Argyll and Bute is an incredible holiday destination in Scotland for those who love sea views, mountain visits, the Scottish wilderness, and endless chances to see interesting wildlife. With good access via ferries to Glasgow for national and international road, air, and rail connections, Argyll and Bute is very well-situated.
Argyll and Bute consists of the hilly mainland, a scattering of islands that take in some of the Inner and Outer Hebrides, and a veritable labyrinth of kyles, lochs, and rivers that crisscross the region. Situated on the mid-western side of Scotland, it’s a land of adventure, where you can enjoy outdoor pursuits such as kayaking, mountain biking, hiking and even surfing. Come and find your Scottish paradise in this wonderful haven of forests, hills, islands, lochs, and glens.
The best way to experience a holiday in Argyll and Bute is from the comfort of your own holiday home. Why not spend some time browsing our collection of self-catering holiday accommodation in Argyll and Bute today? Click the button below to find your perfect place to stay.
Towns and villages of Argyll and Bute
Beautiful Oban, even though it is very small, is the largest town on the west coast between Fort William and Helensburgh. Located on the banks of the Firth of Lorn, it is sometimes known as the ‘Gateway to the Isles’ as it works as a hub for visiting the wider Argyll and Bute area. You can see incredible views across the sea to the islands of Kerrera and Lismore from the prominent McCaig's Tower. It’s the kind of place where sightings of otters, dolphins, and seals are commonplace, popping up around the moored fishing boats at North Pier. Oban is also the ‘Seafood Capital’ of Scotland because it’s renowned for its great places to eat. There is a host of museums, castles, and visitor attractions in and around Oban for you to check out too.
For budding horticulturalists, Arduaine Gardens should be on your list of places to visit. Historians will enjoy a turn around Inveraray Jail and Courthouse. The Oban area is known for its whiskies and you can visit the local distillery. In the evening you can enjoy time at one of Oban’s pubs; there is even a small cinema in town.
Good to know
- Best pub in Oban: The Oban Inn is the best pub for a pint and a hearty meal.
- Best restaurant in Oban: EE-USK is reputedly one of Scotland’s very best seafood restaurants.
- Best attraction in Oban: Head to the Ocean Explorer Centre for a great family day discovering the scientific mysteries of the ocean.
- Stay nearby: Number Three – Oban Bay | sleeps 5 + 1 dog
Gorgeous Port Appin is a tiny village 19.5 miles north of Oban, with Loch Linnhe to its south and Loch Creran to its east. And it’s just across the Linn of Lorn from the Isle of Lismore to where you can get a ferry for a day out. Port Appin is home to a handful of shops including one that sells local crafts, a general store, and a post office. You can also hail the ferry to the Isle of Lismore from Port Appin.
Landmarks in the Port Appin area include the historic ruins of the aptly named Castle Stalker. The castle is open to the public a few days a year. Jubilee Bridge is where you go for the best views of Castle Stalker; the path runs between Port Appin and Portnacroish. For views of the Morvern Mountains look out for a trail known as Clach Thoull, which runs by Airds Bay and Loch Linnhe.
Good to know
- Best pub in Port Appin: The Old Inn is a quaint pub close to the waterfront.
- Best restaurant in Port Appin: The Pierhouse Hotel is a superb choice for an authentic Scottish breakfast and dinner. It is one of four Michelin star-awarded restaurants in Argyll and Bute.
- Best visitor attraction in Port Appin: Take to the waters with Appin Boat Tours for a variety of voyages.
- Stay nearby: The Shell at Ardtur | sleeps 10 + 2 dogs
Dunoon is located at the south-easterly corner of Argyll and Bute and is the main settlement on the Cowal Peninsula. Dunoon enjoys lovely views south across the Firth of Clyde to Wemyss Bay. With easy links via ferry to Glasgow (ferries leave from Gourock and Greenock), Dunoon is something of a gateway to the region.
Dunoon was once a popular holiday destination when steamships were commonplace on the Firth of Clyde. Nowadays it’s a much quieter prospect but, still, it’s no less beautiful. This part of the Firth of Forth will be forever associated with submarines. There are several submarine bases along the water so if you are taking a ferry look out for one on its way to Greenock.
Highlights include the walls of Dunoon Castle, Dunoon Pier, architect Robert Alexander Bryden’s Dunoon Burgh Hall, and the Highland Mary Statue with its Robert Burns associations. For evening entertainment, The Queen’s Hall hosts a variety of live events throughout the year and a small cinema. If you love wildlife and sealife spotting, there have been regular sightings of seals, otters, dolphins, basking sharks, roe deer, red deer, and red squirrels.
The Islands of Argyll and Bute
The Isle of Mull
The Isle of Mull is the second largest of the Inner Hebrides and is famed for its fantastic white sandy beaches, interesting rock formations, and curious caves. The best-known settlement on the island is Tobermory, with its brightly coloured cottages. There are numerous castles and ancient ruins to discover. As you’d expect, there is a wide array of birds and wildlife to see.
Mull can be reached by ferry from Oban on the mainland, the cross takes 45 minutes to an hour. Island highlights include Tobermory Distillery, An Tobar (which is the Mull’s arts hub), Rubha na Gall Lighthouse, a boat trip to Staffa to see puffins, and Fingal’s Cave. The Isle of Mull’s best beaches include Calgary Bay, Langamull Beach, Knockvologan Beach, Balfour’s Bay, and Port na Ba. The Isle of Mull is home to one of the two island-based Munros in Scotland, Ben More, and we’d recommend a hike when the weather allows it.
Good to know
- Best pub on the Isle of Mull: Macgochans is perfect for a cosy pint or whisky.
- Best restaurant on the Isle of Mull: Bellachroy Hotel is the place for a superb evening meal.
- Best visitor attraction on the Isle of Mull: A hike to the peak of Ben More is a rite of passage. Don’t miss it.
- Stay nearby: Schiehallion | sleeps 10 + 2 dogs
The Isle of Bute
The main town on Bute is Rothesay and this is the first place many visitors will encounter as they arrive on the ferry. It can be reached from Wemyss Bay, and Colintraive The town has a discovery centre and a castle to explore as well as a fine choice of dining prospects. A popular pastime is cycling on the island and you can hire a bike from Bike Bute. The cycle network around the island is well-signposted and comfortable to ride.
The Isle of Bute is a special place for bird watching and for taking in the stunning scenery of the island and its surrounding waters. Places to visit include the Mount Stuart House (home to the Marquesses of Bute), Rothesay Castle, the ruins of St Blane’s Chapel, Ardencraig Gardens, Bute Museum, and the Isle of Bute Distillery.
Good to know
- The best pub on the Isle of Bute: The Black Bull Inn is the town hub for a lively evening.
- The best restaurant on the Isle of Bute: Ghillie’s Bistro has the best reputation on the island for great food.
- The best visitor attraction on the Isle of Bute: Spend an afternoon exploring Rothesay Castle.
- Stay nearby: Kilchattan Church | sleeps 8 + 2 dogs
Isle of Islay
Beyond the awe-inspiring scenery, like its neighbour Jura, the Isle of Islay’s (pronounced ‘eye-la’) ultimate claim to fame is its whisky. Islay is the most southerly of the Inner Hebrides archipelago and occupies the sea space between the Kintyre Peninsula and the west coast of mainland Scotland. It’s the fifth largest of the country’s islands and its fairness has earned it the alias of the Queen of the Hebrides. You can fly to Islay from Glasgow or catch a ferry from Kennacraig (and less frequently, Oban) on the mainland.
Attractions on Islay include the Three Distilleries Pathway, which can be walked or cycled. As the name suggests, it links three of the island’s distilleries: Laphroaig, Lagavulin, and Ardbeg. There are nine whisky distilleries on the island, so it’s the perfect place for connoisseurs of the drink. If you are a connoisseur, you may want to read our guide to the best whisky regions in Scotland . Other attractions include a boat trip with Islay Sea Adventures, a family beach day at Machir Bay or the Singing Sands, or a swim at the indoor pool at MacTaggart Leisure Centre.
Good to know
- The best pub on the Isle of Islay: An Tigh Seinnse is a great place for a warming pub dinner or lunch.
- The best restaurant on the Isle of Islay: Fancy a pizza in a remote spot? Then why not try Peatzeria?
- The best visitor attraction on the Isle of Islay: If you love golf, then the Machrie Golf Links are not to be missed.
Isle of Jura
Jura lies just off the coast of the Isle of Islay in a north-easterly direction. The island is connected to the mainland by ferries between Port Askaig and Feolin. Fewer than 200 people live on Jura permanently, and they are outnumbered by the local deer population (which is numbered in the vicinity of 6,000). Much of the island is inaccessible to cars and there is just one road on the whole island. So why go? Well, most visitors are drawn in by the quiet, the unspoiled nature of the landscapes, such as The Paps, and of course the wildlife.
Besides its world-famous whisky, Jura is known for its associations with the author George Orwell, who lived at Barnhill during the 1940s. Jura is where he wrote 1984. The best attraction on the island is a visit to the Paps of Jura; three peaks that can be seen all about the island. The tallest of the trio, Beinn an Oir, is a Corbett, rising to 785 metres.
Good to know
- Best pub on the Isle of Jura: Roll up to the Ballygrant Inn’s whisky room. It’s not to be missed.
- Best restaurant on the Isle of Jura: The Jura Hotel is brilliant for food from locally sourced ingredients.
- Best visitor attraction on the Isle of Jura: You can’t visit Jura and miss the distillery!
Things to see and do in Argyll and Bute
Walk the West Island Way
Pull your boots on and embark on the amazing West Island Way on the Isle of Bute. This long-distance path is the first to be located on a Scottish island. You will come home with a very broad sense of the ever-changing landscapes you can fall in love on Bute. You will see the ghost village of Glen More, and the medieval remains of St Blane’s Chapel along the way, as well as some panoramic views across the sea and the island.
Good to know
- How long is the West Island Way? 28.25 miles (moderate to challenging).
- How much time do I need to walk the West Island Way? 2.5 days.
- Where does the West Island Way begin and end? The path runs between Kilchattan Bay and Port Bannatyne.
- Where can I find a map of the West Island Way’s route? Click here for a map of the West Island Way.
Go mountain biking
Argyll and Bute offers some excellent prospects for mountain bikers. There is plenty of choice if zooming through a forest at breakneck speeds is what makes you happiest. The best mountain biking trail in Argyll and Bute has to be the Fire Tower Trail near Lochgilphead. There is a red, black, and green trail at this location. Other mountain biking trails (MTBs) in Argyll and Bute to add to your holiday itinerary should include Ardgartan which includes the 7-mile Glenshellish Loop.
Good to know
- Where can I hire a mountain bike in Argyll and Bute? Oban Cycles has a great range of mountain bikes for hire.
- How much does it cost to hire a mountain bike? Prices start at £28 per day.
- Is there a directory of MTB trails in Argyll and Bute? Visit Komoot to discover some great mountain biking trails in Argyll and Bute.
Enjoy a round of golf
Golf is arguably as Scottish as whisky and the Highland games, so why wouldn’t we recommend a day at one of Argyll and Bute's ranges? It’s almost redundant at this point to state how gorgeous the settings are for golf courses, there’s very little that can be called an eyesore in this part of Scotland. We’d single out Carradale Golf Course on the Kintyre Peninsula close to Campbelltown (15 miles) for its beauty and location. Other golf courses in Argyll and Bute include Bute Golf Course, Cowal Golf Club, and Lochgoilhead Golf Course. For more golfing inspiration, why not read our guide to Scotland's courses?
Good to know
- Do I have to be a member to play golf? Yes. Some golf courses require you to be a member so visit the website of your chosen course for details.
- Can I hire golf clubs? Yes, you can. All golfing apparel can be hired at each of the courses.
See a film on the back of a lorry
If you fancy some evening entertainment, look out for Scotland’s touring cinema, Screen Machine, which regularly tours the Hebrides and some of Argyll and Bute’s remoter places. It is essentially a cinema auditorium inside a juggernaut. They screen the latest in blockbuster entertainment.
Good to know
- How much does it cost to see a film aboard the Screen Machine? Adults - £7.50 / Children and concessions - £5.50
- How many Screen Machines are in operation? There can be only one (to film quote Highlander). Read the Screen Machine’s website to understand all that goes in to running a mobile cinema under the tab ‘How do you plan your tours’.
One of the best ways to see Argyll and Bute is from the water, so we’d recommend a day or two’s worth of kayaking. If you are a novice or feel like you need a guide in unfamiliar waters, courses can be booked through adventure providers such as Argyll Kayaks. There are lots of areas in Argyll and Bute to enjoy kayaking whether it’s in a river, loch, or at sea. The Kyles of Bute is a popular spot for those who love kayaking and paddleboarding. If you are looking for other places in Scotland to indulge in some outdoor activities, why not read our guide?
Good to know
- Where can I go kayaking in Argyll and Bute? Besides the aforementioned Kyles of Bute, try Dunoon, the Isle of Bute, and Loch Bhasapol.
- Where can I hire a kayak in Argyll and Bute? There are numerous places to hire a kayak and kit in Argyll and Bute. Try Kayak Majik, Sea Kayaks of Argyll and Bute, and Wild Argyll.
Places to eat and drink in Argyll and Bute
The best restaurant for fine dining - Kilberry Inn
The Kilberry Inn is a Bib Gourmand-awarded pub located on the Kintyre Peninsula close to Tarbet (14.5 miles). Set on a former croft, the Kilberry Inn retains traces of its bygone years namely its red tin roof and beams along the ceiling. There is an open fire also, that adds to the ambience of the place. The dishes have all been concocted from a variety of local foods with the fish and meats all smoked on site. Booking is advised.
Good to know
- Where can I find the Kilberry Inn? Kilberry Inn, Kilberry, Tarbet, PA29 6YD
- How much does it cost to dine at the Kilberry Inn? Starting at £40 (per head based on three courses and a drink).
Best pub lunch and dinner in Argyll and Bute – The Colintraive Hotel
For the best pub lunch in Argyll and Bute, we would firmly recommend the Colintraive Hotel. With a well-stocked bar offering a good range of whiskies from all over the country, as well as Fyne Ales from Loch Fyne, the Colintraive is a great choice for those looking for a satisfying meal during lunch or dinner. Dishes are classic Scottish and English cuisine made with local ingredients to a high standard. Booking is advised.
Good to know
- Where is the Colintraive Hotel? The Colintraive Hotel, Colintraive, Argyll, PA22 3AS
- How much does it cost to dine at the Colintraive Hotel? Starting at £40 (per head based on three courses and a drink). Please call 01700 841207 to confirm.
Map of Argyll and Bute
Our handy map includes each of the places included in this guide.
Stay at a self-catering holiday cottage in Argyll and Bute
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Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.