If there is one thing you are assured of on a trip to Scotland’s Inner Hebrides, it is glorious views no matter which way you turn or what time of year you visit. Admittedly, the weather will play a big role in the vibrancy of the scenery — from bright, expansive vistas in the summer to moody, foreboding views in the winter. The Isles of Mull, Skye, and Iona are particular favorites, and the best way to explore these islands along Scotland’s west coast region is by motorhome.
Day 1: Glasgow To Luss — 40 Miles
We arrived in Glasgow in the wee hours after an overnight red-eye flight. By noon we were ready to go, having been shuttled to pick up our motorhome and given a comprehensive overview of the vehicle. Although we are native Brits and driving on the “other” side of the road is nothing new to us, after an overnight flight and with jet lag weighing heavy, we planned to only do a few miles that first day. It was a good move. Waking early the next morning, we were up and away whilst others slept.
The quaint little harbor village of Luss lies on the shores of Loch Lomond offers beautiful views of the lake and surrounding hills, and is the perfect stopping point to lose that jet lag.
Day 2: Luss To Oban — 80 Miles
Continue north skirting Loch Lomond looking out for places offering boat tours on the Loch.
1. Falloch Falls
Just 20 miles from Luss on A82, Falloch Falls is on a popular hiking route and a pleasant excuse to pull off the road and stretch your legs for a few minutes. There is a small parking area — easily accessible for small motorhomes — just off the road. The Falls are only a few steps from the parking area and are not difficult to access.
2. St. Conan’s Kirk
Parking is very limited (vehicles park on the side of the road); this will test your driving skills but is well worth it. The kirk — Scottish for “church” — sits on the bank overlooking Loch Awe. It may not look much from the outside, but once you step through the door, you will be amazed by the splendid interior. The pillars, beautiful ornate stonework, stained glass windows, and the small cloister take you back 500 years, but all is not as it seems…
3. Kilchurn Castle
Kilchurn Castle provides the quintessential Scottish castle view. A short walk from a large parking lot, the castle stands on a hillock overlooking Loch Awe. Although the castle is currently undergoing some renovations (access inside is not possible) classic views of one of Scotland’s most photographed castles remain unspoiled.
4. Dunstaffnage Castle
Just 3 miles outside of Oban lies one of Scotland’s oldest stone castles — Dunstaffnage Castle. The castle and chapel ruins provide an interesting history dating back to 1240.
Day 3: Oban To Fionnphort, Isle Of Mull — 61 Miles
A short 1-hour ferry crossing from Oban to Craignure brings you to the Isle of Mull. Pre-booking ferry crossing tickets is highly recommended — in fact, some crossings demand this.
5. Duart Castle
You will spot this castle from the ferry as its sits overlooking the water. For a closer look, take a long, winding single-track drive down to a large car park. Owned by the Maclean clan, Duart Castle doesn’t open until 10 a.m., but come early and play by the water before the crowds arrive.
A bit off the beaten path, take the single-track road to the head of Loch Buie where you can immerse yourself in serenity. At the end of the road is a small car park with an entrepreneurial café selling very welcome coffee and gorgeous homemade cakes. Sit and have lunch overlooking the loch while sheep graze by unconcerned. Thread your way among yellow kelp-strewn rocks to an expansive beach, spot the castle nestled at the foot of looming mountains, and listen to the water babbling over rocks down to the beach. Before leaving, stop in at the tiny St. Kilda’s church.
7. Three Lochs
This is a place where you can see three (small) lochs together. It’s not a big deal, but as it’s at the side of the road, it has become a tourist favorite.
8. Loch Beg Bridge
Just off the A849 road is Loch Beg Bridge. A small, twin-arched stone bridge may not be particularly extraordinary on its own, but in this vast open landscape, it provides an Instagram-ready opportunity.
Family-run Fidden Farm is a great campsite located on the very southwest of Mull with access to the beach and even a quick dip in the Atlantic. There is plenty of room, and although there are no hookups, the shower rooms are spotless. Watching the sunsets over the water is just the perfect end to any day.
Day 4: Fionnphort To Tobermory — 58 Miles
Leave the van behind in Fionnphort and take the 10-minute ferry ride to Iona. This tiny island was made famous by St. Columba, who landed here around AD 563 and brought Christianity to the UK. Immerse yourself in history as you explore the superbly restored abbey and trace the route thousands of pilgrims took to this holy place over the centuries.
Day 5: Tobermory To Portree, Isle Of Skye, Via Glenfinnan — 140 Miles
Head back briefly to the mainland to view two iconic vistas before heading to Mallaig to sail to Skye.
10. Glenfinnan Monument
The hamlet of Glenfinnan is located at the northern tip of Loch Shiel. At the water’s edge stands the Glenfinnan Monument, testimony to the clansmen who perished in the 1745 Jacobite uprising. For the best views, hike a short distance up the hill from the car park for spectacular views over the memorial looking down the Loch.
11. Glenfinnan Viaduct
A stunning railway viaduct in a magical setting, the viaduct has become a major tourist attraction since it appeared in the Harry Potter series featuring the Hogwarts Express steaming north. Check the train timetable to catch “The Jacobite” running twice daily from May to October. It’s a 40-minute — mostly uphill — walk to the best overlook, but again, well worth the effort. Arrive early to get a good spot — there were over 200 enthusiasts on a recent Monday morning in early September.
Day 6: Portree To Dunvegan, Isle Of Skye — 85 Miles
12. Old Man Of Storr
One of Skye’s most famous landmarks, the stone outcrop is visible for miles and busy. Even in early September, we could not find a place to park. A better view is looking down Loch Leathan on the eastern side before you reach Storr.
13. Neist Point Lighthouse
The westernmost point of Skye, this is an absolute must for photographers. The lighthouse itself can be accessed along a concrete path, but frankly, the best views are from up on the hill a few hundred yards to the right when exiting the car park. This is a very popular spot — especially at sunset — so be prepared to park on the road and walk along the road the rest of the way. Remember to bring a flashlight!
Day 7: Dunvegan To Glencoe — 146 Miles
14. Sligachan (Skye)
While the old stone bridge in Sligachan is definitely a draw for photographers, watching people dip their faces in the river is perhaps a more entertaining view. Legend has it that dipping your face in the freezing water for seven seconds and not drying it off will bring you eternal beauty!
15. Eilean Donan Castle
Perhaps one of the most photographed castles in Scotland, if you bypass everything else on this list, don’t skip this one. There is lots of parking available though in the summer I expect the car parks will be full. Leave the car park and walk along the road bridge. Look on both sides — the view of the castle with the loch behind is spectacular and on the other side, the colorful house of Dornie village is often missed but splendidly photogenic.
Day 7: Glencoe To Glasgow — 128 Miles
The most famous of glens, driving through Glencoe offers continuous magnificent scenery — heather-covered moors bordered by towering mountains, water tumbling to bogs where cattle graze.
16. Loch Etive
This slow single-track road weaves its way for about 10 miles to the end of Loch Etive. The best scenery, frankly, is before you get to the end. There are a number of places where water cascades down the mountainside to the valley below, but unless you’re on foot, you may miss these. There are no parking spots, and it is strictly forbidden to park in passing places. Out of season, we were able to pull over off the track having discovered a particularly beautiful waterfall. Within minutes, we were joined by a number of visitors all with cameras in hand!
In 8 days, we drove 750 miles, took five ferries, and stayed at a different site every night. We stopped frequently and, except for spotting the “The Jacobite,” didn’t feel rushed or stressed to be in a particular place at a particular time. The spectacular scenery in the Highlands and islands is inexhaustible and we will return, this time planning for a couple of “walking only” days.
Pro Tip: Choose The Right Motorhome
Before renting your 40-foot hotel on wheels, beware. Many of the roads on the smaller islands are narrow single-track lanes with multiple passing points. There are long stretches of two-way roads on the popular Isle of Skye, but away from these major roads, it’s mostly single-track lanes.
The Isle of Mull is almost all single-track driving. Thankfully there are passing places every 200 yards or so. My wife and I rented a 19-foot Peugeot Boxer, which was perfect; it easily accommodated everything we needed, was very maneuverable, and easily handled the narrow single-lane tracks. Note too, that ferries between the islands charge based on vehicle size, and our 19-foot home stayed in the lower price category!