1704 | Glorious Argyll

A magical tour, exploring the islands and glorious gardens of Argyll

Welcome to Argyll and to this wonderful tour exploring Argyll's islands and its glorious gardens. This tour takes you to a selection of the very best of Argyll's glorious gardens, a range of gardens encompassing the different styles and sizes, and visit the isles of Arran, Gigha, Seil and Bute - all unhurriedly and at our own pace.

Argyll broadly covers the area of ancient Dál Riata or Dalriada, the lands of the Scoti who, tradition has it, came from modern-day Ireland and conquered the Picts to found Scotland. This large and sparsely populated region has its own special beauty, one characterised by wooded glens, picturesque fishing ports and heather-clad mountains. It has romantic castles, long deep sea lochs and, remarkably, a coastline longer than France's! All this, and yet it's only a stone's throw from Glasgow.

The gardens
Argyll is Scotland's centre of woodland gardens and, arguably, has the world's finest collection of such gardens. There are at least 50 gardens in the area - ranging from the likes of the world-renowned Arduaine and Benmore Botanic Garden to smaller, private gardens, owned by a dedicated band of knowledgeable gardeners, and every size of garden in-between.

Two organisations, Scotland's Gardens and Glorious Gardens of Argyll & Bute have useful websites, and I am indebted to Kenneth Cox and his wonderful book Scotland for Gardeners.

Sleeping & Eating
We spend the first four nights of the tour on the sea, at the wonderful and widely-acclaimed Crinan Hotel and the second three nights of the tour on the banks of Loch Fyne, at the equally wonderful Creggans Inn.

With an emphasis on fresh, local produce - particularly the local seafood and fresh, locally-landed fish - we eat especially well on this tour, dining out at the award-winning Kilberry Inn and the world-famous Loch Fyne Restaurant & Oyster Bar.

For more about the accommodation and eateries on this tour, including TripAdvisor reports, please see the Scotland section of Sleeping & Eating, here.

Please let us know if any of the website links become dysfunctional. Thank you.

At a glance
2-centre Scenic Garden tour
12 gardens including:
Outstanding scenery
Max group size 12
Mount Stuart
Superb food
Benmore Botanic
3 Private gardens
4-nights Atlantic Coast
Free time in Oban
3-nights Loch Fyne
Fully escorted
Day 0 | Wednesday, 10 May

A Highland Gathering!

The joining point for this tour is Ashtree House, and we ask that you arrive at Ashtree House during the course of today, Wednesday, 10 May. This first night is included in the price of your tour, and we do it so that we may get underway at a reasonable hour tomorrow morning, the first day of the tour.

Ashtree House is a family-run small hotel in central Paisley, conveniently located some ten minutes by taxi from Glasgow International Airport.

Paisley is a town immediately south-west of Glasgow and is the location of Glasgow International Airport. The town has a rich history, from its 12th century abbey to its famous fabric patterns, used the world over.

Please note that we have not included dinner in the price, and if you wish to arrive earlier than Wednesday, 10 May then please let us know.

Wednesday, 10 May
Our previous minibus outside Ashtree House
Day 1 | Thursday, 11 May

Paisley, Arran, Kintyre and Crinan

We leave Ashtree House and drive south-west to Ardrossan, for the late-morning Calmac ferry, across the Firth of Clyde, to the Isle of Arran for lunch and the early part of the afternoon at Brodick Castle.

Later in the afternoon we cross the beautiful northern half of Arran to Lochranza, for the ferry onto the Kintyre peninsula, and onward to the Crinan Hotel, our home for the next few days. Once we're at Crinan we can relax, settle in and chat about the week ahead over drinks and dinner in the Sea Food Bar and - perhaps - watch the sun setting over the Sound of Jura.

Please note that we will depart Ashtree House by 09.30 (to take the 11.05 ferry from Ardrossan), and if you are not staying at Ashtree House, or you are arriving into Scotland today, then you need to be at Ashtree House by 09.00.

Today's total driving is about 70 miles/112 km

Thursday, 11 May
Rhododendrons in Argyll. Courtesy Vilhjálmur Lúðvíksson
Day 2 | Friday, 12 May

Two gardens—and crossing the Atlantic for one of them!

We spend our first full day in Argyll exploring the coast north of Crinan, and we start by crossing the 'Bridge over the Atlantic', to the Isle of Seil - one of the Slate Islands - for a private visit to Sheila Downie's charming garden, An Cala. Sitting snuggly in a horseshoe-shaped slate cliff, with views to die for, Sheila's south-facing garden is frequently proclaimed as the 'favourite' garden by many of our customers, and justifiably so!

We return south, for lunch and the early afternoon at Arduaine Garden, a wonderful garden and a tranquil oasis of rhododendrons, azaleas and magnolias, overlooking the sea on a beautiful stretch of coastline.

In between Arduaine and Crinan lies the fascinating, and historically important, Kilmartin Glen. Spanning some 5,000 years, and with with a multitude of cairns, standing stones, carved rock, stone circles, forts and castles, Kilmartin Glen has one of Europe's most important concentrations of Neolithic and Bronze Age remains. More than 350 ancient monuments lie within a six mile radius of the village - and 150 of them are prehistoric.

We will visit the museum and, depending upon time and enthusiasm, stop at one or two of the more important sites, en route home to Crinan.

Dinner at the Crinan Hotel.

Today's total driving is about 60 miles/100 km

Friday, 12 May
The view from An Cala. Courtesy M de Noo
Day 3 | Saturday, 13 May

Knapdale, Kintyre & the Isle of Gigha

Our attention turns to the south, as we spend the day in Knapdale and on the Kintyre peninsula, and our starting point is a pair of private gardens not far from Crinan. Robin and Jilly Campbell Byatt's garden, Drim na Vullin, in nearby Lochgilphead, is as charming as the owners are and is disected by a spectacular waterfall and fast-flowing burn. A little further down the road is Helga Macfarlane's garden, Oakbank, a hillside garden with paths winding amongst a varied collection of trees, shrubs, bulbs and wild flowers.

Our journey takes us along Knapdale's east coast, through the fishing port of Tarbert and along the Kintyre Peninsula to Tayinloan, for the ferry to the Isle of Gigha - to visit Achamore Gardens, Gigha's jewel-in-the-crown. James Horlick - heir to the Horlick drinks business - bought Gigha in 1944 to create a garden of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and other exotic plants around Achamore House, and it is this wonderful garden we visit today.

We take a picnic lunch to Gigha, returning to the mainland late in the afternoon, for a little further exploration of the Kintyre Peninsula, before dinner at The Kilberry Inn - one of Scotland's finest restaurants.

Today's total driving is about 100 miles/160 km

Saturday, 13 May
Fushia at Achamore Gardens, Isle of Gigha. Courtesy Bodil Enoksson
Day 4 | Sunday, 14 May

A day at sea!

Today is a 'no driving day', so Ross Ryan - the son of Nick and Francis Ryan, owners of the Crinan Hotel - is taking us out on the beautiful Sgarbh.

The Sgarbh - Gaelic for cormorant - is a fully restored classic motor boat moored right outside the hotel. Built in 1947 on the River Clyde as a herring fishing boat, she retired in 1953 and was fitted-out for cruising. She is built of teak, fully varnished and completely original - and the last of her type. Weighing over 20 tons and at 40 foot long she is solid and safe!

We will take a picnic with us and, if the weather is particularly fine, lunch on some sheltered beach, but otherwise we can lunch onboard Sgarbh and, whatever we do, it will be fun and interesting and we will be surrounded by stunning scenery all day long.

NB. The boat trip is dependent upon minimum numbers and weather.

Please see here, for more information on 'no driving days'.

Sunday, 14 May
Heading into the Sound of Jura aboard Sgarbh
Day 5 | Monday, 15 May

From Crinian to Creggans, via Tarbert and Benmore

After loading the minibus and saying our goodbyes in Crinan, we return south to Tarbert, to take the ferry across Loch Fyne and onto the Cowal Peninsula, to visit Benmore Botanic Garden. One of three outstations of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Benmore has one of the finest collections of rhododendrons in the world, to say nothing of its other collections, the giant redwoods planted, the restored Victorian fernery and its magnificent setting.

We spend much of the day at Benmore, before the short drive north, to Loch Fyne and Creggans Inn, our home for the next three nights and where, as at Crinan, we will arrive in good time to relax and enjoy dinner at Creggans Inn.

Today's total driving is about 60 miles/100 km

Monday, 15 May
Blubells at Ardkinglas Woodland Gardens. Courtesy Bodil Enoksson
Day 6 | Tuesday, 16 May

Three great gardens on the shores of Loch Fyne

We spend today along the shore of Loch Fyne, starting with visit to nearby Ardkinglas Woodland Gardens, a romantic woodland garden with no fewer than five of Britain's tallest or largest conifers, underplanted with some stunning, huge rhododendrons, planted since 1905. From Ardkinglas, we continue along the loch for lunch and an early-afternoon visit to Inveraray Castle, home of the Dukes of Argyll and Chiefs of the Clan Campbell. Today's fairy-tale castle is merely the latest of a succession of castles built on the shores of Loch Fyne, since the 1400s, and you will have tickets to explore the castle and its gardens.

Our final visit is a late-afternoon exploration of Crarae, one of the finest and, possibly, most archetypical of the Sottish west coast woodland gardens, with mases of rhododendrons and azaleas growing along its steeply-sided 'Himalayan' gorge. After this afternoon's adventure at Crarae, we'll return along the shores of Loch Fyne for dinner at the renowned Loch Fyne Oyster Bar.

Today's total driving is about 60 miles/100 km

Tuesday, 16 May
Inveraray Castle from the gardens
Day 7 | Wednesday, 17 May

Mount Stuart and the Isle of Bute

Our final full day of the tour is spent on the charming Isle of Bute, and much of it at Mount Stuart, one of the most outstanding Gothic Revival buildings in Britain. Built by the 3rd Marquess of Bute, one of Britain's wealthiest men of his day, he sadly died before his vision was completed, but you will see it in the company of some very knowledgable guides. Mount Stuart also has an incredible collection of plant-life, spread across several spectacular gardens, and you will have tickets to see it all.

On our return to Creggans Inn, we will visit Ascog Hall, and its famous Victorian Fernery, and Ardencraig, the local authority's nursery, famous for its bedding plants (for which we will be too early) and glasshouses. From Bute we return to Creggans for a relaxing evening and our end-of-tour dinner.

Today's total driving is about 70 miles/110 km

Wednesday, 17 May
Mount Stuart house. Courtesy Betsy Moon
Day 8 | Thursday, 18 May

Back to Glasgow, back to reality...

After loading the minibus and saying our farewells, we set off to Dunoon for the ferry across the River Clyde, and onward to Glasgow Airport for those of you catching flights and to central Glasgow for those of you, who are either staying in the city or continuing your journey by rail.

Please note that we plan to arrive at Glasgow Airport by 10:30 and the city centre about an hour later. We can adjust timings slightly, but if you need to be at the airport significantly earlier than this, then please let us know, and we will arrange transport for you, to the airport, at your expense. 

Today's total driving is about 50 miles/80 km

Thursday, 18 May
The new minibus crossing to Kintyre
General Notes

During our tours, we endeavour to be as faithful to our itineraries as possible, but sometimes changes do occur, either necessarily or unavoidably.

Need some help?
We have prepared some helpful information - under 'Essential Information', and this information is designed to enhance your holiday. The pages are, 'An Introduction', 'Additional Information', 'Booking and Paying' and 'Travel Information'.

The tour area map
Click on the Google map of the tour area, and it will open in a new window. The various tour locations are marked GREEN (for gardens), ORANGE (for other attractions), RED (for pubs, hotels and restaurants) and BLUE (for transport) - and click on these markers for more information.

Tour Information
11 - 18 May
8 days
28 920,00
Single person suplement:
3 840,00

You may upgrade to Superior Rooms at both The Crinan Hotel and at The Creggans Inn, should you so wish. Please let us know if you would like further information and prices.

Available - Glorious Argyll
Please join this tour at Ashtree House, Paisley.

Information, as to exact times of meeting, and introductions to your fellow travellers will be sent to you in the week before the tour starts.
There are no specific notes for this tour.
Click to see where we visit