Getting Oriented

With long sea lochs carved into its hilly, wooded interior, Argyll is a beguiling interweaving of water and land. The Mull of Kintyre, a narrow finger of land, points south towards nearby Ireland, separating the Firth of Clyde and its islands from the Atlantic and the isles of the Inner Hebrides. Arran, largest of the Clyde isles, looms near the mouth of the Clyde, separated from Kintyre by Kilbrannan Sound. Ferry services allow all kinds of interisland tours and can shorten mainland trips as well.

Linking the region with Glasgow, the A82 runs along the west shore of Loch Lomond to connect with the A83. That road follows the north shore of Loch Fyne, a long fjordlike inlet known for some of Scotland's finest seafood, all the way to Campbeltown near the tip of Kintyre. Along the way is Kennacraig, departure point for ferries to Islay and Jura. Coming from the east, the A85 runs through equally spectacular scenery between Perth and Oban, the main port for ferries to Mull and other islands. From Oban, the A828 runs north to Fort William and the Great Glen.

Argyll. The linked peninsulas of Knapdale and Kintyre–-separated by the Crinan Canal at Tarbert–-are areas of moorland and forest dotted with small lochs. From Inveraray at the head of Loch Fyne, you can take in Auchindrain's re-created fishing village on the way to the Arran ferry. Or turn west toward Crinan and the prehistoric sites around Kilmartin, then travel northward toward Loch Awe and its intriguing island ruins. A short drive away is Oban, an active ferry and fishing port.

Arran. Touring this island will give you a glimpse in a day or two of the whole of Scotland in miniature. In the north, the forbidding Goatfell is a challenge that draws walkers and climbers. The island's wilder west coast attracts bird-watchers and naturalists, while the fertile south of the island contains nine lovely golf courses, leisurely walks, and Brodick Castle.

Islay and Jura. The smell of peat that hangs in the air on Islay is bottled in its famous whiskies. Aside from distilleries, the island's historical sites evoke a past in which these islands were far less remote. The whitewashed cottages along the coast of Islay line clean and beautiful beaches, many of them visited by a variety of wildlife. Jura is wilder and more dramatic, its twin mountains (the Paps) dominating its infertile moorland.

Isle of Mull and Iona. The pretty harbor of Tobermory, with its painted houses, is a relaxing base from which to explore the varied and beautiful island of Mull. Along Mull's west coast, spectacular cliffs and rocky beaches look out on to the Atlantic. From Craignure, the road crosses the sweeping green valleys of the Ross of Mull to Fionnphort and the ferry to the meditative island of Iona.

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