Gentler, lusher, and less wild than their Outer cousins, the Inner Hebrides still have more than their fair share to offer travellers. The sheer drama of sea caves and castles, the friendly warmth of locals, and more than a hint of myth and magic — it’s all out there to be discovered on a Grand Tour of this wonderful, westerly archipelago.
To attempt to sum up the appeal of a landscape in one word might seem foolhardy, but if pressed, we think that ‘inspiring’ just might cover it for the Inner Hebrides. After all, it was here that Mendelssohn was moved to write his Hebridean Overture, and it is here that countless artists, craftspeople and artisans make their living today, many selling their wares from Tobermory’s colourful seafront.
But don’t just take our word for it — on our Grand Tour, you can see it all for yourself, from the natural splendour of Fingal’s Cave to the sacred tranquility of Iona. Just these two sites speak volumes about the extent to which these islands are steeped in myth — the former is named for the eponymous hero of James Macpherson’s epic poem; the latter, the burial place of the real Macbeth, King of Scotland, who inspired Shakespeare’s Scottish Play.
But for every fantastical touch that abounds on these islands, there is just as much in which to delight in the material world. See wonderful wildlife — including otters, seals, puffins and guillemots — off the rocky coast of Staffa; enjoy a well-earned pint at the iconic, yellow-fronted Mishnish tavern; take a guided tour of Bowmore Distillery, purveyors of fine single malts; and much more besides.
- Sailing out of Oban Bay as the adventure begins
- Enjoying a drink in the Mishnish in Tobermory
- The amazing spectacle of Fingal’s Cave
- Moments of peaceful contemplation at Iona Abbey
- Scenic ferry sailing from Oban to Islay
- The pungent aroma of fermenting barley at Bowmore distillery
- Peace and quiet on the island of Jura
- Return coach travel available from Aberdeen, Montrose, Arbroath, Dundee, Perth, Kinross, Dunfermline, Edinburgh or Glasgow
- 6 nights’ accommodation on dinner, bed and full breakfast basis: 3 nights at the Isle of Mull Hotel and Spa, Craignure, and 3 nights at the Port Askaig Hotel, Islay. All rooms have private facilities
- All coaching and ferry transfers
- Visits to Iona, Staffa, Tobermory, Duart Castle; Jura, Loch Finlaggan Visitor Centre, Bowmore Distillery and Loch Gruinard RSPB Reserve
- Services of a tour manager
Single supplements apply. Subject to availability.
We depart from our designated pick up points and head for the Western Highlands, stopping en route for refreshments. On arrival in Oban we will board the late afternoon ferry for Craignure on Mull. Our base is the Isle of Mull Hotel & Spa, conveniently located close to the ferry terminal with superb views of the Sound of Mull, the Morvern Hills and, across the bay, Duart Castle. The hotel offers excellent spa and leisure facilities, including an indoor swimming pool, steam room, Norwegian Spruce Sauna and hydro foot spa. A range of reasonably priced treatments is also available.
Dinner is served in the evening.
After our full Scottish breakfast we will depart for a tour of Mull, stopping first in Tobermory, the island’s ‘capital’. The multi-hued buildings that line the waterfront will be familiar from a hundred calendars, and it’s a wonderful place to spend a couple of hours wandering around the shops, which include local arts and crafts outlets. For many, a pint in the Mishnish is an essential part of any visit to the town.
In the afternoon we drive to the Ulva Ferry pier at Oskamull and depart on a cruise to the little island of Staffa. Sailing out of Loch na Keal beneath the towering bulk of Ben More, keep an eye open for otters, seals, porpoises, dolphins and basking sharks – these waters are rich in wildlife. There are also great numbers of seabirds, with puffins, guillemots and razorbills among the most common. The Isle of Staffa was formed by volcanic eruptions over 50 million years ago and as the basaltic lava cooled it formed an extraordinary pattern of predominantly hexagonal columns which form the faces and walls of the principal caves. We will have around an hour ashore to explore the island, in particular the massive natural cathedral known as Fingal’s Cave, following in the footsteps of illustrious tourists from Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson to Jules Verne and Queen Victoria.
(Please note a reasonable degree of mobility is required to go ashore but the less adventurous are welcome to stay on board and are usually taken on a short seabird/seal-watch cruise. There is a toilet on board)
We sail back to Ulva Ferry pier and return by coach to our hotel in time for dinner.
Today we will drive along the Ross of Mull to Fionnphort, where we cross as foot passengers to the ‘sacred isle’ of Iona. Here you have the opportunity to visit the Abbey and wander over the island, taking in the atmosphere of calm and contemplation which attracts visitors from all over the world.
Dinner is served back at our hotel in the evening.
Following breakfast we will visit Duart Castle, the 13th century home of the Chief of Clan MacLean. We can explore the dungeons, the state rooms and appreciate the strategic position of the castle from the top of the keep. Following our visit we will catch the lunchtime ferry back to Oban, where there will be time for a quick stroll before we board the afternoon ferry to Islay. The wonderfully scenic three-and-a-half hour passage takes us south along the Firth of Lorn, stopping briefly at the island of Colonsay before continuing to Port Askaig on Islay. Our hotel is conveniently situated next to the harbour and dinner will be served once we have checked in and freshened up.
This morning, following breakfast, our first visit will be to Loch Finlaggan which was once the centre of the ‘Lordship of the Isles’. It was here that the installation of the Lords of the Isles took place, and the western seaboard of Scotland was ruled.
We will then visit the Bowmore Distillery. This is the oldest distillery on the island and has stood on the shores of Loch Indaal since 1779. Here we will see how this unique whisky is produced by hand, by the Maltman, before maturing in Spanish and American oak casks which give it its unique flavours.
Finally today we will visit the Loch Gruinart RSPB Nature Reserve where we will have an introductory talk before having free time to wander around and having the opportunity to see many bird species, including various species of geese, birds of prey and the chough, a rare type of crow.
Dinner will be served at the hotel in the evening.
This morning, after breakfast, we travel to the neighbouring island of Jura, an island which has a record of habitation stretching back over 5000 years. The island, with approximately 200 inhabitants, is 30 miles long and 7 miles wide and is a naturalist’s paradise. It is dominated by the three mountains known as the “Paps of Jura”, the highest being 2576ft. The northern end of the island was home to George Orwell, who wrote his masterpiece 1984 while living here at Barnhill.
We will enjoy a scenic tour before having some free time in Craighouse, a lovely little village and the main settlement on the island with a shop, tearoom, and Jura’s distillery.
After breakfast we check out of the hotel and take the morning ferry to Kennacraig on the mainland. We then continue our homeward journey, stopping for refreshments (not included) in Inveraray, arriving back at our original pick-up points during the evening.