Guided To​urs of Scotland

West Highland Tour

best day trips scotland oban west highlands

The West Highland Tour is one of my most popular tours because it takes you into an accessible area of the Highlands which can easily be done in a day trip from Edinburgh and Glasgow. A visit to Stirling with its famous castle, battle sites and the National Wallace Monument, can be incorporated into this itinerary, lying as it does at the foot of the Ochil Hills, the foothills of the Highlands. Also nearby, medieval Doune Castle, main movie location for Monty Python's 'Holy Grail' and Outlander series, can be visited. Most routes on this tour will take you through the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, the south shore is home to the conservation village of Luss where cruise boats depart regularly whilst the north side of the park includes the forests, lochs and mountains of the Trossachs.


After the National Park, clients can choose between a south loop or a north loop, both offering dramatic coastal scenery, lochs and castles.


The south loop leaves Loch Lomond at Tarbet and loops around the head of Loch Long before climbing up the 'Rest and Be Thankful' pass in the Arrochar Alps. Descending on the other side of the pass takes us down to Long Fyne, Scotland's longest sea loch at 44 miles, and the whitewashed 18th Century town of Inveraray. This is the ancestral home of the Duke of Argyll, chief of Clan Campbell, who is still resident at Inveraray Castle (as seen in Downton Abbey), a baronial chateau style castle that is open to the public. The town is also host to an old town jail museum and maritime museum as well as the George Inn, an old coaching inn, full of character and a good place for lunch. A few miles west is the crofting township of Auchindrain, an open air museum which has been preserved almost exactly as it was when abandoned to show the life of a tennant farming community as practiced in Scotland for centuries. Further west again is the administrative capital of Argyllshire, Lochgilphead, where the Crinan Canal starts, creating a shortcut for shipping between the Firth of Clyde and the Atlantic. Passing Dunadd, the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Dalriada, the original Scots who migrated from Antrim in Ireland, we arrive in Kilmartin Glen. This area is one of the most important pre-historic sites on mainland Scotland as it is home to a linear series of standing stones and bronze age era burial cairns. There is a very good museum in the village of Kilmartin which interprets the landscape through pictures and archaeological finds. Heading north up the Argyll coastline your tour takes you to Oban, the self-proclaimed Seafood Capital of Scotland. This is a busy harbour town of 10,000 people and is home to a small fishing fleet and ferry services to the Inner and Outer Hebrides islands. As you would expect there are some fine fish restaurants as well as a plethora of hotels and B&B accommodation. Oban's main attraction is its whisky distillery of the same name, built right in the town centre in the 19th Century. As the West Highland Tour turns east we pass the Falls of Lora, a cascade (depending on tide) created by a tidal rush at the narrowest point of Loch Etive where it meets the open sea. Having travelled around the longest sea loch, the tour arrives at the longest freshwater loch in Scotland, Loch Awe at 41km. There are two free-entry attractions here; St Conan's Kirk and Kichurn Castle, both of which are worth stopping at even if it is just for a photo opportunity.The route from here takes us back through the Loch Lomond National Park to Glasgow or Edinburgh.


Clients choosing the noth loop of the West Highland Tour would travel on the latter part of the south loop first (Loch Awe and Oban) before turning north over the Connel Bridge driving up the North Argyll Coast with stunning views over to the Isle of Mull. Next stop is Castle Stalker (better known to Monty Python fans as 'Castle Aaaaaaaargh'!), one of the most photographed Scottish castles, it sits on an island, accessible only by boat and in the right light is a photographers dream, backdropped as it is by Loch Linnhe, the Isle of Lismore and the mountains of Morvern. Further north is the village of Glencoe which sits at the bottom of a steep, moody valley of the same name, often known as the 'Valley of the Weeping' owing to the infamous massacre that took place here in the winter of 1692 where dozens of resident MacDonalds were slain in their own homes by British government soldiers led by members of Clan Campbell. Ascending up onto remote Rannoch Moor, there is a good chance to see some of the herds of wild red deer that populate this desolate landscape, little changed since the end of the last ice age. Weather permitting, there is the option of taking the chairlift up Glencoe Mountain Ski Resort, but wrap up well, even in Summer! The tour from here follows the route of the West Highland Way, a long distance hiking route down to the village of Tyndrum, home to Scotland's last working gold mine and back down through the Loch Lomond National Park and then on to Glasgow or Edinburgh.

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