Ten Argyll natural beauty spots
Argyll and The Isles is full of natural wonders. Its landscape is carved from rock and cloaked with ancient woodlands. Mountains run down to glistening sea lochs and turquoise waters lap white sandy bays. Wherever you wander in Argyll you’ll be treated to breath-taking views, from the sun setting behind myriad islands to epic panoramas of hills, glens and moorland. Follow this journey to discover ten of Argyll’s natural beauty spots, from the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond to the wild beauty of Staffa.
Start your journey at Loch Lomond, the glorious stretch of water that sits at the heart of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. Just 30 minutes from Glasgow, it marks the first rise of the Highlands and is the embodiment of scenic Scottish splendour. It’s not surprising that Loch Lomond was voted one of the top natural wonders in Britain in a Radio Times readers’ poll. There are many ways to experience Loch Lomond, from taking a boat trip to picnicking on the loch’s ‘bonnie, bonnie banks’. Firkin Point, about half way between Inverbeg and Tarbet, is a good spot to stop for an al fresco feast. There’s a car park and picnic site, and it’s possible to walk for three miles north or south on a level, surfaced path – perfect for wheelchair users and families with prams. For something more strenuous, walk the first section of the Three Lochs Way and you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of Loch Lomond and Ben Lomond from Goukhill Muir viewpoint.
Now follow the A82 along Loch Lomond to Tarbet, then the A83 towards Arrochar.
The mountains clustered around the head of Loch Long are known as the Arrochar Alps. They include Ben Arthur, one of Scotland’s most iconic – and best loved – peaks. It’s commonly known as the 'Cobbler’ because of its distinctive rugged, rocky summit that’s supposed to look like a cobbler bending over his last. At 884 metres (2,900ft) in height it's only a Corbett, but it’s a hugely impressive sight. The most common route up the Cobbler starts from the village of Succoth. It’s well worth the effort for the stunning views from the summit.
Rest & Be Thankful
Continue to follow A83 north west towards Inveraray. The road winds upwards until you reach the famous Rest and Be Thankful mountain pass. For centuries travellers have taken a break here and enjoyed the magnificent views of Glen Croe. You can see the the old road snaking its way up the glen. Imagine the people, the horses and the driven livestock that have followed it over the centuries, each one, be they man or beast, looking forward to that rest at the top!
Your next destination is the Cowal peninsula. Carry on along the A83 and at Cairndow, turn left on to the A815, then at Strachur turn right on to the A886, signposted Glendaruel and Colintraive. Just after Glendaruel turn right onto the A8003 towards Tighnabruaich.
Kyles of Bute
It’s a wonderfully scenic drive along the A8003 from Glendaruel to Tighnabruaich, which winds up to a truly breath-taking viewpoint at 500ft. From this elevated spot you get an incredible view down the East Kyle past Colintraive and the Burnt Islands right across to Largs on the Ayrshire coast. It makes for a fantastic photo - whatever the weather. There's a lay-by with a bench and map information panel showing the landmarks and history of the area. Further on, a second viewpoint above Tighnabruaich shows the West Kyle this time with views of Arran and on down the Firth of Clyde.
When you’ve finished enjoying the view, carry on along the A8003 to Tighnabruaich and then onwards to Portavadie. From here catch a CalMac ferry to Tarbert on the Kintyre peninsula. Follow the A83 south to Campbeltown, the B842 to Southend and finally the single-track road to the Mull of Kintyre.
Mull of Kintyre
‘Mull of Kintyre, oh mist rolling in from the sea. My desire is always to be here, oh Mull of Kintyre.’ The Mull of Kintyre is the southwestern-most tip of the Kintyre Peninsula, immortalised in the 1977 hit song by Paul McCartney's band of the time, Wings. Once you’ve visited this beautiful, remote and often very windy place, you’ll appreciate where these lyrics came from. Head for the Mull of Kintyre Lighthouse, which is right at the tip of the Mull, and you’ll be treated to immense views on a clear day across the Atlantic to the Antrim coast of Northern Ireland. The public road ends at the top of the final descent to the lighthouse, where you can park. It's then a short (about a mile) but steep walk downhill to the lighthouse.
Your next stop is the inner Hebridean island of Jura. Retrace your journey back up the west coast of Kintyre until you reach Kennacraig where you catch a CalMac ferry to Port Askaig on Islay.
The Paps of Jura
Islay is an achingly beautiful island, with many natural wonders (and plenty of whisky distilleries!) to explore, but for now we’re heading to neighbouring Jura to experience the famous Paps of Jura. It’s a very short ferry crossing from Port Askaig across the Sound of Islay to Jura. The Paps are three mountains on the western side of the island with distinctive conical shapes. They dominate the landscape and can be seen from many parts of Argyll, including Kintyre and Mull. But walking them is something else, as the views from the top are second-to-none. To scale all three peaks consecutively will take around eight to nine hours. It’s a challenging route for experienced walkers only.
Now catch a ferry back to mainland Argyll and head north to Crinan in mid Argyll.
The Crinan Canal may be man-made, but it takes you through some of Argyll’s most magnificent scenery. Linking Ardrishaig on Loch Fyne with Crinan on the west coast, it’s deservedly known as ‘Britain’s most beautiful shortcut’. You’ll pass some magnificent natural wonders as you follow the canal. Highlights include Moine Mhor (‘the great moss’) National Nature Reserve, a surviving remnant of a once much more extensive raised bog, and Crinan Wood, a magical ancient Atlantic oakwood.
Continue north to Oban where you catch a ferry to the island of Mull.
Mull is packed with natural beauty spots from the towering peak of Ben More to the many secluded white beaches that fringe the coastline. Calgary Bay is generally regarded as the best beach on Mull, and is arguably one of the best in Scotland. Situated in the north-west corner of the island, it’s a little bit of paradise: beautiful white sand, shallow turquoise seas and a sheltered location. What’s more it’s backed by an ancient forest complete with a castle. The beach is easily accessible, but feels wild and remote and is a great place to spot wildlife.
From Mull, take a boat trip to the uninhabited island of Staffa best known for its basalt columns and spectacular sea caves. The most famous of these is Fingal’s Cave, immortalised by Mendelssohn in his Hebrides Overture. Look out for the bore-hole at Gunna Mor which creates a dramatic thunderous noise when waves strike the cliff below. You can extend your trip to the Treshnish Isles, where you can get up close and personal with puffins on Lunga. A number of boat operators on Mull offer trips to Staffa, including Staffa Tours and Turus Mara.
Now head to the south western-most tip of Mull to catch the CalMac passenger-only ferry from Fionnphort to Iona.
Argyll has more than its fair share of beautiful islands, from sun-drenched Tiree to enchanting Gigha. But Iona is perhaps the most mesmerizing. This dreamy Hebridean island, sitting less than a mile off Mull, is a place of pilgrimage for many. Only 1.5 miles wide by 3 miles long, it’s small enough to explore on foot or by bike. Discover secluded beaches, wild flowers and ancient sites. Top of your list should be St Columba’s Bay at the south end of Iona. It’s believed to be the place where St Columba and his fellow monks landed on Iona in 563. You’ll find richly coloured pebbles, including white and green Iona marble. See if you can find some ‘St Columba’s Tears’, which are small teardrop shaped pebbles of pure translucent green.
Your journey is now complete!