The west coast of Scotland: a braw territory of high skies, low plains, deep lochs, wild seas and soaring Munros.
This is a land where nature is king and queen and we are mere guests. The west coast of Scotland still feels untamed and a trip out to places like Applecross, Cape Wrath, Kinlochbervie and Ullapool are the true definition of remote beauty. Read on to uncover the hidden delights that await in this awe-inspiring area of Scotland. Marvel at the most rural of Scottish villages and their quiet way of life, and soak up the local culture of the Scottish folk.
With lochs, rivers, forests and mountains dominating the landscape along with some of the most dramatic coastlines and beaches in the world, the west coast is a wild playground for those looking to get outdoors and active during their stay. Exploring this part of Scotland is an experience you will never forget; the wild rugged lands will stay in your heart forever.
Read on to uncover the hidden delights that await in this awe-inspiring area of Scotland and plan a visit today – we have plenty of West Coast cottages to inspire your next holiday.
Head to the ends of the world
Cape Wrath and Sandwood Bay, nr. Durness
Cape Wrath is the most north-westerly point on the British mainland, and one of only two capes in the UK (the other is Cape Cornwall). Road access is severed by the Kyle of Durness but you can reach the lighthouse via a ferry from East Keoldale, followed by an 11-mile minibus journey to the lighthouse. The road was first laid down about 180 years ago and is full of potholes. Views across the stark moorland are amazing and you can see red deer, seals, whimbrels and corvids. Views across the sea reveal the profile of distant islands like Hoy, North Rona and Sula Sgeir. There is a café at the lighthouse, which opens whenever the bus arrives.
There are walks around the Cape, however, sections are sometimes closed off as the military uses it for exercises. For some of the year, Cape Wrath becomes Western Europe’s largest bombing range! Serious wayfarers can walk back to the jetty via Sandwood Bay, which is the UK’s most beautiful, yet hard-won beach - gorgeous, sandy and characterised by its sea stack acting as its sentinel. A trip to Cape Wrath takes planning as ferry and bus timings vary according to the tide and whether or not the military is on manoeuvres.
Stay at: The Beach Bothy | Sleeps: 2 guests plus 1 dog
Be king of the road
Ullapool and Achiltibuie
Roadfarers will adore the drive out to Achiltibuie. This is a day trip that will take you through a mountain pass and around lochsides; stunning beauty underlines every twist in the road. Follow the C1047 north along the raggedy shores of Loch Lurgainn, beneath the watchful peaks of Cul Beag and Stac Pollaidh. You could stop off at Achnahaird Beach before arriving at Achiltibuie with its fine views of the Summer Isles.
Achiltibuie is a lovely coastal village with a nice stretch of sea to wander along before turning back to the lively town of Ullapool. Make sure you have a full tank of petrol as the town has the only pump for miles and miles. Ullapool is a fishing port on the shores of Loch Broom that also doubles as a ferry terminal for the Isle of Lewis. The largest town in Wester Ross, it has a good reputation for being a Scottish cultural centre where you can witness local music and customs. There are shops where you can purchase examples of local crafts. There are places to eat and drink galore, including The Ceilidh Place, The Tea Store and, for a whisky or ale, you have The Ferry Boat, The Seaforth and The Arch Inn.
Read all about the village in our guide to UIlapool.
Stay at: Old Tweed Mill | Sleeps: 12 guests and 2 dogs
Drink gin by the lochside
If you are staying around Gairloch, look out for road signs to Badachro, a lovely fishing village on the south shore of a loch. The harbour, home to lots of brightly coloured boats, enjoys borrowed protection from the sea by the rocky islet of Eilean Horrisdale. Cod was once the stock-in-trade here and at Gairloch. The fish was dried in the village and shipped to places as far away as Spain. Today, the fishermen bring in oceans of crustaceans such as lobsters and crabs.
Close to the harbour are the village’s gift shops and the Badachro Inn, where you can enjoy a hearty meal, a whisky or a local ale. Also visit the neighbouring village of Aird, which is just around the inlet; there you can find a path between the mainland and Eilean Horrisdale Dry Island. Also, look out for Badachro Distillery which produces Badachro gin.
Stay at: Creel Cabin | Sleeps: 2 guests
See the sun set behind the mountains
Applecross is a village at the brink. One of the roads to get there is the highest public road in the UK; it’s called Pass of the Cattle (or Bealach Na Ba), a single-track road with tricky hairpins and steep descents. The views over Kishorn and down to the village are worth it for those with strong cars. Either direction yields fantastic tableaux of water, peak and skies!
The village of Applecross itself is little more than a line of houses that centre around a pub and a few amenities. The place has a front-row seat of the peaks of the Outer Hebrides and the Kintail Mountains. Sunsets in Applecross aren’t for borrowing - no camera can capture their artistry accurately but try all the same; there are some wondrous walking trails to conquer too. This part of Scotland’s wild west coast is an alluring spectacle.
Stay at: Bramble Lodge | Sleeps: 8 guests plus 2 dogs.
Catch Harry Potter's train to the sea
Mallaig is the pretty coastal gateway to the Isle of Skye. Linked to Fort William by road and rail, you can catch a steam train via Glenfinnan. The track inland is best known these days for featuring prominently in the hugely popular Harry Potter films; for more Scottish film inspiration, read our film guide to Scotland.
Mallaig is a great place to base yourself if you are looking for pleasant walking prospects and the authentic Scottish holiday experience in the Highlands. Walk around Mallaig’s harbour, then stop to take in the views across Loch Nevis to Knoydart. Mallaig has a leisure centre with a swimming pool to head to for indoor activities. Mallaig has a good sample of eateries including The Steam Inn, The Terrace Restaurant, The Cornerstone and Jaffy’s Chippy and Deli!
Read more about this great location with our guide to Fort William.
Stay at: Torman Nan Struth | Sleeps: 10 plus 2 dogs
Watch yachts sail by
At the head of the Loch Gil, which in turn forms a part of Loch Fyne, this small town is the hub for Argyll and Bute. The town was formed at the end of the 1800s as a way station between Inverary and Campbelltown – the main town in the south of the Kintyre peninsula. A canal was forged from Lochgilphead to the Sound of Jura, 9 miles to the west – a handy link for yachts heading that direction from the Firth of Clyde.
The town is also known for the eye-catching Kilmour Castle, which has an Iron Age hillfort and a lush woodland park on the estate. If you fancy a lovely road trip full of majestic scenery, follow the road from Tayvallich to Keillmore. It’s well worth your time if you like remote locations and the pureness of the West Scotland wilderness.
Stay at: West Winds | Sleeps: 4 guests plus 2 dogs
Inspired by these places to visit on west coast Scotland? Here are some more great West Coast destinations:
With miles of coastline in the West of Scotland, there are literally tens of other places we could include in the guide. Look out for the following places to stop on your trip to the west coast.
Windy mountain roads above the Upper Loch Torridon take you to this lovely town, with ridge walks to the Liathach massif or the peak of Beinn Eighe. Great for ardent wayfarers and those who love being in the outdoors, the craggy mountains and beautiful coastline make for an amazing adventure spot on the west coast.
The poet Robert Burn’s stomping ground, Ayr is a traditional seaside resort with a choice of fine beaches. Those who like to spend time on the beach will love this part of Scotland and, being close to Glasgow and Loch Lomond, there are options to explore further afield.
Around 90 minutes west of Glasgow, Tighnabruaich is tucked away on the coast of Argyll between Loch Fyne and the Kyles of Bute. A superb choice for cyclists of all staminas and rock-fishing enthusiasts. From here, explore the Isle of Bute and the Isle of Arran or head further west to the Argyll peninsula for a day of coastal road exploring.
Surrounded by lochs, Kilfinan attracts walkers, nature watchers, cyclists and anglers. It’s a brilliant place to pick up a marine life cruise on Loch Fyne. This is a wonderful spot for wildlife enthusiasts as otters, seals, pine martins and birds of prey are all common sightings in this part of Scotland.
Stay in a West Coast cottage and discover the magic of Scotland
We have some lovely holiday cottages up and down the west coast of Scotland. If you are planning a road trip to some of the most dazzling landscapes in the country, then choose one of our self-catering holiday homes to stay in. From cosy wood cabins by the side of the loch, to converted bothies for the romantics, and stylish farmhouses and castles for larger family groups, we have the best choice of holiday homes to rent for you to choose from.
Don’t forget to check out our dog-friendly cottages too for those slightly fluffier members of the family.
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.