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Visiting Argyll & the isles – Our favourite things to see & do (2023 Guide)

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Argyll and the isles consist of 8 different areas, each of which offers beauty, fun, and impressive history. We've published guides for a few of these islands before, including Jura and Mull, and we also have a guide about Inveraray, but we wanted to highlight a few of the other great things to do in this area which we haven't mentioned before. Let's get into the guide:

Inverary Castle

Inverary Castle is a country house perched right on the shore of Loch Fyne (the longest sea loch in Scotland). The building is one of the earliest examples of Gothic Revival architecture in the UK, and it has been the seat of the Dukes of Argyll since the 1700s. The castle is open to visitors and is definitely one to check out if you're interested in military history - there is an impressive collection of weapons such as muskets and swords. Visitors can also admire the surrounding gardens and estate, which spans more than 60,000 acres.
Find out more about the castle here - inveraray-castle.com
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Kilchurn Castle

Kilchurn Castle might not be as grand as Inverary Castle, but it is no less enjoyable to visit. All that remains of the castle is ruins, but you can still make out the shape and design of the castle pretty clearly and there is still plenty to appreciate. But what really makes this castle worth a visit is the setting - the castle sits on a rocky peninsula at the Northern end of Loch Awe, and the view of the loch from the castle is worth the visit.
Find out more about the castle here - historicenvironment.scot
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Puck's Glen

Puck's Glen is probably the best-known walk on the Cowal Peninsula and is a must if you're in the area. The glen consists of a deep gorge, a Victorian trail, and a fairytale-like mix of waterfalls, shimmering rock pools, and wooden bridges. It's a short walk but really memorable and a massive highlight. The trail follows the Eas Mòr stream, and the walk starts from the usefully named Puck's Glen car park.

Find out more about Puck's Glen here - forestryandland.gov.scot

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Wallabies of Inchconnachan

This is a weird one but stick with us here - on Inchconnachan, an island in Loch Lomond that we've paddle-boarded around, there is a population of wallabies which have roamed free there since the 1940s. Views on the wallabies are mixed. Many people love to visit the island to see them, but some locals are worried about the damage the wallabies cause to the area. The island is uninhabited and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest in Scotland, but you can still visit it via a boat trip. We wouldn't describe this as a must-do, but it's certainly an interesting one.

Learn more about the wallabies here - bbc.com

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Clach na Criche

Clach na Criche is a 'wishing stone' with a magical reputation. Visitors head there to make a wish, but it isn't as simple as asking nicely - according to local folklore, you have to fill your mouth with water from a nearby spring, then hold it in your mouth as you move through the hole in Clach na Criche three times (without using your hands). Obviously you can't really talk with a mouthful of water so you just need to think about your wish really hard as you do this. Whether or not you want to go through the whole ritual is up to you, but we definitely think Clach na Criche is worth visiting (if just for the fact that you might actually see someone doing this strange wish ritual!).

Learn more here - forestryandland.gov.scot

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Oban Distillery

If you decide to visit Oban and you're into whisky, then the Oban distillery is definitely a place to head to. Although it is one of the smallest Scotch distilleries in the world, it is still well worth visiting as there is plenty to see and do. The distillery tour is very highly regarded and gives you a fascinating insight into how the whisky is made. Plus, it includes plenty of tasting which is always a bonus. Even if whisky isn't really your thing, the distillery is perched right on the edge of the sea which is a really impressive setting and makes for some great photos.

The Oban distillery specialises in Whiskey, but there are a few close by who distil Scottish gin too.

Learn more about the distillery here - obanwhisky.com/distillery

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Argyll's Secret Coast

'Argyll's Secret Coast' is the name given to the area bordered by Loch Fyne and the Kyles of Bute. What makes the area unique is that unlike many of the surrounding areas, the Secret Coast is truly a hidden gem and is a great place to escape tourists and crowds. It's a remote and rugged part of Scotland in the southwestern corner of Cowal, and is excellent for exploring hills, glens, coast, white beaches, sea lochs, clear waters, and even ancient forests. Some of the highlights of this area include:

Ostel Bay

The white sands of Ostel Bay are truly breathtaking, and the views across to Arran are really special. It's not easy to find (your satnavs won't be much help), but that is part of what makes it so great - chances are that you'll have the beach almost entirely to yourself. There aren't any facilities at the beach but again, this is really a positive as far as we're concerned.

Portavadie

Portavadie is a quaint village right on the shores of Loch Fyne, and the marina there is definitely worth visiting. Not only is the setting stunning, but it's also really impressive to watch the boats coming in and out during the day.

Glenan Wood

Glenan Wood is an ancient woodland situated on the Cowal Peninsula, and is excellent for walking. If you're interested in willdife then it is also an excellent area to visit as you have a chance of seeing otters, adders and even pine water voles.

Ascog Castle

Ascog Castle was built in the 15th century which was torched and destroyed by the Campbells in the 17th century. Despite now being ruinous, it is still great to visit and the basement area of the castle can be explored. We highly recommend a visit.

Glenan Deserted Village

This is an abandoned settlement which historians believe dates back to the early 14th century, and is accessible via Glenan Wood. It is quite a haunting place to visit as the remains of several houses still remain, and it is quite depressing to imagine what life must have been like for the people who lived there.

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Scotland's Whisky Coast

The entire West Coast of Scotland is often referred to as 'The Whisky Coast' due to the sheer number of amazing distilleries and the excellent whisky which is produced from this region. We featured many of the distilleries in our guide to the best Scottish whisky distilleries, but here is a rundown of the best places to visit along Scotland's Whisky Coast, starting at Oban:

Oban - Oban Distillery

Oban is home to 1 distiller, but it's a very specail one - founded in 1794 by the Stevenson brothers, whisky has been produced here for more than 200 years. The Oban single malt is still made from water that flows from a loch three miles inland, using barley brought in from Speyside. This distillery is one of Scotland’s oldest and smallest, but it's a joy to visit. Learn more here - obanwhisky.com

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Mull - Tobermory Distillery

Firstly we should mention that we have an entire guide about Mull which mentions the distillery on the island. Tobermory Distillery is the 7th oldest distillery in Scotland and the building is almost impressive as impressive as the whisky itself. The tours are excellent and are famed for the generous portions of whisky you get to sample. Learn more here - tobermorydistillery.com

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Islay - 9 distilleries

Islay is often regarded as Scotland's most famous whisky island, and we certainly think it's worthy of that title. With 9 different distilleries on the island, you could spend an entire week sampling the whisky on Islay. On the North of the island you'll find Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Caol Ila, Bunnahabhain, and Ardnahoe. Ardbeg, Lagavulin, and Laphroaig are all closely grouped on the Southern coast road. Kilchoman is the newest addition to the selection of distilleries on the island and it's quickly growing an impressive reputation.

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Jura - Jura Distillery

Jura is just a short distance from Islay and you might be a bit disappointed to hear that there is only 1 distillery to see here. But it is arguable that the distillery here produces a whisky which is more famous globally than any other we've mentioned in this guide. We think the reason for the popularity of Jura Whisky is it has a very lightly peated taste and a softness which appeals to lots of people and makes it very drinkable. The distillery on Jura is excellent to visit and really gives you an insight into the process behind this whisky. Learn more here - jurawhisky.com

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Campbeltown - Glen Scotia & Springbank

Campbeltown was once known as "Whisky City" due to the amount of whisky which was produced here, and although it's no longer given this name, the town is still a must-visit for whisky lovers and still has 2 very special distilleries to visit. Both Glen Scotia and Springbank are worth a visit, with Glen Scotia in particular being famed for the spicy and rich single malt that it produces. Learn more here - glenscotia.com

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Arran - Lochranza & Lagg

The Isle of Arran has two distilleries - Lochranza & Lagg - one of which produces Highland whisky (Lochranza) and the other Lowland (Lagg). A visit comparing both makes for a very interesting insight into the differences between these 2 types of whisky in terms of taste and production, and if you're visiting Arran then a trip to both is definitely recommended so you can compare and contrast.

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Other Guides

As we mentioned in our introduction, we have a number of guides about the other locations within the area of Argyll and the isles. These guides include:

 

Inveraray - https://you-well.co.uk/visiting-inveraray/

Jura - https://you-well.co.uk/visiting-the-isle-of-jura/

Mull - https://you-well.co.uk/visiting-the-isle-of-mull/

Kintyre - https://you-well.co.uk/kintyre-66/

Fingal's Cave - https://you-well.co.uk/fingals-cave/

Loch Lomond - https://you-well.co.uk/national-parks-uk-guide/#Lomond

 

Useful Resources

Argyll ferry information - https://www.calmac.co.uk/gourock-dunoon-service

Argyll weather - https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/weather/forecast/gfh30b956

Argyll hotels - https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotels-g186497-Argyll_and_Bute_Scotland-Hotels.html

If you enjoyed this guide, check out our guides about Arran, Jura, Eigg, and Mull.

Finn is the editor of You Well and has been writing about travel, health, and more for over 10 years.

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