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Mull, Islay, Arran - seeking recommendations!

Hi all!
Long time lurker and have not posted since 2018! After a long wait, I am finally booked back to my favorite country in the world.
Hoping I could get validation from the more seasoned Scotland travelers on my itinerary, and solicit any recommendations!

I love to hike/walk, sample whisky, knit, wander, and am not troubled as a solo traveler talking to strangers :)

Itinerary:

  • Sept 13 - arrive Glasgow
  • Sept 14 - pickup car, drive to Oban, Ferry to Craignure
  • Sept 14 - 18 - stay in Tobermory
  • Sept 18 - ferry back to Oban, drive to Kennacraig, Ferry to Port Askaig
  • Sept 18-23 stay on Islay
  • Sept 23 - Ferry back to Kennacraig, drive to Claonaig, Ferry to Locranza
  • Sept 23-25 - Stay on Arran
  • Sept 25 - Ferry Brodick to Ardrossan, Drive to drop off rental
  • Final night in Glasgow before flying out the 26th!

I have my ferry passages all booked but having watched the recent threads, will be keeping close watch on cancelations and changes to the schedule. I have my accommodation mostly sorted.

Thank you all in advance - I have long wanted to see Islay, and Mull and Arran closely followed on the wish list.

Posted by
4230 posts

Since you have some time on Mull, I'd recommend the drive to Calgary Bay. A white sandy beach and gorgeous blue water makes you wonder if you're in the Caribbean.

Posted by
1376 posts

Hi, carolineandcats,

You are going to love all three islands! If you have time while you're on Mull, you should pay a visit to the offshore island of Ulva. It's a five minute ferry trip, and there are several good hiking trails. If you arrive early in the day, you could hike out to the connecting island of Gometra.

If you run out of things to do and places to visit while you're on Mull, you could take a day trip to Kilchoan, and visit some of the places on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula, like Sanna Bay, the Ardnamurchan Lighthouse, and also the exterior of Mingary Castle.

On Islay, be sure to visit the RSPB Nature Reserve at Loch Gruinart. There are a couple of good hikes, and two very well situated hides overlooking the loch and marshlands. There is also a good chance of seeing seals in the bay at Portnahaven. The 8th century Celtic cross at Kildalton is one of the best examples of standing crosses of that type in Scotland.

Are you staying in Port Ellen?

Have a wonderful time! Those are among my favourite islands!

Best wishes,

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
10 posts

Mike! I confess you are a poster I always look for, as you never fail to have great ideas.

Ulva & Iona are on my list to try and see on Mull, as well as a boat tour to Staffa and Lunga. Less time on Mull, certainly, but I'm not worried about finding ways to fill the time!

I did NOT have the RSBP on my list for Islay, so thank you! I am staying in Port Ellen - I plan to do the 3 distilleries walk, natch.

Appreciate the intel. So few threads on this forum focus on those islands - understandably, Skye takes popularity!

Posted by
4 posts

Hi there,
I concur with a visit to Iona, a quick ferry ride from Mull. You will LOVE Tobermory. A very close friend has a fabulous BnB (https://www.cruickshanksarran.co.uk/) on Arran, which is considered a mini Scotland b/c one can find all the ecosystems of Scotland on Arran. Enjoy; it is a lovely country; hopefully, there won't be too many midges in September.

Posted by
1376 posts

Hi again, carolineandcats,

As you're going to be landing at Lochranza, you should check out the castle. Last I heard, the interior was closed for modification, but it's still pretty impressive from the outside. Brodick Castle and gardens are no doubt on your list of places to visit, but you should also visit the King's Cave, and there's a nice hike up Glen Sannox.

If you have time before your ferry from Claonaig, check out Skipness Castle. Like Lochranza, it's no longer in use, but it is impressive.

Are you staying at the Trout Fly or Eilidh's in Port Ellen?

Best wishes once again!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
6793 posts

I was on Arran a couple of weeks ago and loved it. The town of Lochranza is very charming, and as Mike said, they have a wonderful castle ruin that sits right on the water. It is closed up and you cannot access it, but you can look through it and see the stairs. It’s a beautiful location as well and the drive up along the east coast is just gorgeous. There is also a wonderful little building right across from the ferry terminal called The Sandwich Shop that sells wonderful sandwiches. It has the best bread ever.

I would also agree with the recommendation for Brodick Castle. I loved the gardens there, and there are so many opportunities for walking if you’d like that. There was one hike, to see the red squirrels, or you can also take a hike to see the Goatfell summit. They have a nice little café as well there.

If you get a chance to head to Lagg along the southern tip, there is a lovely beach that you can walk down to. Very rocky but very pretty. And on the way, stop at the 5,000 year old Torrylin burial cairn. It’s in a lovely, peaceful setting. When I was there, I was the only soul around for miles.

There are also two distilleries on the island; Lagg Distillery and Lochranza distillery. Both offer tours and tastings.

Also, if you are looking for any gifts while you’re there, Arran Aromatics is a wonderful little store, with many wonderful smelling products that they make right there on the island. I think they have locations in Glasgow and Edinburgh, but it’s fun to shop at the Arran store.

With regards to Mull, I loved my stay there as well. I stayed right on the harbor, which was a wonderful location. One day I took the ferry to Iona, which was a long drive, but worth it. Iona was really lovely and very interesting. I also went to Duart Castle, which I enjoyed, and stopped at Glengorn Castle, just to go for some walks in the woods down there. The castle itself is not open but there is a tea shop there. And it’s very close to Tobermory.

Posted by
6793 posts

I forgot to add that if you drive to Fionnphort to take the ferry over to Iona, there is a free car park right as you’re going into town off a street to the left. You should see the sign for it as you’re driving in. There’s another car park closer to the ferry, but you have to pay for that one.

Also, there’s a little shack across from the ferry called the Creel Seafood Bar that has wonderful seafood. They’re open earlier for snacks but they don’t really have their seafood ready until noon.

Posted by
6793 posts

Sorry for all the posts. These are random thoughts that are occurring to me to me as I’m on the ferry right now heading to Ullapool. There is a wonderful restaurant in Tobermory on the harbor called the the Galleon Bistro. I had one of the best meals in Scotland there. Nice ambience, too.

Posted by
6390 posts

I would always encourage anyone staying on Islay to try to make time to visit the neighbouring island of Jura on the little ferry from Port Askaig for one day, if they have the time. Scenically it is very different.
Although you can arguably have too many distilleries, their whisky is a totally different style than the peaty Islay ones.
It's a local council run ferry, not a CalMac one!!

Posted by
1424 posts

Carolineandcats: if you are interested in leather goods stop at Mackenzie Leather, https://www.mackenzieleather.co.uk/, located in the old stables by Brodick Castle. It's an old saddlery repurposed to make hand bags, hand luggage, belts, etc. I got a wonderful crossbody handbag which I receive complements on regularly. I'm not certain, but there may also be a yarn shop in one of the nearby stables.

Posted by
1657 posts

I can second getting across to Jura. I spent two nights in the hotel there a few years back, and especially once the night falls it is quiet and feels far more remote than it is. Driving up from the ferry at night was fun avoiding the deer.