Getting out on the water is a wonderful way to see the landscape of the islands and also sea life.
Sea Life Surveys. Dolphins, seals, porpoises, and (if you're fortunate) minke whales and basking sharks are among the stars of the show on a Sea Life Surveys cruise from pretty Tobermory. Seabirds abound too, and you may spot huge white-tailed eagles, once extinct here but reintroduced to this part of Scotland in recent years. Several cruises are offered: if time is short, choose the two-hour Ecocruz. A848, Tobermory, Argyll and Bute, PA75 6NR. 01688/302916; www.sealifesurveys.com. From £25 .
Staffa Tours. This company organizes a number of tours to the smaller islands, with the emphasis on wildlife. Tours run from Mull, Ardnamurchan on the mainland, or from Iona. The three-hour trip to uninhabited Staffa includes Fingal's Cave, commemorated by Mendelssohn in his famous overture. With luck you may encounter dolphins on the way. Staffa also runs tours to the Treshnish islands, famous for the puffin colonies on Lunga. The Boat Shed, Iona, Iona, Argyll and Bute, PA76 6SW. 07732/912370; www.staffatours.com. From £30.
Turus-Mara. Based on the island of Mull, Turus-Mara runs trips to Staffa, Iona, and the Treshnish islands, with an emphasis on wildlife. There are puffins and guillemots through the summer, seals until late in the year, and sometimes even basking sharks. Tours depart from Ulva Ferry on the west coast of Mull, but there is a courtesy bus from Tobermory. Penmore Mill, Dervaig, Argyll and Bute, PA75 6QS. 01688/400242; www.turusmara.com. From £32.50.
Many of the bus companies in the area also arrange sightseeing tours, so check with them.
West Coast Tours. A range of bus tours in and around Oban and on Mull are available through West Coast Tours. The company can also arrange combined bus and boat tours. 1 Queenspark Pl., Oban, Argyll and Bute, PA34 5RS. 01631/566809; www.westcoasttours.co.uk. From £7.