith, art gallery and pottery maker.
The pier café in Tobermory serves delicious lunch options right on the water’s edge with the well-known café fish located directly above for a more indulgent evening meal whilst overlooking the harbour at dusk. Tobermory also has a little co-op to stock up on any van necessities.
Continuing North West from Tobermory you’ll reach our favourite spot on the island, Calgary Beach. One of the most photographed spots on the island with a vast stretch of Machair (beach grassland) and shell white sand it’s a stunning spot to pull over for a cuppa. The boatshed shop opens during peak season selling snacks and delicious ice cream.
The drive round the island is scenic and brings ever changing views and endless photo opportunities. Roads on the island are well kept, they have to be after all, as the island is home to the famous Mull Rally.
To the west of Mull, there are some exciting discoveries to be made. The tiny, enchanting Isle of Iona is a peaceful haven currently inhabited by around 130 people. Iona is also home to the restored medieval Abbey dating back to AD 563, which to this day continues to hold daily services and is said to be the burial place of 48 kings of Scotland. Iona also offers beautiful bays and a few locally run eateries, the Argyll Hotel the oldest hotel on the island offers freshly prepared meals with produced picked from their own organic garden on site…yum!