My tours are bespoke – tailored to what you would like to do and see – but here are some outlines of a few popular tours with an emphasis on Argyll and the West Highlands, which just happens to be one of the most beautiful regions of Scotland as well as my home territory!
These trips give you an idea of what is on offer and as you will see they will often start and end in the area around the town of Oban on the West coast, an ideal location within easy striking distance for anyone arriving in Glasgow or Edinburgh and with a number of very comfortable hotels that I can recommend. We can however arrange your tour starting from wherever you are staying, and visiting any part of Scotland.
There are always opportunities for refreshment as we make our stops en route, whether for coffee, a wonderful lunch of west coast seafood or traditional afternoon tea. Alternatively, I can provide a picnic hamper with the finest local produce.
Below are several ideas for day-long excursions, and then outlines of a few of the longer tours I can offer.
Day trips will cost in the region of £350.00, not including food and drink or admission prices when these apply for specific visitor sites. For prices of longer tours see the tour details, or get in touch. For more details on charges and payment please refer to our Terms and Conditions page or contact us directly.
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With a starting point in Oban we drive south weaving in and out of coastal inlets till we reach the secluded setting of Ardmaddy Castle with its huge walled gardens and gentle woodland walk. Then we head back to the main road south to Loch Melfort, where we find the Scottish National Trust gardens at Arduaine. Here there are huge mature trees, magnolia, a water garden and hothouse. After our visit we will have refreshment at the nearby Loch Melfort hotel. Following our break, the route in the afternoon brings us back via Oban and east to the village of Taynuilt, to the beautifully tranquil and wild surroundings of Angus’s Garden in Glen Lonan.
INVERARAY & LOCHAWESIDE
This trip encompasses the Clan Campbell heartlands. There is a contrast between the striking ruins of the 15th Century Kilchurn Castle at the head of Loch Awe and the stately home of the Dukes of Argyll: Inveraray Castle. Loch Awe itself is one of the biggest of Scotland’s inland lochs and it is possible to follow 20 miles and more of single track roads along its shores. In the village of Loch Awe is St. Conan’s Kirk which is an unusual mix of architectural styles. Driving to Inveraray from here the route climbs quite noticeably and one can look back and see the dam in a corrie on Ben Cruachan – part of the hydro-electric scheme with its power station inside the mountain. Our route reaches sea level again at the shores of Loch Fyne as we enter Inveraray. This town and its castle were planned and built in the time of the 3rd Duke of Argyll in the late 18th century. The Clan chiefs who became Earls then Dukes of Argyll moved from Loch Awe to Inveraray at the end of the 15th century. I will take you on a guided tour of the castle’s fine rooms and displays followed by a pub lunch at the George Hotel and a walk around the town.
OBAN & LORN - NORTH TO FORT WILLIAM
Oban is the main port serving most of the Inner Hebridean islands, and from here day trips are manageable to some of the nearer islands. The Oban Distillery has been producing fine single malt whisky since the 1790’s and is our first place to visit. We can also get a great panoramic view of the area from McCaig’s Tower above the town itself. Heading east, then north over Connel Bridge we are on the road to Fort William. A halt is recommended above Port Appin for a view of Castle Stalker and the island of Lismore. Then as we go over the striking bridge at Ballachulish we are almost in the Highland Region. We strike north west briefly at Fort William to get a proper view of Ben Nevis (clouds permitting!). After a late lunch break our route takes us into the wild and breathtaking surroundings of Glen Coe. We regain civilisation at Tyndrum.
MULL & IONA
A trip to the islands. This is a full day excursion and requires a punctual start to be on board the 10.00 a.m. sailing from Oban to Mull. After the 45 minute crossing to the small harbour at Craignure we drive down the southern end of Mull through stunning glens till the view opens out to the Ross of Mull. On arrival at Fionnphort we abandon the car for the 5-minute ferry trip over to the sacred island of Iona. There is a short walk up through the village to the Abbey. Founded by St. Columba in 563 A.D. this is a fascinating glimpse at the history of Christianity’s arrival in Scotland. There is time of course for a wander on some stunning beaches and a picnic lunch before the return drive across Mull to catch the ferry back to the mainland.
THE ANCIENT SCOTS IN ARGYLL
In the 6th Century when Eric’s son Fergus and his kinsmen sailed across from their homelands in Ulster they settled in Mid-Argyll and established the Kingdom of Dalriada. We can walk up to the remains of the fort at Dunadd with its ancient footprints and cup and ring marks then on into Kilmartin glen with majestic standing stones and burial cairns. The Kilmartin House museum is well worth the visit – as is its tearoom with great soups and home baking! Travelling north via Oban we are in the heart of Lorn and there is an chance to see a relic of later times, the 12th century ruins of Dunstaffnage Castle, ancient seat of the MacDougalls of Lorne, forfeited then to the Campbells.
CLANS OF ARGYLL
Son of a Carpenter. Traditionally thought to be a branch of Clan Donald. They are recorded in several quite different parts of Scotland but have a strong documented connection with Argyll. One of the most notable figures was Duncan Ban MacIntyre, the Gaelic poet of the 18th Century, born in Glen Orchy in 1724. His monument can be seen up behind the village of Dalmally. Another place of interest is Glenoe (not to be confused with the nearby Glen Coe), where a cairn has been erected by the shores of Loch Etive – MacIntyres owned this land for some 500 years
The most notable ancestor of the clan was Somerled, Lord of the Isles in the 12th Century who was recognised as an independent prince by Malcolm 4th King of Scots. 100 years or so later MacDougall Lords of Lorne were a very powerful family. In the struggle for the Scots throne between Comyn and Robert the Bruce, the MacDougalls fought against Bruce. There were famous skirmishes with Bruce and his followers both near Tyndrum and in the Pass of Brander by Loch Awe. A drive west from the head of Loch Awe will take us through the latter then on towards the west coast along Loch Etive to visit Dunstaffnage Castle built by the MacDougalls in the 1200’s. Travelling on to Oban a stop for a short but steep climb takes you up to the ruins of Dunollie Castle, another early seat of the clan.
The Clan Gregor’s roots trace it back to Gregor, 3rd son of Alpin, King of Scots in the 8th Century. The clan once held possession of many lands in the central Highlands – from the area around Ben Cruachan to Fortingall in Glen Lyon, Perthshire as well as land on Loch Lomondside. They had a name for being against the feudal system and were proud defenders of their ancestry with the ancient Celtic Kings. They often had feuds with neighbouring clans, not least the Campbells who came to hold much of the former MacGregor lands such as Glen Orchy near Lochawe. Clan chiefs in recent times have lived at Balquhidder just south of Lochearnhead, heart of the clan’s old lands. A day’s excursion can include much of MacGregor country including the museum in the town of Callender.
The Campbell Clan has been perhaps the most powerful and influential in Argyll and the West of Scotland. Their earlier seats were Innischonnel Castle on its island on Loch Awe and Kilchurn at the head of that same water. Those from Kilchurn – the Campbells of Glencorchy, later Earls Breadalbane, expanded their territory far into Perthshire. One can travel east right along Loch Tay and still be in their former lands. Those descended from Sir Colin Campbell of Lochow became Campbells of Argyll and clan chiefs and Earls of Argyll in the 1450’s. They moved to the new base of power at Inveraray. A visit to this Royal Burgh and a tour of the castle lets one see something of the heritage of this family and of the wider Campbell clan. The places in Argyll that are part of the clan’s history are many and the visitor (especially the one with Campbell connections!) needs more than one day to follow the paths that any forebears may have trod.
ANOTHER IDEA FOR GARDEN LOVERS
Heading south away from Lochawe and down to sea level again at Inveraray we visit two fine gardens on Loch Fyne. First we drive south to Crarae the Scottish National Trust garden, renowned for wonderful rhododendrons and big trees. On our return to Inveraray, we will have a private visit to the formal gardens at Inveraray Castle, home to the Dukes of Argyll (with the option of a tour round the fine state rooms as well). There is good pub food at the George Hotel in the town, followed by the drive round the far side of Loch Fyne to the woodland gardens at Ardkinglas.
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This is a four-day trip that can start and finish in either Glasgow or Edinburgh so it is ideal for anyone arriving in these cities or at their nearest airports. The visits included are not set in stone but we would generally manage two or possibly three distilleries in a day. I don’t want you to feel rushed so by the time you have done the tours, plus any shopping, and been fed and watered, this is an idea of what I would plan for you to see.
Route A – Starting and ending in Glasgow
I will meet you in Glasgow city centre or at the airport. Leaving the city behind we drive into the edge of the Trossachs for a short journey to Glengoyne Distillery, our first stop. Here you get the full works on the Master Blender Tour. It’s a really in-depth tour in a lovely setting. We travel on along the shores of Loch Lomond, heading West through part of the Argyll Forest Park and North until we reach Loch Fyne, making a pit-stop for a light lunch at the renowned Loch Fyne Oyster Bar. We will visith the fabulous Whisky Shop in the Royal Burgh of Inveraray, home and seat of the Dukes of Argyll. The route then climbs away from sea level before dropping down to the magical Loch Awe. There we join the road West to Oban, a small town with a bustling port accessing many of the Hebridean islands. Time for the final tour of the day at the Oban distillery, a business dating back to 1794.
Overnight stay: Appin area
On departing Oban, our route takes us North East into the Highlands via Fort William, Spean Bridge and the beautiful Loch Laggan before we reach the first port of call, Dalwhinnie Distillery, high up in the Grampian Mountains. After our tour here we continue North on the main A9 into the Cairngorm region past the ski resort of Aviemore and on to the area around Inverness for a lunch stop. In the afternoon have about an hour’s drive North, crossing firstly the Moray Firth then the Cromarty Firth past Alness to the town of Tain and the nearby famous Glenmorangie Distillery for a tour before returning South to Inverness.
Overnight stay: Inverness/Nairn area
Today our travels take us through the Spey Valley, perhaps the heart of Scotland’s whisky country with more than 60 distilleries in the region. So I have to pick out just a few! The first of these is Cardhu, close to the village of Knockando. Then we have just a short journey to Cragganmore, a little off the beaten track and one of my favourite distilleries. There is a wonderful tour here after which we will need to find some lunch. If time allows we may manage a visit to the Speyside Cooperage and then we head back down the main road to Perth.
Overnight stay: Pitlochry/Perth area
Your very own whisky trail comes to an end with a tour of Scotland’s smallest distillery at Edradour just near Pitlochry, north of Perth. After our visit there we will leave the aromas behind for a drive alongside the waters of the beautiful Loch Tay, stopping off in the picturesque village of Kenmore. Once we are at the western end of the Tay Valley we reach the dramatic Falls of Dochart at Killin. From here, having had a bite of lunch we have an option to join the main road to Glasgow via Crianlarich and Loch Lomond or an alternative meander through part of the Trossachs, close to where our journey began with a stop off in bustling Callander before finally heading back to Glasgow.
Overnight stay/onward travel: Glasgow
The tour described above is given with Glasgow as the point of embarkation. Details of an alternative ‘Route B’ starting and ending in Edinburgh are available on request.
A choice of hotels is offered at the time of your enquiry and a deposit is taken in due course once availability and bookings can be confirmed.
A guide price for these trips is around £350 – £400 per day for Tailored Tours services plus an overnight B&B allowance
A WEST HIGHLAND ADVENTURE
This is a five-day trip that can start and finish in either Glasgow or Edinburgh so it is ideal for anyone arriving in these cities or at their nearest airports.
Either: starting from Glasgow the route follows along the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond then on an ascent through the edge of the rather Nordic Argyll Forest Park and back down to sea level at Loch Fyne where we have a pit-stop at the renowned Loch Fyne Oyster Bar. A little further on we reach Inveraray and can have a tour of the castle, a stately home that is the ancestral seat of the Dukes of Argyll. We have The option of an excellent pub lunch in the town or continuing on via Loch Awe for a smoked seafood selection at the Inverawe Smokehouses. In the last part of our day we may visit the port of Oban or the nearby Dunstaffnage Castle.
Or : starting from Edinburgh we take the main route west through the Forth Valley and make a first stop at Stirling for a tour of the magnificent Castle and part of the old town. Following on to Doune and Callender we may opt for an early lunch at my favourite delicatessen. Back on the road we turn west again at Lochearnhead and cross country with a short diversion to the Falls of Dochart. After Tyndrum we descend steadily until we reach the head of Loch Awe and the rest of the day is as above.
Overnight stay: Oban or Appin
Today we head north, snaking up the West coast to Mallaig. En route there is a stop-off for a stunning view across to the islands of Lismore, Mull and down the Firth of Lorn. At Corran we have a 5-minute ferry hop across to the Ardgour peninsula and drive ever westwards on some narrow but lovely roads, along Loch Sunart to the town of Salen. After pausing here we turn north with the coast opening up across the beautiful sound of Arisaig to a view of the islands of Muck, Eigg and Rhum beyond and we can also walk out to the ruins of Castle Tioram, ancient stronghold of the MacDonalds. Our likely lunch stop is in the village of Arisaig before heading on to Mallaig, the thriving fishing port where we catch the ferry over to Skye. Our day ends with an opportunity to see the gardens at Armadale on the southern part of the Sleat peninsula.
Overnight stay: Skye
The first part of today takes us up to the North of the island. It’s a big place and there are parts we cannot hope to see but in our journey you will get an idea of the amazing contrasts, scenery and uniqueness of this place. A visit to Skye would not be complete without seeing Dunvegan Castle, home of the Chiefs of the Macleod Clan. There are some fascinating artefacts on display and it positively smells of history. Then we take a drive right round the northern tip of the island and we will make our stop for lunch before continuing on back down the east coast until we reach the island’s capital Portree. After a brief stop-off here, we travel south to Sligachan at the foot of the Cuillin mountains and west at this junction to make the final visit of the day to Skye’s own distillery at Talisker.
Overnight stay: Skye (as above)
We leave the Isle of Skye behind via the bridge over the Kyle of Lochalsh and travel on to our first stopping point at the castle of Eilean Donan, which epitomises an image of the romantic beauty of the West Highlands. The road takes us south through the splendour of Glenshiel, along Loch Cluaine, then makes a rather alpine ascent and descent as we get into Glengarry with great panoramic viewing points. We meet the Great Glen route and drive north as far as Fort Augustus where we find our lunch at the junction between the north end of the Caledonian Canal and the southern end of Loch Ness. Heading south in the afternoon we follow the old military road all the way down to Fort William, finishing our day at the other end of the Caledonian Canal near the foot of Ben Nevis, the U.K.’s highest peak.
Overnight stay: Near Fort William
For the last day of this trip we set off along the shores of Loch Linnhe as far as the bridge at Ballachulish then head through the wild and beautiful surroundings of Glencoe, scene of the infamous massacre. The road climbs to the open plateau of Rannoch Moor before dropping all the way down to Tyndrum. Here we make a pit-stop before continuing on the main road to Glasgow. With onward travel for you to consider, we keep this final day shorter but will include the option for a cruise on Loch Lomond for those who are keen.
For those returning to Edinburgh, our split is after Tyndrum where we head east via Callender and Stirling with an option of a look at Doune Castle to round off the trip.
Approx cost of tour (as above) (excluding accommodation / B&B allowance) £350-£400 per day
ROBERT THE BRUCE & ARGYLL CONNECTIONS
This trip would either suit anyone staying in/starting from Edinburgh, for example, who would enjoy an adventure into the West Highlands
Leaving Edinburgh there is a short stretch of motorway across to Stirling. Our visits on this first day include: Stirling Castle, steeped in history as a Royal residence, with a full guided tour on offer; also seeing parts of the old town, the Wallace Monument and the surrounding area then we head on to the nearby plains of Bannockburn, site of Bruce’s famous victory at the Battle in 1314. After that we will have a late lunch near Doune and finish the day with a browse around the Scottish Art & Antiques Centre or perhaps a short look around Doune Castle before heading to your accommodation for the first overnight stay [hotels recommended].
Leaving your hotel, we follow a westward route, first reaching Perthshire’s boundary with Argyll, near the villages of Crianlarich and Tyndrum, a junction of the Central Lowlands and the West Highlands.
We will trace the route Bruce may have taken coming over from Loch Lomond and we make a stop to see the ruins of St. Fillans Priory on lands given in a charter by Bruce. On the southern side of Strathfillan, we then take a walk out to Dalrigh, site of a legendary skirmish between the MacDougalls and Bruce with his supporters. Following this we will reward ourselves with a pit-stop at the award-winning Real Food Cafe in Tyndrum.
In the afternoon we take the main road to the West coast and follow it as far as Loch Awe. We shall make a brief visit to St. Conan’s Kirk to see an effigy of Bruce in a side chapel. As the route narrows towards the north-western end of the loch, our next stop is at the head of the River Awe – known for its salmon fishing. Here we have a view of the Pass of Brander and the scene of another well-documented battle between Bruce and the MacDougalls in 1308. In the aftermath of the MacDougall’s defeat, Bruce and his men rode on towards the coast. We will follow in their path to the shores of Loch Etive, which meets the sea as it opens into the Firth of Lorn. Here stands the imposing Dunstaffnage Castle, former stronghold of the once powerful MacDougalls, that was forfeit to Bruce.
Finally, having seen the castle, we head to your accommodation so you can relax with your pre-dinner drink.
DAY 3 comprises a return journey to Edinburgh with a lighter schedule and fewer history lessons! Equally for those interested in extending their trip into the Highlands, I can plan your onward journey to another part of Scotland for the next part of your holiday.
Approximate cost for the 3 Day Tailored Tour : £1200.00 excluding overnight B&B allowance