9 Amazing Places in Argyll

This guide features 9 favourite places in Argyll that are NOT in Loch Lomond & The Trossachs. If you want to see ones that are in the National Park just click here.

That may seem a strange article for a website that is all about Loch Lomond. However, many of these gems are not far away from the National Park and could be easily combined with a visit to Loch Lomond. It's also an excuse to write about and share photographs, of some very special places in Argyll and the islands. 

So here, in no particular order are 9 of my personal favourites in Argyll, how many have you visited? How many would you like to visit? Please leave your comments and recommendations in the box at the bottom. There are though many more excellent places in Argyll that are not included, but as I say these are my favourites. I hope you like them. 

1. Helensburgh

 
 

Very close to Loch Lomond itself, Helensburgh is an ideal base to explore the National Park. The pretty seafront looks out over the Firth of the Clyde. Here you will find many places to stay and an increasing number of good restaurants, one of which Cattle & Creel and is featured in a video below.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh's Hill House, which is in Helensburgh, but is currently closed for restoration. At Ardmore Point, a few miles from the town centre you can take a short walk on the peninsula to see seals and birds. 

Video - Knockderry Country House Hotel, Cove

Video - Cattle & Creel Restaurant, Helensburgh

2. Clyde Sea Lochs 

 
 

The Clyde Sea Lochs Trail starts just outside of Glasgow at Dumbarton Castle with a route that includes Helensburgh, Rhu and Kilcreggan. The trail is 65 miles long and can be driven, or cycled. Look out for the information panels along the trail to find out more about the local history as well as the wildlife nature that can be seen. The trail's end is in the National Park at Arrochar.

Above you can watch a video about the excellent boutique hotel, Knockderry Country House, which is at Cove, near Helensburgh.

3. Gigha

 
 

If you are on the Kintyre Peninsula, especially in good weather you must visit Gigha. This small island is just three miles off of the mainland and can be reached by a frequent CalMac ferry service from Tayinloan. The island was famously bought by the local community, with help from grants and aid in 2002. 

You can hire bikes (and kayaks) at a hut just as you get off the ferry. Cycling is ideal because the island is less than 6 miles long. On the road that runs across the island, you turn left to head towards Achamore Gardens, where you will get good views over the neighbouring islands of Islay and Jura. A right turn takes you past islands shop, The Ardminish Stores and towards the end of the island where you will see a sign for the Twin Beaches. You can see the sandy beach and turquoise sea that awaits you there in the photographs below, there is also a satellite picture above that shows location of the beaches. 

I can't recommend the Boat House on Gigha restaurant highly enough. It's within easy walking distance of where the ferry arrives, so you could easily visit the island just for lunch. The restaurant provides seating both inside and outside.  Choosing what you would like to order is difficult as there are many mouthwatering choices of dishes produced from freshly caught seafood. If seafood isn't your thing don't worry there are some other equally appealing options, plus a good selection for children too. 

This is a very popular restaurant so you will be well advised to book in advance. There are also camping pitches available on their site and you are welcome to use their toilets even if you are not a customer. 

4. Staffa

 

If you don't mind travelling across open seas in a medium size boat then you will love the Staff day trip from Oban with Staffa Tours

Different options are available but a typical itinerary is as follows: 1. Ferry from Oban to Mull - 2. Coach trip across Mull - 3. Boat trip from Mull to Staffa - 4. Boat trip from Staff to Iona - 5. Ferry trip from Iona to Mull - 6. Coach across Mull - 7. Ferry back to Oban.

You'll visit three islands on the trip - Mull, Iona and Staffa, with the highlight being Staffa, where you can see Fingal's Cave. If you pick the right time of year you will also get the opportunity to get up close to the large puffin colony that return to the island each year. 

Being able to land at Staffa is wholly dependent on the sea being calm enough. When you arrive you'll fully understand why rough seas would prevent you from landing! With the trips you get limited time on the island so my advice is to see Fingal's Cave first. The puffins wait for the islands visitors to get themselves at the top of the cliffs before they present themselves so by the time you come out of the caves they will hopefully be on the cliffs.

You can get some outstanding photographs of these beautiful birds, who are brave and happy to get reasonably close to you. 

One of the most extraordinary places I ever beheld. It exceeded, in my mind, every description I had heard of it... composed entirely of basaltic pillars as high as the roof of a cathedral, and running deep into the rock, eternally swept by a deep and swelling sea, and paved, as it were, with ruddy marble, baffles all description.
— Novelist Sir Walter Scott describing Fingal's Cave

5. Iona

 

As mentioned above, the island of Iona is also included in the day trip from Oban to Staffa. Iona is known as ‘The cradle of Christianity’ for Scotland with its abbey founded by St. Columba in AD 563. As you approach by boat you get a good view of the abbey, which is now managed by Historic Scotland. The island has also got a few interesting shops and some good beaches. It is also worth visiting if you are on Mull, as it is just a short ferry journey away. 

6. Skipness

 

At the small village of Skipness you get views across to the isle of Arran. Calmac run a crossing from nearby Claonaig to Lochranza on the northern end of Arran. Skipness Castle was built in the thirteenth century and is now managed by Historic Scotland. There is a large beach and as mentioned there are though good views across to Arran. 

7. Portavadie

 

You won't find many better swimming pools in Scotland than the one at Portavadie Marina. Relax in the infinity pool and enjoy the incredible views. There are excellent views over the marina from many of the rooms and the restaurant in the main hotel, the resort also has self catering cottages which can be booked by the night. The long and winding single track B8000 is one of the options to get to Portavadie, this road from just south of Strachur is very scenic if you're not in a huge rush to get there. 

There is a bus link from Portavadie to Dunoon, which meets Calmac's Tarbert to Portavadie ferry sailings (check seasonal timetables before arriving). This is the start of the Cowal Way, a long distance walk that ends at Invergulas on the banks of Loch Lomond. 

Like many of the places mentioned in this article you do need to check a map often to work out where exactly you are and what you can see across the water!

8. Crinan Canal

 

In 1821 plans were drawn up to propose a canal between Loch Long and Loch Lomond at Arrochar. If it that had happened it would have greatly changed the history of Loch Lomond. Meanwhile the Crinan Canal had already been opened to do the similar task of providing routes for commercial traffic that needed to travel between Glasgow and the Scottish Highlands. The Crinan Canal is ideal for cycling along its towpath. There are bike hire facilities at Lochgilphead. 

9. Tarbert

 

Tarbert Castle was built in 1325. By 1760 it had fallen into disrepair, with stones taken from it to build the new harbour and village. You can climb up to the castle ruins, whee you will get a good view of the harbour and out across Loch Fyne. A Community Archaeological Dig will begin in 2019 and it is hoped that will reveal more of Tarbert's history. 

Tarbert is the ideal place to base yourself when exploring the Kintyre Peninsula and nearby islands. There are some good restaurants, gift shops and galleries around the pretty harbour. 

That's the 9 and as mentioned earlier many more places in Argyll could also have featured. Argyll and the islands cover a huge area and contain some of the best bits of Scotland. 

About...

This article and accompanying photographs are by Paul Saunders for See Loch Lomond. Visit Paul’s other websites, Paul Saunders Marketing & Paul Saunders Photography, for his marketing, photography & video services in Loch Lomond and beyond.

Please feel free to comment below about your visits to Argyll and share the article on social media. Don’t forget to subscribe below to recieve our monthly See Loch Lomond e-newsletter. 

Loch Lomond Articles