Cut off for centuries from the rest of Scotland by the mountains and sea lochs that characterize the region, Argyll remains remote and sparsely populated, its scatter of offshore islands forming part of the Inner Hebridean archipelago. Geographically and culturally, this is a transitional area between Highland and Lowland, boasting a rich variety of scenery from subtropical gardens warmed by the Gulf Stream to flat, treeless islands on the edge of the Atlantic. It’s in the folds and twists of the countryside, the interplay of land and water and the views out to the islands that the strengths and beauties of mainland Argyll lie – the one area of man-made sights you shouldn’t miss, however, is the cluster of Celtic and prehistoric sites near Kilmartin.
The eastern duo of Bute and Arran are the most popular of Scotland’s more southerly islands, the latter – now, strictly, part of Ayrshire – justifiably so, with spectacular scenery ranging from the granite peaks of the north to the Lowland pasture of the south. Of the Hebridean islands covered in this chapter, mountainous Mull is the most visited, and is large enough to absorb the crowds, many of whom are only passing through en route to the tiny isle of Iona, a place of spiritual pilgrimage for centuries. Islay, best known for its malt whiskies, is fairly quiet even in the height of summer, as is neighbouring Jura, which offers excellent walking. And, for those seeking further solitude, there are the more remote islands of Tiree and Coll, which, although swept with fierce winds, have more sunny days than anywhere else in Scotland.