Round Up : West and South West
Let’s go an a small tour and start at the south.
Dumfries and Galloway
Historically, the three counties of Dumfriesshire, Kirkudbrightshire and Wigtownshire, this area has an awful lot to offer. For those coming up from England, often people continue the hour or so north to Edinburgh/Glasgow but turning left gives you access to this varied and interesting area.
The Dark Skies Park is a major draw for astronomers, the priory at Whithorn lays claim to being one of the earliest Christian foundations in Scotland, there are magnificent walks including part of the Southern Upland Way, fantastic beaches, castles – and of course there is Greta Green for that elopement! Many artists and makers call this home.
Heading north, we reach Ayrshire, famed as the home of Burns and host to Royal Troon and Turberry golf courses. But don’t forget castles such as Culzean with its lovely gardens, opportunities to ride Clydesdale (heavy) horses, visit the Hunterston Nuclear Power Station, or the Maritime Museum at Irvine.
When you’ve had enough, take a trip to Arran and then hop directly to the next point on this round up, the Kintyre peninsula (summer only)
Many people just take a wee divert to visit Inverary and its castle, but this peninsula, remote enough to have flights to it from Glasgow, has much more to offer. Walk or cycle the Kintyre Way (or part of it) – 47 miles from Tarbet down to Campbelltown and round the Mull of Kintyre to Macrahanish with castles, fishing villages, beaches and an abundance of wildlife en route.
You can hop across towards the Loch Lomond and Trossachs via the ferry at Tarbet or head north in to Knapdale – or catch ferries to Gigha or Islay.
Knapdale is most famous for the official reintroduction of beavers to Scotland. It’s bordered by the Crinan Canal (a great – and obviously more or less flat walk or cycle) and if you are lucky you’ve see VIC32, the last Puffer, and has lovely scenery and wonderful National Nature Reserves.
At the north is Kilmartin Glen, one of the world’s most significant archaeological landscapes. Sites including Stone Circles, Standing Stones and Rock Art abound.
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs
Just an hour north of Glasgow (and therefore it can be busy at weekends and public holidays) lies the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. Fantastic scenery of mountians and lochs with lovely villages such as Luss. Take a boat trip on Loch Lomond or Loch Katrine. Walk up a hill – Conic Hill is a short hill providing spectacular views. Hire a bike and cycle from Katrine to Lomond!
Camping is popular in the park but a system of permits and designated areas has recently been introduced.
Argyll and Lorn
Many visitors will head to Oban, that great jumping off point for islands – with days trips offered to Mull/Iona/Staffa. Scotland Time thinks these island merit more than a day trip – see our Island Round Up here. Don’t forget the small isles of Kerrera, Lismore with ferries from Oban or the delightful Seil/Esdale/Luing trio further south.
Oban has own range of attractions nearby with Dunollie Castle being a pleasant walk from the town. The more energetic can take the gorgeous coastal walk to Dunstaffange Castle.
Loch Etive is lovely and do pause to admire the overfalls under the Connell Bridge : a great playground for kayakers at the right state of tide. Glen Coe is scenic star and a great drawn for walkers – do explore on foot.
Nevis and Glen Coe
Fort William is a major town serving the west highlands and suffers from a certain lack of beauty itself. But who looks at a town, with Ben Nevis, Glen Nevis, the Argour peninsula all around!
Foremost on the built attractions is Neptune’s Staircase – a series of locks that starts this impressive ships canal that enables ships to avoid the treacherous passage from east to west round Ardnamuchan Point, Cape Wrath and Caithness/Orkney. It’s still busy with yachts and pleasure boats to this day.
But the star draw is the mountain. There are many low level and short walks but some 150,000 reach the summit of Ben Nevis each year. Despite a path being known as the tourist path and the mountain drawing charity runners and events each year, this is not a trivial mountain with several deaths each year. But good planning and decent equipment means you will #StaySafe. The cable cars at Anoch Mor allow the less active to have a real mountain experience.
Ardnamurchan, Moirdart, Morven and Morar
West from Fort William are these peninsula with the famous Road to the Isles and railway to Mallaig. But ehead south and you get remote beauty with fantastic beaches, watersports and a way of life that means you can relax.
Coming from the south on th A82, you can hop over on the wee Corran ferry and from there either hop to Mull at Lochaline, and perhaps back to Ardnamuchan from Tobermoray or siply explore this lovely coast.
From Mallaig you can catch a boat to Knoydart, the last mainland community unconnected by road.
Simple beauty and some of the best beaches.