An island hopping adventure to Mull, Iona, Coll & Tiree
The Hebridean islands of Mull, Iona, Coll and Tiree in the far north west of Argyll, are strikingly beautiful. Each of these magical islands offers something different, from the dark skies of Coll to the rugged peaks of Mull, the sandy beaches and surfing of Tiree to the spiritual legacy of Iona. Why not take a few days to discover these wonderful islands and go on your very own island-hopping adventure? The ferry journeys are part of the pleasure of the trip. You’ll see stunning seascapes and wildlife galore as you travel from island to island.
- Oban to Mull
Start your island hopping adventure at the bustling fishing port of Oban, unofficial capital of the West Highlands and gateway to the Western Isles. This Victorian resort is full of life, with ferries to the islands coming and going, great bars and streets packed with individual shops and cafés. Known as ‘Scotland’s Seafood Capital’, it’s the place to sample fresh seafood. The ferry from Oban to Craignure on Mull takes around 40 minutes and drops you at Craignure. Enjoy stunning views of the islands along the way.
Mull is a fabulous island to explore, with the towering peak of Ben More, ancient castles, sparkling sands and a rich cultural life. It also has Tobermory, easily the most attractive fishing port on the west coast of Scotland, where gaily-painted houses cluster around a sheltered bay. Don’t miss Duart Castle, the 13-century fortress perched on a rocky outcrop, or the white-tailed eagles at Loch Frisa. Duart Castle has a fantastic tearoom with lots of local produce on the menu. From Mull, there is a number of smaller islands that you can reach by boat, including Ulva, Iona and Staffa.
- Mull to Ulva
The tiny island of Ulva sits just off the west coast of Mull. The little ferry runs on demand from Ulva Ferry – you summon it by uncovering the red panel at the ferry station – and takes just a couple of minutes. The boat will drop you at The Boathouse, a licensed tearoom specialising in fresh local shellfish landed from the family fishing boat. Work up an appetite with a stroll around the island. You can travel to Ulva Ferry by public transport from Craignure on the Ulva Ferry Community Bus, run by volunteers, affording you beautiful views along Loch na Keal and possibly a glimpse of the white-tailed eagle.
- Mull to Iona
The passenger-only ferry from Fionnphort on Mull to the dreamy island of Iona takes takes just 10 minutes. Iona is the birthplace of Celtic Christianity and has an air of peacefulness about it. Iona Abbey is just a short walk from the ferry. Or why not escape the crowds, hire a bike and discover secluded beaches, listening out for elusive corncrakes along the way?
- Mull to Staffa
Another island hopping option is to visit the island of Staffa that lies five miles southwest of Mull. There isn’t a ferry service, but a number of tour operators offer boat trips. Impossibly dramatic and romantic, this uninhabited island is best known for its magnificent basalt columns and spectacular sea caves. The most famous of these is Fingal’s Cave, also known as An Uamh Binn (Cave of Melody), which inspired Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture. Boat trips sail from both Fionnphort and Ulva Ferry
- Oban to Coll & Tiree
You now have to catch the ferry from Craignure on Mull back to Oban to pick up your ferry to Coll and Tiree. CalMac’s Island Hopscotch® 19 is the best way to combine a visit to these western-most isles of the Inner Hebrides. You’ll cast off from Oban, navigate around Kerrera and then head out to sea for an epic journey past Mull. Once clear of the Sound of Mull, you’re heading to the island of Coll. The journey takes around 2 hours 30 minutes. Watch out for dolphin, porpoise, basking sharks and whales – this is prime cetacean-spotting territory! As you roll off the ferry at Arinagour on Coll you might notice the complete lack of street lights. This is a great place for star gazing! Look up on a clear night and the canopy of stars will take your breath away.
The ferry from Coll to Tiree takes around another hour and drops you at the port in Scarinish. Don’t forget to bring your sun cream. Beautiful Tiree is officially one of the sunniest places in Britain! The island is famed for its sandy beaches and is a surfers’ paradise. The Tiree Wave Classic attracts some of the world’s best windsurfers every year. The Tiree Music Festival is another great way to experience the magic and beauty of Tiree.
When you’ve finished enjoying the delights of Tiree, catch the ferry back to Oabn to complete you Inner Hebridean island-hopping adventure.