Wild seas, beautiful islands, majestic gardens, and man-made wonders: Argyll and Bute on Scotland’s west coast has them all. So whether you wish to get closer to nature, live on the dangerous side by getting up close to one of the world’s biggest whirlpools, or venture deep into the very heart of a mountain, there’s plenty to see and do. These are the 10 top attractions that will create memories to last a lifetime during your visit.
1. Mount Stuart
Located on the Isle of Bute, this spectacular manor house is a popular seasonal tourist attraction and the seat of the Stuarts of Bute – descendants of the famous Scottish monarch, Robert the Bruce. Built in the late 1800s the manor’s Gothic Revival stylings are just as impressive on the inside as they are on its outside, and include such striking features as the beautiful white Marble Chapel, and a stunning Marble Hall. The house sits within extensive gardens, which offer lovely walking options for people of all abilities, and some of the paths wind their way down to the sea front where beautiful views across the Firth of Clyde to the mainland can be enjoyed. Another item of note about the estate is its copy of an incredibly rare Shakespeare First Folio – which was only discovered among the manor’s library in 2016.
Price: Adult 11.50 GBP (15.30 USD), Child (five to 15) 6.75 GBP (8.98 USD), Concession 9.50 GBP (12.64 USD), Family 33 GBP (43.92 USD)
Contact: +44 1700 503877 or email [email protected]
Website: Mount Stuart
2. Cruachan: The Hollow Mountain - Cruachan Visitor Centre
The rugged Scottish landscape and higher rainfall levels make it the perfect place for hydroelectric power. The Cruachan power station is an impressive mid 20th century engineering feat. Some 1,300 builders – nicknamed the Tunnel Tigers – dug deep into the flanks of Ben Cruachan in the 1960s and built a power station within the mountain, with deep channels feeding it from its water source above. Today, as well as still pumping out some 440 megawatts of electricity, it is a popular tourist attraction – giving visitors the chance to travel deep into the bowels of the earth, where they can learn about the construction and some of the myths associated with the area including the tale of Cailleach Bheur. The Old Hag of the Ridges was supposedly turned to stone for failing in her duty as guardian of a mythical fountain on Ben Cruachan. Falling asleep, she allowed the fountain to overflow, and the subsequent deluge flooded the land and created the waterway of Loch Awe.
Cruachan: The Hollow Mountain - Cruachan Visitor Centre
Address: Cruachan Visitor Centre, Dalmally, Argyll, PA33 1AN
Opening Hours: Daily 9.30 am to 4.45 pm (April to October); Monday to Friday 10 am to 3.45 pm (November to March)
Contact: +44 141 614 9105 or email [email protected]
Website: Cruachan: The Hollow Mountain
3. Iona Abbey
The administrative county of Argyll and Bute extends as far north of the Isle of Mull and its neighbouring islands, including the picturesque Iona off its south-western tip. The island, which is easily reached by ferry, was a cradle of early Christianity and is still home to the beautiful Iona Abbey – one of western Europe’s oldest Christian religious centres. Its history dates as far back as the year 563, when St. Columba founded a monastery on the site. Over subsequent centuries, its colourful history included raids by Vikings, seizure by the King of Norway and subsequent recapture, and ultimately its abandonment following the Scottish Reformation. However the ruins were reconstructed in the early 20th century and today the site is a popular tourist attraction managed by Historic Environment Scotland.
Address: Isle of Iona, Argyll, PA76 6SQ
Price: Adult 7.50 GBP (9.98 USD), children (five to 15) 4.50 GBP (5.99 USD), concessions 6 GBP (7.98 USD). Under fives go free
Opening Hours: Varies. Check website for details.
Website: Iona Abbey
4. Corryvreckan Whirlpool
Welcome to the third largest whirlpool on the planet. The onrushing Atlantic currents, location of surrounding islands, and underwater geography conspire to make the Gulf of Corryvreckan – off the north coast of the Isle of Jura – some of the most treacherous waters in the world. Sections of the water in nearby Little Corryvreckan are so dangerous they were even once deemed unnavigable by Britain’s Royal Navy. Celebrated author George Orwell – of Animal Farm and 1984 fame – once nearly drowned after getting too close to the whirlpool in a row boat. He survived his dunking but ultimately developed pneumonia, passing away just a few months later. Today, adventurous visitors can get on high powered speed boats, which leave sites in the Easdale and Oban area, to get up close to the whirlpool in safety.
Address: Ellenabeich, Easdale, Oban, PA34 4RF
Contact: +44 1852 300003 or email [email protected]
Website: Seafari Adventures
5. Mull of Kintyre
This landmark is beloved by Beatles star Paul McCartney, who penned the famous track of the same name for his band Wings while living on the Kintyre Peninsula. The Mull is the headland of this isolated peninsula, and if it’s isolation and beautiful coastal views you’re after, then you’ve come to the right place. The Northern Ireland coast is visible across the sea on clear days.
Website: Visit Kintyre
6. The Slate Islands
As the name suggests these picturesque low-lying islands are famed for the amount of slate that can be found – and has been quarried – there. Easdale, which has a population of 95, looks almost like Swiss cheese thanks to the flooded quarries which pockmark the island, while neighbouring Eilean-a-beithich was mined almost completely out of existence. Miners excavated down to 250 ft (76.2 m) below sea level leaving only the outer rim of the island and, in the late 1800s the inevitable happened – a storm breached the rim and completely flooded the interior, destroying the island’s mining industry literally overnight. Neighbouring Easdale makes use of some of its own flooded mine workings to host the World Stone Skimming Championships every year.
The World Stone Skimming Championships
Address: Easdale island
7. Inveraray Jail
The beautiful Georgian village of Inveraray, located on the shores of Loch Fyne, delights many a visitor to this area of the world. Its white-walled streets are famed for their picturesque nature, and bring tourists flocking time and again. Those who visit cannot fail to spot Inveraray Jail, which is located a short distance from the sea loch among the white buildings. The jail is today run as an historically accurate – and fascinating – recreation of what prison life was like for those unlucky enough to find themselves incarcerated in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Address: Inveraray Jail, Argyll, PA32 8TX
Price: Adults 11.50 GBP (15.30 USD); Seniors 10.45 GBP (13.91 USD); Children (five to 16) 6.95 GBP (9.25 USD); Students 8.95 GBP (11.91 USD); Under fives go free.
Opening Hours: Varies depending on time of year. Check website.
Contact: +44 1499 302381 or email [email protected]
Website: Inveraray Jail
8. Crarae Gardens
Enjoy a taste of the Himalayas above the shores of Loch Fyne, with a visit to this fine National Trust for Scotland garden. Created a little more than a century ago by Lady Grace Campbell, the garden features a host of trees and shrubs sourced at the time from Tibet, Nepal, and China. It is regarded as one of the finest Himalayan-style gardens in Britain, and is a riot of colour through much of the year.
Address: Crarae, Inveraray, Argyll, PA32 8YA
Price: Adults 6.50 GBP (8.65 USD); Concessions 5 GBP (6.65 USD); Families 16.50 GBP (21.96 USD)
Opening Hours: Garden - daily, year round from 9.30 am to sunset. Visitor Centre is open 10 am to 5 pm daily (April 1st to August 31st) and Thursday to Mondays only from 10 am to 5 pm (September 1st to October 31st)
Contact: +44 1546 886614 or email [email protected]
Website: Crarae Gardens
Those holidaying in the busy Central Belt cities of Edinburgh or Glasgow can still sample the attractions of Argyll and Bute without the need to ‘up sticks’ and source accommodation out west. This day tour, which leaves and returns to Edinburgh, takes in a host of attractions. Although not all are located within Argyll, a number of them are. Stops include a visit to Scotland’s biggest freshwater loch by surface area, Loch Lomond, as well as the city of Glasgow. Turning to Argyll, you’ll visit the west coast sea port of Oban – with its numerous ferry links to the isles – and the beautiful ruins of Kilchurn Castle (pictured) on the shores of Loch Awe, the longest freshwater loch in Scotland. A visit to Inveraray and the shores of Loch Fyne completes the itinerary before returning to base.
Oban, Lochs & Inveraray Full-Day Tour from Edinburgh
Duration: 12 hour
Another great day tour leaving from the central belt – this time Glasgow – the itinerary includes routes along the beautiful sea loch of Loch Long, views of the mountains of the Arrochar Alps, and up past the Rest and Be Thankful viewpoint. The latter gets its name from a stone that was placed there by soldiers who constructed the original military road in the mid 1700s. As with the Edinburgh tour, this itinerary also includes visits to Loch Awe, the beautiful ruin of Kilchurn Castle, and Oban.
Sightseers will also spot Inveraray Castle (pictured) on the outskirts of Inveraray, and visit the iconic glen of Glencoe – beloved of tourists, hikers, skiers, and film crews alike. Visits to the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park and the 18th century conservation village of Luss are also among the highlights.
From Glasgow: Oban, Glencoe, Highland Lochs & Castles Tour
Duration: 10.5 hour
So much to see and do
Whether you base yourself in Argyll and Bute, or simply pay a day visit on a tour out of the major Scottish cities, the region is chock full of things to see and do. So many, in fact, that you may already be planning a return trip before you’ve even finished your first.
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