With nearly eight hundred islands off the coast of Scotland, picking which ones to visit can be a little tricky. Here to help is our guide to island hopping. The destinations are mostly reached by boat close to the seaside town of Oban. Scotlands west coast has some of the best scenery in the British Isles, just perfect if you fancy getting away from it all. With thanks to Allan Wright as always for the images.
You can visit the Island of Coll from Oban with daily ferry crossings in the summer. The cruise on the CalMac ferry - either the Clansman or Lord of the Isles will take around two and a half to three hours. The trip in itself is something special, you travel down the Sound of Mull, past the UKs most westerly tip at Ardamurchan Point and by Tobermory. Be sure to watch out for the wildlife as you could see dolphins, whales and basking sharks in the water, also shearwaters, petrels and maybe even a white tailed eagle.
Coll is four miles to the west of Mull, it's a beautiful island just thirteen miles long and three miles at its widest. Great for nature spotting, walking and generally clearing the head getting away from the hustle and bustle of city life. The Gulf Stream means the climate on Coll is mild and it does tends to be windier than most, which is excellent news for keeping the Scottish midge at bay.
The Isle of Tiree is a small and picturesque place, the most westerly of the Inner Hebrides. The ferry from Oban stops off at Coll before arriving around an hour later in Tiree. It has a mild climate with some of the highest recorded levels of sunshine in the whole of the UK, so don't forget your sun-cream. Thousands descend on this beautiful isle in July when the Tiree Music Festival is held. It's a winner of many awards and a great festival, just double check before you go when it's on, as it can be a tad crowded with all the party goers.
The Gaelic name is Eilean Tiriodh for this low lying island, also known as 'the raised beach' or 'land beneath the waves'. Being so flat, it can get quite windy like neighbouring Coll, which is great for kite surfing if you fancy trying surfing, but would rather stay dry. The Tiree Wave Classic is national championship for windsurfers held here each autumn, where the worlds best brave the full atlantic fury against the rest of the sports elite crowd.
The white sandy beaches are simply breathtaking, they run for miles round the coast. Visit one of the rarest habitats in europe, the grasslands directly above the beach 'the machair' in late May/June to see the wild flowers.
Travel to Colonsay from Oban with Cal Mac, the ferry journey will take you just over the two hours. Please note, no motorhomes are currently catered for on this ferry. With roughly one hundred and thirty five friendly locals living here, visit to enjoy tranquil and unspoiled sandy beaches. Most of the beaches are within easy reach of the road, with the most famous one called Kiloran Bay - picture postcard perfect with its sweeping expanse of golden sand. You could take a boat to visit the cliffs at the west cost of the island. Your group should see large numbers of fulmars, guillimots, razorbills and kittiwakes for the bird spotters amongst you. Otters are a little shyer, but you are likely to see their tracks, sometimes you will see their cute whiskery faces bathing before they dive for fish. Say hello to the wild goats, rumored to be the descendants of animals from the shipwrecked Spanish Armada, as they are surprisingly docile.
The woodland and formal garden of Colonsay house are well worth a visit, please do check opening times before you go. Other experiences you could try range from sea fishing for white saithe and mackerel, or loch fishing for brown trout. For the golfers, near Traigh an Tobair Fhuair or Bay of the Cold Well, there is an eighteen hole links course.
After Skye, Mull is the largest of all the inner hebridean islands with just shy of three thousand inhabitants. Around half of the population are situated in or around Tobermory, a pretty town with boldly coloured houses all along the waterfront. Its a great place to shop and wander for souvenirs, check out the chocolate or pottery shop and if you have time, catch a show at the local theater company.
There are miles of beaches on Mull and around twelve miles from Tobermory is Calgary bay, with stunning white shell sand it's home to a vast array of wildlife, and a great place to take some snaps. If hill walking is one of your favourite pastimes, for a challenge try climbing Ben More, it's a fantastic place to view the scores of islands dotted around the Minch.
From Mull foot passengers can visit the pretty little Isle of Iona. It's just less than a mile across the Sound to Iona. Ferries run every half hour or so in the summer and the crossing is ten minutes. Should you stay later than anticipated there is a water taxi back to Mull! Visitors cars are not permitted, this was introduced in 1978 to preserve the unique landscape. Fionnaphort which is pronounced fin - a - port is where the Sound Of Iona ferry leaves from on the west coast. To reach Fionnaphort there are some single track roads, if you are not too familiar with these roads, to help you enjoy them, please watch the video below - it's only a couple of minutes long.
Visit the famous Iona Abbey, is a ten minute walk from the pier. Great place if you fancy cycling, bikes can be hired or take your own on the ferry for free. Stroll along the beaches, Columbus Bay to the south is one for the more active and can be pretty rocky in places but it is lovely. Marine operators provide trips to the Isle of Staffa, where you can see hexagonal columns, a huge amount of wildlife and visit Fingals cave too. Some of the local guides on Iona are fantastic. There is also an eighteen hole golf course on the machair.
It is just to the north of Oban, where the ferry leaves twice a day on its fifty minute journey across the Firth of Lorn, Monday to Saturday. It is home to around one hundred and eighty people with several Gaelic speaker amongst them. The Isle of Lismore is twelve miles long and one and a half miles wide and great to be explored by cycling or by foot. The highest hill is Barr Mor, at 400ft this will give you panoramic views over the Firth of Lorn, the Sound of Mull and to the north Loch Linnie. For the historians visit Lismore Parish Church where medieval tombstones date back to 600AD or visit the abandoned kilns and cottages at the old limestone quarry.
The Slate Isles are known as the Islands that Roofed the World, this archipelago once produced vast quantities of slate for industry and are located just south of Oban and to the north of Jura. Closest to the mainland is the Isle of Seil. To get there, travel south along the A816 from Oban until you reach Kilninver, then hang a right and enjoy the views on the B844 until you reach the Atlantic Bridge, where as the name suggests - you cross the Atlantic and you are on the Isle of Seil.
Once on Seil there is a lovely wee village half way down on the west coast called Ellenabeich, which has a nice restaurant with views over the sound. You can also visit can visit the Slate Islands Trust Heritage Centre in Ellenabeich which displays artistic quarry workings and many aspects of life in the area from the 19th century . The passenger ferry leaves here to the Island of Easdale where the World Stone Skimming Championships are held every summer. The slate mined here was also used at Glasgow Cathedral and Castle Stalker and even exported to Nova Scotia. Today the quarries are deep pools and a real haven for wildlife. Easdale is the smallest permanently inhabited island of the Inner Hebrides quite often referred to as 'car free and care free'.
Maybe you will agree with some that Argylls best kept secret is the Isle of Luing. Reached by ferry from the southern tip of Seil across the 200 metres of fast flowing (and not for swimming) Cuan Sound. The largest village is Cullipool, where you will find the only shop on the island. White washed cottages with lovely lush pasture and a great habitat for wildlife, it's a quiet paradise with some stunning views to Mull and Scarba
West of Luing is the Isle of Lunga, the coast is part of the Firth of Lorns Special Area of Conservation, the area covers 210 square miles of rocky reef habitats with exceptional biodiversidy. The highest point on Lunga is the aptly named Bidean na h-Iolaire translated as peak of the eagle. The largest beach being Camas a Mhor-Fhir or bay of the giant. Rua Fiola adventure centre runs holidays for school children where they can experience sports like rock climbing and canoeing. The centre and island are owned by the Johnston-Ferguson family. The rest of Lunga is quiet, mainly used for grazing animals with only three other houses.
Hopefully you will find our guide useful and we would love you to get in touch with your holiday tales and snaps if you visit this area.