1709 | Highlands & Islands - a west coast odyssey

A scenic coastal odyssey, a journey of the senses and a trip with friends to remember

Please note that this is a private tour, by invitation only.

Welcome to Scotland's stunning west coast, truly one of the world's most scenic coastlines. This tour, a nine-day odyssey, explores a wide-range of the west coast's glorious gardens, its fascinating history and heritage, and its art and culture. All this, combined with the warmth of traditional Scottish hospitality, superb food and some of the freshest, most delicious seafood ever!

We have been operating tours on and along Scotland's west coast since May 2007 and, although this tour is much improved from our first, our sense of adventure and our love of these parts remains undiminished.

This is truly the Highlands - as much a mindset as it is a landscape - and a little understanding of its history, especially of the Highland Clearances, one of its seminal events, won't go amiss.

We explore an ever-changing landscape from Ross-shire in the north to Argyll, a county with a longer coastline than that of France, in the south. And, wh
ilst this tour remains, ostensibly at least, a garden tour, we are constantly in touch with the landscape's history and heritage, and the various communities' art and culture.

Sleeping & Eating
Besides our first night in Glasgow, we spend the first half of the tour in the wonderfully picturesque fishing village of Plockton, at the Plockton Inn, where we have stayed since our first Highlands & Islands tour in 2007, and the second half of the tour at the Crinan Hotela venerable institution, where we have stayed for the past few years.

We dine out on just three evenings, at the wonderful Plockton Shores, at the remote Applecross Inn and the award-winning Kilberry Inn.

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

At a glance
2-centre scenic odyssey
Numerous attractions including:
Outstanding scenery
Superb food
4-nights Plockton
Springbank Distillery
4-nights Crinan
Inveraray Castle
Boat trip from Crinan
Fantastic food
Kilmartin Glen
Fully escorted
Day 0 | Tuesday, 11 July

A Highland gathering!

In order that the tour may get underway smoothly and promptly, we suggest that everyone gathers in Glasgow the day before the tour commences.

Traditionally, we have suggested Ashtree House Hotel, Paisley as our gathering point for tours departing the Glasgow area, not least because of its proximity to Glasgow Airport, but in case everyone is agreeable to gathering in central Glasgow, I propose Grasshoppers Hotel, a recent newcomer to the scene with very good reviews - and, for those of you arriving into Glasgow by train, it is located directly above Glasgow Central Station!

This night's accommodation is included in the tour price and, irrespective of where you gather, Tim will collect you in the morning!

Tuesday, 11 July
Welcome back!
Day 1 | Wednesday, 12 July

From Glasgow to Plockton, via the Isle of Skye

As we cross the mighty Clyde, we leave Glasgow behind us and drive north, along the length of Loch Lomond, to the vast openness of Glencoe, where we'll stop for photographs and a quick coffee at the visitor centre, before our journey continues, past Fort William and past Ben Nevis, to the Glenfinnan Monument, where we'll stop and climb the monument or - for those of you who are Harry Potter fans - to photograph the railway viaduct, along which the Hogwarts Express runs!

It's then just 30-minutes to Mallaig, from where we take the early-afternoon ClaMac ferry to the Isle of Skye. An hour later we're there and after a brief, but seriously important stop at Ragamuffin - stockists of the very best British and Irish designer knitwear - we can all relax in the gardens of Armadale Castle, a part of the Clan Donald estate, and where we can visit the superb Museum of the Isles.

From Clan Donald, it's an hour's drive north - returning to the mainland by bridge - to Plockton, where we'll arrive at the Plockton Inn in the early evening, in time to check-in and enjoy a wonderful dinner, at the Inn. 

We will take the 13:50 sailing from Mallaig to Skye, necessitating a departure from central Glasgow at about 08.00.

 total driving is about 185 miles/300 km

Wednesday, 12 July
Cottages in Plockton
Day 2 | Thursday, 13 July

Pictish Brochs, Five Sisters, Eilean Donnan & Attadale Gardens

We return to Skye, only to leave it again almost immediately, across Kyle Rhea - the stretch of water between Skye and the mainland at its narrowest point and the traditional crossing used by cattle drovers taking their cattle to market - on the Glenelg Ferry, the world's last remaining turntable ferry! Glenelg is close to where Gavin Maxwell set his book Ring of Bright Water and we are here to visit the Glenelg Brochs - Dun Telve and Dun Troddan - two of Scotland's best-preserved Iron Age Brochs.

From Glenelg we return towards Plockton
, stopping to take in the wonderful views of the Five Sisters of Kintail, to visit Eilean Donan Castle, one of Scotland's most iconic images. Situated on an island at the point where three great sea lochs meet, the site has been inhabited since the 6th century and fortified since the mid-13th century.

After lunch, at Eilean Donan, we drive to the shores of Loch Carron, for a private guided
 tour of Attadale, the stunning garden of artist and gardener, Nicky Macpherson. The gardens were created, initially at least, by Baron Schroder in the late 19th century, when some 20 acres/8 ha conifers and rhododendrons were planted around the house and surrounding hillsides. However, the garden you see today is largely the work of its owner, Nicky Macpherson, when she transformed the garden after the devastating 1980 storms. Nicky's daughter, Joanna Macpherson, has taken over much of the day-to-day running of Attadale and will guide us around this wonderful garden, before we all retire to their beautiful home, for tea and biscuits.

We are just 30-minutes from Plockton, to where we'll return for dinner at Plockton Shores and, afterwards, should you fancy it, a night cap and some traditional music at the Inn.

Today's total driving is about 70 miles/115 km

Thursday, 13 July
Eilean Donan Castle
Day 3 | Friday, 14 July

Inverewe, Applecross - spectacle and adventure!

We head north for the day, driving along Glen Carron and then by Loch Maree - unique in Scotland for having an island, with a loch, with an island - for lunch and a mid-day vist to Inverewe Gardens, the world-famous gardens overlooking Loch Ewe. Created by Osgood Mackenzie in 1862, Inverewe is one of Scotland's most popular botanical attractions and is home to the most northerly planting of the rare Wollemi pines. It is home, too, to more than 2,500 species of other exotic plants, flourishing here because of the warm currents of the Gulf Stream and the foresight of Osgood Mackenzie, who planted over 100 acres of woodland to shelter the garden.

Loch Ewe was the chief assembly anchorage for the wartime Arctic Convoys to Russia and, indeed, became an important anchorage for NATO's Atlantic Fleet during the Cold War. Evidence of naval and military activity is scattered around the loch and, before we leave the area, we will call in at the small museum and visit the memorial to those who lost their lives serving on the convoys.

We return to Plockton via the Applecross Peninsula for dinner at the legendary Applecross Inn. The drive to Applecross, beneath the Torridon mountains and along the coast, is spectacular, and our drive home, over Britain's highest public road, adventurous! If all goes to plan, we end up with a glorious sunset over Skye and the Hebrides beyond.

Today's total driving is about 170 miles/275 km

Friday, 14 July
The walled and sheltered garden, Inverewe
Day 4 | Saturday, 15 July

A day on Skye

We spend today on the Isle of Skye, a day of breathtaking scenery as we cross Skye, stopping for photos of the Cuillin Hills, to Dunvegan Castle, for a thorough exploration of this 800-year old ancestral home of Clan MacLeod and its treasures. We'll have plenty of time, too, for Dunvegan's interesting and ever-improving garden, which, although originally laid out in the 18th century, have undergone considerable replanting, and more than one wholesale abandonment.

After lunch, at Dunvegan, we will explore the Trotternish Peninsula - Skye's northern most point - and visit the award-winning Skye Museum of Island Life, a preserved township of thatched cottages, each one depicting, as closely as possible, the conditions prevailing on the island at the close of the 19th century.

We'll stop in Portree, the island's 'capital', for a cup of tea en route home to Plockton, for dinner at the Plockton Inn.

Today's total driving is about 150 miles/240 km

Saturday, 15 July
Dunvegan Castle from its sea loch
Day 5 | Sunday, 16 July

From Plockton to Crinan, and the Loch Ness Monster

Our day starts with a drive eastwards to Loch Ness and, if we're really lucky, a sighting of the eponymous and elusive monster, and a coffee and photo stop in Fort Augustus. Fort Augustus, one of three forts - Fort George, Fort Augustus and Fort William - spanning the length of the Great Glen was built after the 1715 Jacobite uprising and was named after one of George II's sons, William Augustus. Today, the only thing rising in Fort Augustus are the boats as they ascend the flight of locks on the Caladonian Canal.

We continue south west along the Great Glen past Loch Lochy (me thinks they were running out of names), past Fort William and on to Oban, where we'll stop again for a walk round this busy town, the Gateway to the Isles - part harbour, part seaside resort and part regional administrative centre.

Oban is about an hour's drive north of Crinan and the Crinan Hotel, where we will arrive in plenty of time to check-in, relax and meet in the Seafood Bar for dinner.

Today's total driving is about 175 miles/280 km

Sunday, 16 July
Pleasure craft negotiating a flight of locks on the Caladonian Canal, Fort Augustus
Day 6 | Monday, 17 July

A day at sea!

Ross Ryan, the son of Nick and Francis Ryan, the owners of the Crinan Hotel, has a beautiful, if unpronounceable, boat, the Sgarbh and Ross will take us out for the day on it. 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, completely original, the last of her type and, weighing over 20 tons and at 40 foot long, she is solid and safe!

Our plan is to make the best of the prevailing conditions, take a picnic lunch with us and find some sheltered beach on which to enjoy it! Otherwise we can lunch onboard Sgarbh, but whatever we do, it will be fun and interesting and we will be surrounded by stunning scenery all day long.

We'll be back in Crinan by late-afternoon, for a lazy evening at the hotel and dinner in the dining room.

I am not sure how many nautical miles we may do, but we won't be driving.

Monday, 17 July
Boats, including the Sgarbh (top centre), in the pool at Crinan, taken from the roof bar
Day 7 | Tuesday, 18 July

The Kintyre Peninsula & Springbank Whisky

We spend today exploring the sights and attractions of the Kintyre peninsula, starting close to Crinan with a visit to Tayvallich, a small fishing village on the shores of Loch Sween, where we'll have morning coffee, visit some of the artists' galleries for which Tayvallich has become well known and visit nearby Keills Chapel. Built in the 1100s and was dedicated to St Cormac, the chapel contains almost 40 carved stones, ranging in date from the 8th to 16th centuries. The most  significant being the Keills Cross, a free-standing high cross dating to the 700s, similar to crosses found on Iona and is the only example of its type on the mainland.

We continue south to Campbeltown, one of the largest towns in Argyll and once, when it boasted 34 distilleries, 'the whisky capital of the world'! Only three survive and we will tour Springbank Distillery, which was founded in 1828 by the Mitchell family, and is still in their hands today. 

Late in the afternoon we return north, along the east coast of the penisula to the wonderful, award-winning Kilberry Inn for dinner.

Today's total driving is about 150 miles/240 km

Tuesday, 18 July
A wall of whisky, some of which will be distilled in Campbeltown by Springbanks
Day 8 | Wednesday, 19 July

Close to home along Loch Fyne and Kilmartin Glen

Our last full day of the tour starts with a drive along the shores of Loch Fyne, for a morning visit to Inveraray Castle, home to the Dukes of Argyll and Chiefs of Clan Campbell - to say nothing of the Grantham's Christmas getaway in Downton Abbey! The castle we see today was inspired by a sketch by Vanbrugh, architect of Blenheim Palace and Castle Howard, in the 1700s, and replaces a series of castle standing on, or near to, this spot since the 15th century.

After lunch, at Inveraray Castle and a brief exploration of Inveraray itself, we return along Lonch Fyne, to visit Kilmartin Glen, mainland Scotland's most important archaeological landscape, with more
 than 350 ancient monuments within a six mile radius of Kilmartin - 150 of them being prehistoric. We will make a start at Dunadd Fort, a 2,000-year-old fort and centre of royal power in the 6th to 9th centuries, and visit one or two of the standing stones and stone circles en route to Kilmartin Museum for tea and cake, and a look around the fascinating museum.

For our end-of-tour dinner, we will take over Lock 16, Crinan Hotel's roof-top restaurant with amazing views across the Sound of Jura.

Today's total driving is about 85 miles/135 km

Wednesday, 19 July
Inveraray Castle
Day 9 | Thursday, 20 July

From Crinan to Edinburgh, via the Isle of Arran and Glasgow

We complete the tour with a crossing to the Isle of Arran, for lunch and a visit to Brodick Castle. A quintessential Victorian 'Highland' estate, the grand Scottish baronial-style castle sits majestically above Brodick Bay and the W A Nesfield-influenced landscaped gardens have had much done to them in recent years, and are looking splendid.

After lunch, we take the ferry from Brodick to Ardrossan and on to Glasgow Airport, to drop those of you off who need to be, and continue to Edinburgh, arriving in the capital at about 5pm.

Separately, we will assist will arrangements in Edinburgh.

Today's total driving is about 125 miles/200 km

Thursday, 20 July
The minibus crossing from Kintyre to Arran
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
12 - 20 Jul
9 days
Single person suplement:

Fully Booked - Highlands & Islands - a west coast odyssey
We will gather together on Tuesday, 11 July at a location yet to be confirmed in the Glasgow area.
Any specific notes regarding this tour will be disseminated nearer the time of the tour.
Click to see where we visit