What to do?

Guests at Powdermills Bed and Breakfast, near Inveraray often ask our advice of what they should do during their stay. The truth is there is always much to do in Argyll despite the variable weather. In fact, it is not unknown for sunshine, rain, hail, or snow, to appear all in one Summer’s day!

Powdermills has now developed a list of suggestions for day trips based on our own excursions and what guests have told us of places they have visited. This list is far from extensive but here are 14 days to keep guests busy.

Day 1: Isle of Gigha

It takes an hour to drive down the Mull of Kintyre on the A83 to visit the Isle of Gigha, which in Old Norse appropriately means ‘God’s Island’. The ferry takes twenty minutes – one every hour – no booking required – just queue and wait till the ferry returns from Gigha. There are idyllic remote sandy beaches ideal for swimming in the finer weather; stunning views of Islay and Jura; Achamore Gardens; Bird watching; the Boathouse – a fine fish restaurant, a hotel and various craft shops. Life is slow and relaxed. It is a wonderful day out.

Day 2: Machrihanish

It takes an hour and a quarter from Powdermills Bed & Breakfast, near Inveraray to drive to Machrihanish, just before Campbeltown on the Mull of Kintyre. This is a day out for the keen walkers or golfers. The white sandy beach runs for seven miles with views over to Islay in the distance. Machrihanish golf course should be on most golfers ‘bucket list’, as it is one of the best and most challenging links course in Scotland. If you are a very keen golfer, you could play an afternoon round of golf on Dunaverty, Southend, the Mull Kintyre. This is an quixotic course where the first three holes and the last two are shared with the local cattle and the Greens are protected by electric fences! But the quirky nature of the course will not disappoint with stunning views of the Island of Arran and Ayrshire on the Scottish Mainland. Any visit to these parts is worth a detour on to Southend to enjoy teas and cakes at Muneroy Café – I promised you will not be disappointed.

Day 3: Campbeltown

It takes an hour and half to drive on the A83 from Powdermills Bed & Breakfast, near Inveraray. There is much to do in Campbeltown, various cafes and hotels for eating, visit to the distillery (Springbank and Campbeltown). There is a memorial garden for the late Lynda McCartney near the seafront. For the return back to Powdermills, take the B842, or the ‘long and winding road‘ as it also known. The road is single track but there are stunning views of the Island of Arran. Visit the Saddle beach where the video of ‘Mull of Kintyre‘ was filmed. Stop for afternoon tea in Carradale which is still a holiday destination for many. Finally, at the end of the long and winding road just past Claonaig – visit Skipness Smokehouse which has a wonderful fish shop or enjoy Skipness Cabin fish restaurant.

Day 4: Arran

It will be a long day but it is possible to have day trip to Arran which is called ‘Scotland in miniature’. It is a forty minute drive on the A83 from Powdermills Bed & Breakfast, near Inveraray to Claonaig where the ferry leaves for Lochranza. It is a ‘first come first served ferry system and no booking is required. The crossing takes about thirty minutes and the views are spectacular. The island is a holiday destination and has too much to offer to detail in this blog. However, a favourite trip of mine is going to play golf at Shiskine Golf course. It is a unique 12 hole links course – a round – lunch- another round and home on the late afternoon ferry. There is a great homemade lunch in the clubhouse but my favourite eatery is Café Thyme.

Day 5: Tarbert to Portavadie to Inveraray

This is a good trip when the weather is mixed – in other words the usual Scottish weather – as we say in Scots driech. Take a forty minute drive to Tarbert on A83 from Powdermills Bed & Breakfast, near Inveraray. Take the ferry to Portavadie – one every hour – no booking – queueing system. The ferry takes thirty minutes with views of Loch Fyne and the Sound of Bute.

You can explore the Isle of Bute by taking the B8003 and A886 to the Colintraive ferry. This is a ten minute ride, on the other side stop off at the picturesque Colintraive Hotel for a meal or just a snack. There are great walks for you and your dogs with sparkling views. as well as a trip to Rothesay, a Victorian holiday destination for Glaswegians.

Alternatively, drive up the eastern side of Loch Fyne on the B8000. Once again there some fantastic walks to enjoy. There are three fantastic places to eat on the Eastern side of Loch Fyne. The first is Inver at Strachur. The second is The Oystercatcher at Otter Ferry. Finally, the Carindow Inn. All fresh fish and local produce. Finish the circular trip by visiting Inveraray.

Day 6: Crinan Canal and Knapdale Forest

Leave Powdermills Bed & Breakfast and drive south on A83 to Ardrishaig to view the start of the Crinan Canal. It is good place to sit and watch yachts and motor boats entering in and out of the canal. It is possible to walk the canal for a short stroll or for professional hikers, the length of the canal. However, it is only a short drive on the A816 and take a left to Cairnbaan to pick up the canal. Again, this a good spot to stop and watch the vessels going through the lock gates. Drive to Crinan village and enjoy the Woodland and canal walk. Alternatively, take a left on to the B8025 and enjoy the ancient Knapdale Forest. There are many walks including a worthwhile stop off at the Scottish Beaver centre. To finish a wonderful day, dine at the Tayvallich Inn where the seafood is landed from the fishing boats on the nearby quay and cooked to perfection in one of Scotland’s best Scottish restaurants. If the weather is sunny – try taking a left from the B8025 down a single track road to Kilbride and then to Kilmory beach.

Day 7: Isle of Seil

Head south on the A83 towards Lochgilphead from Powdermills Bed & Breakfast, near Inveraray. Take the A816 towards Oban. Take a left on the B844 to Seil. The Isle of Seil lies some 12 miles south of Oban. Seil is separated from the mainland only by the thinnest of sea channels which is spanned by the elegant 18th century humpback Clachan Bridge, popularly known as the ‘Bridge over the Atlantic’.

The island’s main village, Ellenabeich, comprises neat white terraces of workers cottages crouching below black cliffs on the westernmost tip of the island. Confusingly, the village is often referred to by the same name as the nearby island of Easdale, since they formed an interdependent community based exclusively around the slate quarrying industry. Ellenabeich has featured in a number of TV and films including Para Handy and Ring of Bright Water. The village’s main attractions are the gardens of An Cala with its glorious azaleas and Japanese flowering cherries in early summer and the Scottish Slate Islands’ Heritage Centre which is housed in one of the little white cottages. Seil also boasts a 9-hole golf course and a popular yacht anchorage at Phuilladobhrain, Balvicar on the island’s east coast.

Day 8: Isle of Mull

It is possible to complete a day trip to the Isle of Mull from Powdermills Bed & Breakfast, near Inveraray. However, it requires an early start (we are happy to make your breakfast early) and during the high season, confirmed bookings on the ferry from Oban is essential. It takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes to drive from Powdermills to Oban. This ferry ride takes an hour to Craignure. On a day trip there are two things you might want to do on Mull. Firstly, visit the picturesque Tobermory with its brightly coloured houses, craft shops and eateries. It has a small distillery that is worth a visit and a walk on the nine hole golf course to witness the panoramic views. Golfing there is more like an assault course and only recommended for the diehards!

The other place to visit is Iona. A pedestrian ferry takes five minutes to transport visitors to the ancient religious retreat. Iona is a tiny island off the southwest coast of Mull in the Inner Hebrides. It is only 1.5 miles wide by 3 miles long, with a population of around 120 permanent residents. Iona has a long and illustrious history and is well known as being ‘The cradle of Christianity’ in Scotland. It is striking to remark that despite the numbers of visitors to the island, the pervading feeling that people leave with is one of peace and restoration.

It is worth noting that Mull is a large island and just doing a day trip will mean that much time is spent in the car. For example, the drive from Tobermory to Iona is 58 miles and takes an hour and half. Some visitors to Powdermills are desperate to visit one of the Islands. Unfortunately, the Islay ferry takes over two hours and makes a day trip not feasible. You can do a day trip to Mull, but it will be a long and exhausting day albeit exhilarating.

Day 9: Lochgilphead to Kilmartin to Oban to Ben Cruachan to Inveraray

Leave Powdermills Bed & Breakfast, near Inveraray and head south on the A83 to Lochgilphead. Lochgilphead is situated at the apex of a short loch called Loch Gilp, an offshoot on the western shore of the much larger Loch Fyne. Like Inveraray, Lochgilphead was first laid out as a planned town in the late 18th century, soon after the completion of the road from Inveraray to Campbeltown. The town grew in importance following the opening of the nearby Crinan Canal which provided a considerable short cut across the Kintyre peninsula. Lochgilphead’s facilities include a swimming pool, sports centre, fishing tackle shop, three banks, Co-op Food supermarket, two petrol stations, three home wear and hardware shops, a Renault dealership, a community hospital run by the local GPs (with an A&E department), a nine-hole golf course (a mountain climb only recommended for the diehards) and bowling club.

Follow the A816 to Kilmartin. Kilmartin is a small village and it is best known as the centre of Kilmartin Glen, an area with one of the richest concentrations of prehistoric monuments and historical sites in Scotland. It contains over 800 monuments within a 6-mile (10 km) radius. It is home to Kilmartin Museum and the Kilmartin Hotel. Kilmartin Museum has a fantastic café for a stop after an exploration of the standing stones.

The Moine Mhòr encompasses a large area of raised bogsaltmarsh, brackish grassland, alder carr, fen and woodland to the west of Kilmartin. The variety of habitats at Moine Mhòr provide important habitats for a variety of animal and plant species, and the area was declared a National Nature Reserve (NNR) in 1987. It is owned and managed by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). According to SNH lowland raised bogs like Moine Mhòr are some of the rarest and most threatened natural wildlife habitats in Europe, due to removal of peat, afforestation and reclamation of farmland. There is a short walk to view the raised bog.

Drive on to Oban – the gateway to the Isles. It is a busy ferry port with many amenities. It has many good fish restaurants including the Oban fish and Chip shop rated as the best anywhere by none other than TV chef Rick Stein.

Return to Powdermills via the A85 and if you have enough time, stop off and visit the Ben Cruachan Hydro Power station . It is an interesting visit to the ‘hollowed out’ mountain and a insight into large building projects of the post war era.

Day 10: Callander and the Trossachs

Callander is a bustling tourist town situated on the River Teith, near Stirling, and is often described as the gateway to the Highlands. The pretty town of Callander lies immediately south of the Highland Boundary Fault which is historically a meeting point between the Highlands and the Lowlands. This holiday town is a popular base for tourists exploring the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park and ‘Rob Roy Country’, or stopping off on their way up into the Highlands. Set dramatically beneath high, wooded crags, the colourful town is crammed with teashops and souvenir shops. Callander gained fame as the location for the original Doctor Findlay’s Casebook television series.

There are a number of popular walks in the area for visitors to explore. The beautiful Bracklinn Falls and the River Keltie have mesmerised people for generations, to the west footpaths and cycle tracks follow the old Callander to Oban railway, and from the summit of Callander Crags there are spectacular sweeping views over the town of Callander and beyond to Stirling and the Forth Estuary.

Day 11: Glen Coe to the Glenfinnan viaduct.

Harry Potter is popular throughout the world and so a trip to Glenfinnan Viaduct appears to be on most guests ‘must do’ list. It requires an early breakfast as the drive will take just over two hours. It is possible to complete a circular day trip from Powdermills Bed & Breakfast near Inveraray to Fort William on the A85, A82 and then the A830 to Glenfinnan. This route will take you through the eerie and mystic Glen Coe with towering mountains on both sides. It has derived infamy from the ‘Glen Coe Massacre‘ where the Campbell clan laid waste to the Macdonald clan on a cold bitter winter night in 1692. There is a visitor centre which is well worth a visit that has a fine café.

Drive on to Fort William located on the eastern shore of Loch Linnhe. Fort William has a population of 10,459, making it the second largest settlement in the Highlands — only the city of Inverness has a larger population. Fort William is a major tourist centre, with Glen Coe just to the south, Ben Nevis and Aonach Mòr to the east and Glenfinnan to the west. It is a centre for for hillwalking and climbing due to its proximity to Ben Nevis and many other Munro mountains. It is also known for its nearby downhill mountain bike track. It is the start/end of both the West Highland Way  and the Great Glen Way 

Continue on the A830 to Glenfinnan a beautiful village sitting comfortably among the hills of Glen Finnan. It is located within a lovely u-shaped valley, that travels south-west to north-east, it has the idyllic Loch Shiel situated in the centre of the glen.

The Glenfinnan Monument is situated at the head of Loch Shiel was erected in 1815 to mark the place where Prince Charles Edward Stuart (“Bonnie Prince Charlie”) raised his standard, at the beginning of the 1745 Jacobite Rising. Prince Charles initially landed from France on Eriskay in the Western Isles. He then travelled to the mainland in a small rowing boat, coming ashore at Loch nan Uamh, just west of Glenfinnan. Here he was met by a small number of MacDonalds. He waited at Glenfinnan for a number of days as more MacDonalds, Camerons, McPhees and MacDonnells arrived. When he judged he had enough support, he climbed the hill and the McPhees raised his royal standard, on Monday 19 August 1745, and claimed the Scottish and the English thrones in the name of his father James Stuart (‘the Old Pretender’). So began the rebellion that was to end in failure eight months later at the Battle of Culloden (16 April 1746).

The “Glenfinnan Gathering” has met every year since 1946 on the Saturday closest to the 19th August. The ‘Gathering’ today takes you back to the atmosphere of 1745. A friendly welcome, a sense of pride, good natured competition and the skirl of the pipes. These are unique games and one that should not be missed.

The Glenfinnan Viaduct is a railway viaduct on the West Highland Line  located at the top of Loch Shiel overlooking Glenfinnan Monument. This wonderful piece of late Victorian construction is a site to behold. Completed in 1901 the viaduct was the first structure in the world to use at that time the new building material Mass Concrete. Over 100 feet in height and made up of 21 arches this viaduct is a beautiful piece of engineering and is a glorious sight. The viaduct has now gained notoriety as it has been used in many of the Harry Potter films. In “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” with the blue Ford Anglia flying around the engine and the viaduct.

Day 12: Inveraray

Inveraray is on the western shore of Loch Fyne. It is the ancestral home to the Duke of Argyll clan Chief of the Campbells. In 1744 the third Duke of Argyll decided to demolish the existing castle and start from scratch with a new building. The castle was 40 years in construction, and the work was largely supervised by the Adam family, still renowned to this day as gifted architects and designers. The end product was not a castle in the traditional sense, but a classic Georgian mansion house on a grand scale, Inveraray Castle.

In 1747 William Adam had drawn up plans for the creation of a new Inveraray. By 1770 little had been done, and the fifth Duke set about rebuilding the town in its present form. Some of the work on the rebuilt Inveraray was done by John Adam. The Inveraray Inn (formerly known as the New Inn, Great Inn, Argyll Arms Hotel and Argyll Hotel) on Front Street being his, as well as the Town House. Much of the rest of the town, including the church, was designed and built by the celebrated Edinburgh-born architect Robert Mylne (1733-1811) between 1772 and 1800. The end product was an attractive town which included houses for estate workers, a woollen mill, and a pier to exploit herring fishing, which was to grow in later years to play a major role in the town’s economy. The finished product is one of the best examples of an 18th-century new town in Scotland, and most of the properties in the centre of Inveraray are considered worthy of protection because of the town’s architectural significance.

There is much to do in Inveraray. A visit to the Inveraray Jail is interesting and a great insight in the social conditions and penal policy of Scotland through the centuries. If you like history, spend some time reading all the personal stories in each cell. The Bell Tower dominates the town, and contains the second-heaviest ring of ten bells in the world. The Bell Tower is open to the public, and the bells are rung regularly. And on the drive back to Powdermills Bed & Breakfast, near Inveraray, visit the Argyll Folk Museum at Auchindrain.

There are many good clothes, outwear and craft shops to visit. In addition, there many good eateries, in particular, the seafood restaurant Samphire, George Hotel, Brambles, Inveraray Inn, Green Door and the Cottage. However, the highlight is the traditional Scottish sweet shop Sweet Memories on Main Street.

Day 13: A Walking Day

There are many walks and climbs in the mountains and hills that are close to Powdermills Bed & Breakfast in the Inveraray, on Lochgilphead and Cowal peninsula. They vary in accordance with capability, effort, and length. The best web site to review what walks to complete is www.walkinghighlands.co.uk

Day 14: Driving Home

Most visitors to Powdermills Bed & Breakfast return to Edinburgh and Glasgow airport or drive south into England, via the ‘Rest and be Thankful’ and Loch Lomond. However, if you are driving home there are other ways to drive home.

  1. Drive south on the A83 – take the Tarbert to Portavadie ferry and drive on to the Isle of Bute via the Colintraive ferry then drive to catch the Rothesay ferry to Wemyss Bay. This is a longer trip, more expensive but will give fantastic views of the Firth of Clyde. It is an easier route once on the mainland to drive down through Ayrshire.
  2. Drive south on the A83 – take the Tarbert to Portavadie ferry and drive to Dunoon and take the ferry to Gourock. It is a short drive to pickup the M8 and travel south. Once again the views of the Clyde are spectacular.
  3. Drive south on the A83 to Claonaig and take the ferry on to Arran. Spend the day enjoying the delights of Arran – or better still book an overnight stay. Take the ferry from Brodick to Ardrossan and drive south. This journey home is more ambitious and expensive, requires some planning but is a wonderful way to return home south.