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Caledonian MacBrayne Ferry

Islands large and small are our stepping stones to peace and tranquillity.

The Southern Hebrides, the sparsely-populated islands that lie off the coast of Argyll, are the ideal location for an ‘island hopping’ holiday. Here we will find captivating gardens, breath-taking scenery, a tranquil abbey and one of the grandest houses in the land, as an exciting sequence of short ferry crossings takes us to islands, both small and large.

Beginning on the Isle of Bute we visit Mount Stuart, whose grand gallery and marble staircase make it one of wonders of the west coast. Two days on the Isle of Mull take in Tobermory, with its famous multi-coloured waterfront, and the islands of Iona and Staffa, one home to a famous abbey, the other to a natural cathedral of volcanic columns. The quaint ‘Bridge over the Atlantic’ takes us to the islands of Seil and Easdale, once the scene of a flourishing slate industry, while a scenic boat trip allows a glimpse of the uninhabited Garvellach islands. The colourful woodland gardens of Achamore on the sparkling island gem of Gigha complete an uplifting tour.

Available departure dates and prices


Islands large and small are our stepping stones to peace and tranquillity.

Day 1

We depart from our local pick-up points this morning by coach and head for Wemyss Bay where we will catch the ferry to Rothesay on the Isle of Bute. The ferry journey takes approximately 35 minutes. Our first visit will be to the spectacular house and gardens of Mount Stuart, which is one of the largest, most spectacular High Victorian Gothic houses in Britain and yet one of the least known. The gardens were only opened to the general public for the first time in June 1995. These 300 acres of stunning woodlands and gardens are a real treasure trove for the garden enthusiast. The temperate effect of the Gulf Stream on Bute ensures that there are always many exotic plants, palm trees and Mediterranean blooms to be seen here. There is a pavilion glasshouse in the grounds which nurtures rare species from the tropical rain forests of south-east Asia while native British plants thrive in the fertile soils and mild climate.

After this visit we travel to Rhubodach to catch the 5 minute ferry to Colintraive on the mainland and continue via Inveraray to our comfortable hotel accommodation in Oban, the bustling harbour town known as the ‘Gateway to the Isles’. Dinner will be served in the evening.

Day 2

Following breakfast we travel south and cross the ‘Bridge Over the Atlantic’ to Seil Island. Travelling down to the main village of Ellenabeich, we will see evidence of the extensive slate quarrying that was carried out here for several hundred years until the 1960s. We have free time here to visit the Highland Arts centre and stroll around the village before we make the short ferry crossing by foot over to Easdale Island. The picture postcard rows of cottages which cluster beside the harbour are enchanting, and there is a path leading right around the island that can be walked in 20 minutes or so, often winding its way between the old quarries and giving superb views across the sea to Mull.

Following an opportunity for lunch (not included) we transfer to Ardfern, where we join the MV Sea Leopard II for a trip to see the uninhabited Garvellachs or Isles of the Sea. On the southern most island of Eileach an Naoimh the ruined remains of a 6th century Celtic monastery can be seen.

After sailing back to Ardfern we will return to our hotel, where dinner is served in the evening.

Day 3

After breakfast this morning we will catch the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry from Oban to Mull, stopping first in Tobermory, the island’s ‘capital’. The multi-hued buildings that line the waterfront will be familiar from a hundred calendars, and it’s a wonderful place to spend a couple of hours wandering around the shops, which include local arts and crafts outlets. For many, a pint in the Mishnish is an essential part of any visit to the town.



Day 3 (continued)

In the afternoon we drive to the Ulva Ferry pier at Oskamull and depart on a cruise to the little island of Staffa. Sailing out of Loch na Keal beneath the towering bulk of Ben More, keep an eye open for otters, seals, porpoises, dolphins and basking sharks – these waters are rich in wildlife. There are also great numbers of seabirds, with puffins, guillemots and razorbills among the most common. The Isle of Staffa was formed by volcanic eruptions over 50 million years ago and as the basaltic lava cooled it formed an extraordinary pattern of predominantly hexagonal columns which form the faces and walls of the principal caves. We will have around an hour ashore to explore the island, in particular the massive natural cathedral known as Fingal’s Cave, following in the footsteps of illustrious tourists from Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson to Jules Verne and Queen Victoria.

(Please note a reasonable degree of mobility is required to go ashore but the less adventurous are welcome to stay on board and are usually taken on a short seabird/seal-watch cruise. There is a toilet on board.)

We sail back to Ulva Ferry pier and return to Oban by ferry where dinner will be served at the hotel in the evening.

Day 4

After breakfast this morning we will once again catch the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry from Oban to Mull, this time turning left as we come off the pier at Craignure and driving along the scenic Ross of Mull to Fionnphort, where we cross as foot passengers to the ‘sacred isle’ of Iona. Here you have the opportunity to visit the Abbey and wander over the island, taking in the atmosphere of calm and contemplation which attracts visitors from all over the world. We will return on an afternoon ferry via Craignure to Oban, where there will be some free time to explore the town before dinner.

Day 5

After breakfast we have a long but rewarding day today as we travel south of Oban on the scenic route to Kintyre in time to catch the late morning ferry to Gigha, a small and beautiful island lying just off the Kintyre peninsula.  Here, Sir James Horlick (of bedtime drink fame) came in 1944 and started to make a woodland garden. His new plantings were protected by evergreens and old broad-leaved trees. At Achamore Gardens rhododendrons reign supreme, constituting one of the best collections in Scotland.  We will return to the mainland on the late afternoon ferry and continue to our original departure points, where arrival is due in the evening.

Included in the price

  • 4 nights’ dinner, bed and full breakfast at the Royal Hotel in Oban (or similar). All rooms have private facilities
  • All coaching and ferry transfers
  • Visits to Mount Stuart Gardens and a guided tour of the House; Easdale and Seil Island; boat trip to the Garvellachs; full day excursion to Tobermory and Staffa; full day excursion to Iona; visit to Achamore Gardens on Gigha
  • Services of a Brightwater Holidays tour manager

Not included (per person)

  • Single room supplement    £80.00
  • Insurance   £17.50 (under 65); £35.00 (65-74); £52.50 (75-90)

Departure points and times:


Depart Return
Aberdeen  (Skene Street, opposite Denburn Car Park) 0600 0030
Dundee (outside Discovery Point) 0730 2300
Perth (Bus stop on Canal Street, Tay Street end) 0800 2230
Kinross (Kinross Services) 0815 2130
Dunfermline (outside Carnegie College) 0830 2115
Edinburgh (Marriott Hotel, Glasgow Road) 0900 2045
Glasgow (Millennium, George Square) 1015 1930


Please note pick-ups are subject to minimum numbers and all timings are approximate and may be changed. They will be confirmed when the joining instructions are sent out, approximately ten days prior to departure.

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The staff at our hotel on Islay were young and keen, very pleasant and helpful indeed.

Mr and Mrs Turner

We thoroughly enjoyed the archaeological tour to the Outer Hebrides, the driver and guide made the holiday a great success

Mr and Mrs Sutherland, Dundee

A superb holiday - thanks Trish the Tour Manager was very helpful and knowledgeable - the free day was a great idea.

Mr and Mrs Somerville
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