Argyll’s real ale trail
In Argyll and The Isles you’re never far from a good local beer! There’s a fantastic variety of beer and ale being produced by craft breweries. Why not follow this real ale trail to discover Argyll’s best beers for yourself? Find out more about the art of brewing beer with behind-the-scenes tours and sample a tipple or two.
Bute Beer Company
Start your journey on the beautiful island of Bute, considered the most accessible of the westerly isles. The ferry from Wemyss Bay, which is about one hour’s drive from Glasgow, will drop you in Rothesay, the island’s chief town. This seaside resort is brimming with Victorian character, cafés and good-old-fashioned shops. It’s also home to the Bute Brew Co. The brewery has a bar where you can sample the ales. In January you can sample a bottle of ‘Cock Up Your Beaver’, brewed in tribute to Rabbie Burns. Apparently he wrote a song by that title! Enjoy a tour of the brewery and tuck into some fantastic food. Try the the pear and blue cheese pizza. It’s the best. The brewery also holds regular music events.
Other highlights on Bute include Rothesay Castle, Mount Stuart and the wonderful sandy Ettrick Bay.
Now it’s time to make your way to the Cowal peninsula. Head to the smaller ferry terminal at Rhubodach on the north-east of the island. From here it’s a short hop across to Colintraive. Drive to Portavadie via Tighnabruaich and catch the ferry across Loch Fyne to Tarbert on the Kintyre peninsula. It’s short trip down the west coast of Kintyre to Kennacraig where you catch the ferry to the inner Hebridean island of Islay.
Islay is famous for its whiskies, but the island produces award-winning beer too! Enjoy a brewery tour at Islay Ales Brewery and Visitors Centre in Bridgend. Islay Ales brew eight beers on a regular basis. Make sure you try Single Malt Ale, CAMRA’s Scottish Champion Real Ale in a Bottle Gold Medal winner in 2010. Kilchoman Dark or Kilchoman Pale both use malted barley direct from Kilchoman Distillery to give the beer a smoky, peaty taste, just like Islay’s single malts. Islay Ales are available in many of Islay’s pubs, restaurants and hotels.
If you have time, try to visit some of Islay’s whisky distilleries. All eight whisky distilleries happily offer guided tours, ending with a generous dram (of course!).
In summer, you can catch the ferry from Islay to Colonsay. Otherwise, in winter you need to head north to Oban where the CalMac ferry to Colonsay runs five times a week.
From Islay you’re heading to Colonsay, the smallest island in the world with its own brewery! Colonsay Brewery creates three ales. Try Pig’s Paradise, named after the spot where the island’s pigs feasted on Atlantic wildflowers. Colonsay is a gem of an island, with some fabulous sandy bays. The golden Kiloran Bay has to be one of the most perfect sandy beaches in the whole of Argyll. There’s an eighteen-hole golf course with fantastic views over the north Atlantic.
Catch the ferry back to Oban. If you go back via Kennacraig on Kintyre, you need to head north via Kilmartin to Oban.
Oban Bay Brewery
This purpose-built brewery is part of Cuan Mor Restaurant, which sits on Oban’s Main Street overlooking Oban Bay. Beer was first brewed here in June 2009 after acquiring brewing equipment from the Isle of Mull Brewery in Tobermory, Mull. Isle of Mull Brewing Company and the Oban Bay Brewery merged in 2010. Sample the Oban Bay Brewery beers – including Kilt Lifter IPA, Skelpt Lug Dark Ale, Skinny Blonde Ale, Ginger Jakey Amber Ale and Fair Puggled Stout – in Cuan Mor’s Brewery Bar, where you’ll also find a fine range of whiskies.
Oban is a bustling fishing port of Oban, with convivial bars and streets packed with individual shops and cafés. Known as ‘Scotland’s Seafood Capital’, it’s the place to sample fresh seafood. Don’t miss taking a tour of the historic Oban Distillery while you’re in town.
For the final leg of your journey you’re heading back to the Cowal peninsula. Follow the A85 and then pick up the A819 to Inveraray. From here it’s a short drive to Cairndow.
The Fyne Ales Brewery, Shop & Bar is just along the road from the famous Loch Fyne Oyster Bar at the head of Loch Fyne. Follow the winding road up Glen Fyne for a few minutes and you’ll find the brewery. As well as bar selling a wonderful selection of ales and home-cooked food, there's also a shop where you can buy the full range of bottle ales and mini casks, as well as beef from Fyne Ales' own herd of Highland Cattle. Enjoy a pint of your favourite beer and a steak pie.
If you want to work up an appetite, Ardkinglas Woodland Garden is nearby. It offers lovely walks as well as a Gruffalo Trail to keep the kids amused.