If you’re wild about wildlife and crazy about the coast you really won’t find a more exciting region to head for than Argyll & the Isles. This is paradise for people who like to immerse themselves in nature’s inexhaustible treasure trove and take life at their own pace, often an explorer’s sturdy stride. It probably wouldn’t appeal to people who prefer city shopping and a buzzing nightlife.
Argyll is a county of some 23 inhabited islands and an awful lot of water, including part of Loch Lomond, the Clyde the Sound of Mull and the Atlantic Ocean. It is sparsely populated, even with all the tourists, but each island has its own character and unique attractions. Together they offer immense enjoyment and variety, especially when you’re staying in a stunning property like Crispie House or Crispie Lodge.
One activity to be relished in this western part of Scotland is island hopping. Each stop-off surely as much fun to cross off a hit list as a Munro bagged, ie a mountain of 3000 feet or more successfully climbed. Hopping is generally done over water by ferry or by air from Glasgow or Oban airports.
Many people like to take their own transport between the islands. Paddle power is significant here. The Argyll Sea Kayak trail is 150km in length and proudly offers some of the best sea kayaking in Europe, enabling both beginners and experienced kayakers an extremely scenic ride. Most people pick out a section or two but what a challenge it would be to tackle the full length! It starts from Ganavan Sands, near Oban, to Helensburgh on the Clyde, then via the sparkling Sound of Jura and Crinan Canal (dubbed ‘Britain’s most beautiful shortcut’) before skirting Inner Kintyre, the Kyles of Bute and the Firth of Clyde, taking in Rothesay Bay and Wemyss Bay.
All the islands are beautiful and largely unspoilt, as attested by the breadth of wildlife living on them. The region’s seven National Nature Reserves harbour Scotland’s iconic species including otters, seals, red squirrels, porpoises and red deer. The Isle of Mull is known as Eagle Island and is one of the few places to spot rare white-tailed sea eagles, massive birds of prey with wing spans up to a whopping 8 feet. If you happen to out walking with a little dog when you spot one, it might be as well to pick it up!
For tours of a different kind why not visit Islay and compare its eight different whisky distilleries, go stargazing on the designated Dark Sky Island of Coll, or enjoy the Victorian/Art Deco resort of Rothesay on Bute with its castle and Gothic Revival stately home Mount Stuart.