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A West Coast of Scotland Road Trip

A West Coast of Scotland Road Trip

Let’s go on a west coast of Scotland road trip!

With spectacular white sandy beaches, soaring mountains and beautiful islands it’s no wonder that Scotland’s west coast is the first place many people think of when planning a trip to Scotland. Explore the best bits of the west coast of Scotland on this itinerary ferry hopping from Glasgow to the Isle of Skye, visiting Oban, Mull and Ardnamurchan along the way.

A west coast of Scotland road trip itinerary

This ferry hopping road trip also makes a great extension to the North Coast 500. The North Coast 500 leaves Scotland’s west coast at Strathcarron before completing the loop back east to Inverness – but your west coast of Scotland trip doesn’t have to end here. Instead, join this west coast of Scotland road trip and head south from the NC500 route to cross over the sea to the Isle of Skye.

Ferry Hopping on the west coast of Scotland

For this road trip you will need to buy a ferry hopping ticket from the west coast of Scotland ferry company CalMac. Book hopscotch ticket HOP7 – Oban to Craignure on Mull, Tobermory to Kichoan on Arnamurchan and Mallaig to Skye.

For more advice on island hopping in Scotland – read my guide to Scotland’s Hebridean islands.

Day 1 – The road north – Inns, lochs & very local brews

Starting in Glasgow or from Edinburgh, your first day on the west coast of Scotland takes in both Loch Lomond and Loch Fyne, as well as driving the famous Rest and Be Thankful, a spectacular start to your trip.

Your first stop of the day is Loch Lomond, so park up at the village of Luss and take a wander down to the lochside among the pretty cottages. For a great lunch overlooking the water visit the Lodge on the Loch Lomond Hotel, or 10 minutes further north, The Inn on Loch Lomond is more casual. 

From Loch Lomond head to head to Tarbet and Arrochar. If you have time and the weather is on your side, climb The Cobbler – remember to be prepared for bad weather and have waterproofs and proper hiking boots handy!

It’s then time to tackle one of Scotland’s most famous roads, the Rest and be Thankful. The road winds its way through the Arrochar Alps to Inveraray. It is worth popping into Fyne Ales Brewery for a pie and a pint – or to pick some beer up for later if it’s too early; their beer Jarl is award-winning.

Stop for your first night in Inverarary where you can visit Inveraray Castle and Inveraray Jail and grab fish and chips to eat on the lochside. The George Hotel is famous for food and drink and a great atmosphere.

Where to stay near Inveraray

Day 2 – The Mull of Kintyre

Leaving Inveraray your first stop of the day is of Auchindrain Township and the beautiful Crarae Garden before visiting Crinan, one of Scotland’s hidden gems, with its canal and pretty seafront village.

Head down to the Crinan Canal basin, grab a coffee and watch the boats sail up and down the canal. Make sure you visit the village for views across to Jura. 

Then head north along the A816 towards Oban – along Kilmartin Glen for a wander around the standing stones and ancient burial chambers. For lunch stop at either the Lord of the Isles pub at Craobh Haven or the Loch Melfort Hotel where you can also take a stroll in the Arduaine Gardens.

Oban is a fantastic town to spend an evening – there are seafood restaurants aplenty, and great beer and pub food at my favourite, the Cuan Mor. To walk it all off climb up to McCaig’s Tower for a fab view of the Isles. In the local area is Castle Stalker which graces many Instagram shots and the Oban Distillery.

Where to stay in Oban

Where to stay in Oban*

Ferry leaving Oban Scotland

Day 3-4 – Exploring The Isle of Mull

It is time to ferry hop! Leaving Oban, catch the ferry from Oban to Craignure on Mull. The crossing takes around 55 minutes and must be booked in advance, especially in Summer. The views from the crossing are gorgeous and include Lismore Lighthouse and Duart Castle.

Tobermory is a great place to base yourself for a short visit to the island as it is a bustling and lively place, with lots of busy harbour bars – try the food at the excellent Macgochans. Whisky fans will want to visit the Tobermory Distillery, located right on the waterfront – no need for a designated driver here.

Read more: 24 hours on the Isle of Mull

However long you have on the island there are lots of things to do on Mull, including visiting beautiful Calgary Bay. The beach is stunning – you can see why it is one of the most photographed beaches in Scotland.

Want to explore on foot? The only Munro (a Scottish mountain over 3000ft) on an island (after from the Cullin on Skye) Ben More stands 966m above Loch Na Keal – the ‘loch of the cliffs’. With views across to the Isle of Ulva to Ben Cruachan, Ben More is a great island viewpoint even if you don’t climb to the very top!

Where to stay on Mull

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Day 5 – Remote Ardnamurchan

From Mull catch the short 40-minute ferry across to Kilchoan. You are now heading for remote Ardnamurchan – the most western part of the British mainland. Get off the beaten track and discover Ardnamurchan and the remote regions of Morvern, Ardgour, Moidart and Sunart – home to just 2000 people.

Many of the beaches here compete against the best in the world, so make sure you visit Camusdarach Beach, Arisaig or Sanna. Driving across Ardnamurchan’s volcanic caldera gives an incredible view of the small isles of Eigg and Rum and on a clear day, back to the Cullins on Skye. 

On your way south pop into the Glenuig Inn for lunch (note, they don’t serve lager on tap, just real ale and ciders!) before exploring Tioram Castle and Ardnamurchan Lighthouse which sits on the most westerly part of the mainland UK.

Read more: things to do in Ardnamurchan
Where to stay: Ardnamurchan Bunkhouse / Kilchoan Hotel / Mingarry Park*

What's top of your list when you think of visiting Scotland? The Isle of Skye, Eileen Donan Castle, Loch Ness and the North Coast 500? They are all rightly famous worldwide. However, it is all too easy to fall into the trap of blindly following a top ten list and missing out on the really good stuff - and taking the same photos as everyone else! Fancy getting a wee bit off the beaten track? Here are my best places to visit in Scotland

It’s time to take your next ferry – jump on a Calmac Ferry from Mallaig to Armadale on the Isle of Skye. 

Day 6-8 – The Isle of Skye

Seeing the Black Cullin, the Fairy Pools, Fairy Glen, Kilt Rock, the Old Man of Storr, The Quiraing, Neist Point Lighthouse, Loch Coruisk, Dunvegan Castle and discovering Talisker whisky will be high on your list of things to do in Scotland.

On the east coast – in the height of summer it may feel like a conveyor belt of hire cars, the east coast of Skye will be filled with campervans and tour buses on their day out – but don’t let you put that off. You often have the road to yourself and the Old Man of Storr, pretty Portree harbour and the mighty Quiraing are well worth a visit.

On the west coast – visit Dunvegan Castle, home of Clan MacLeod to learn not only about the history of this clan but also the role of clans today – as well as their most famous member, Dame Flora MacLeod. The Castle sits in a stunning location on the seafront, and the gardens are also lovely to wander around.

On the south coast – with rolling lush green landscapes and views over the sound to Morar, Knoydart and Glenelg, the Sleat Peninsula is one of Skye’s hidden gems. Often bypassed by those arriving on the Skye ferry the peninsula is also one of Skye’s quieter corners – which makes it perfect as a base to explore. 

Get off the beaten track – if you like life a little more sedate the Cuillin is also viewed in all its magnificence from a walk to Camasunary Beach on the Elgol (or to give it its proper name) Strathaird Peninsula. Take a boat trip to Loch Coruisk right into the heart of the mountains. Take a walk around Loch Coriusk for the most incredible views of the mountains, before catching the afternoon ride back – magical.

The Isle of Skye might be mind-blowing and deservedly popular, but Skye is heaving in summer, and remote in winter, which means visiting can be a challenge. Please visit the island sustainably, park sensibly, learn how to drive on a single track road and book your accommodation in advance.

Read more: a guide to the Isle of Skye

Where to stay on Skye

west coast of Scotland

Fancy a longer road trip? The North Coast 500

Have you driven the North Coast 500? If not, why not? Scotland’s most famous road trip takes in 500 miles around the north coast of Scotland taking in some of the most spectacular scenery in the world – there’s no wonder they call it Scotland’s Route 66.

The west coast of the NC500 route takes you through the dramatic mountains of Assynt before reaching Wester Ross. Don’t miss visiting Lochinver, Ullapool and climbing Stac Pollaidh and Suilven. 

To get to the north coast 500, leave Skye by the Skye bridge, to reach the pretty town of Plockton where the mild climate allows palm trees to prosper on the waterfront. The weather might even be nice enough to have lunch outside one of the friendly Plockton pubs!

I also highly recommend stopping at Strome Castle on Loch Carron, one of the National Trust for Scotland’s little gems and exploring the beautiful family-run Attadale Gardensa late 19th century garden on the Attadale Estate. The gardens are so peaceful – and you might catch the artist owner for a chat.

Then drive north to beautiful Applecross Peninsula where you end your trip driving the famous Bealach na Bà, past fiord-like lochs to the huge Torridon mountains and the north coast of Scotland.

Read my complete guide to driving the North Coast 500

Video guide – West Coast of Scotland Road Trips

Have you done a west coast of Scotland road trip? Where would you recommend?

Love, from Scotland x

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Jessi (@2feet1world)

Wednesday 6th of December 2017

Wow wow wow. I really want to explore this stunning countryside - thanks for the tips!

Mary Mayfield

Friday 17th of November 2017

I think you've ticked off all my 'must see' places. Maybe I'd head out to the end of Skye at Neist Point, to watch the sun set over the Outer Hebrides, or a drive across the 'Bridge over the Atlantic' to Seil, but otherwise I'd just like to spend more than 5 days on the trip :)