With travel restrictions easing, Amélie Davidson recommends seaside activities around the west coast of Scotland, all accessible by public transport.
Credit: Flickr – Robert Brown
Getting there: Trains depart regularly from Glasgow Queen Street to Balloch, with the journey taking less than an hour. Prices vary according to time and day.
Why: Loch Lomond is one of Scotland’s most popular tourist destinations. The bonnie banks became particularly famous after Scottish Celtic rock band Runrig’s hit song Loch Lomond. It is Britain’s largest lake and, being only a short distance from the central belt, it is paradise for outdoor enthusiasts.
What to do: There is plenty to do in Loch Lomond; the Sea Life Aquarium is only a five-minute walk from Balloch train station and is definitely worth a visit, with a host of sea life from sharks and stingrays to starfish and seahorses. For a day of escapism, the quaint village of Luss is nearby, with its pretty cottages gracing many Instagram shots. There, you can try a variety of watersports including water skiing, paddle boarding, and kayaking. Or, if you’re keen for more of a challenge, on the eastern shore within The Trossachs National Park lies Ben Lomond. With 30,000 annual walkers, Ben Lomond is one of the most popular Munros at 3,196ft. The climb to the top is worth it, with breathtaking views over Loch Lomond and the snow-capped peaks.
Credit: Amélie Davidson
Getting there: Trains from Glasgow Central to Largs run regularly. The train takes less than an hour and it’s a short walk from the train station to the ferry terminal. Two small ferries run between Largs and Millport every half hour, all day. The Caledonian MacBrayne ferry (only £3.40 per passenger) from Largs Pier takes a mere 10 minutes and then you can take the connecting bus Millport. The train and ferry timetables coincide so that you will have enough time on the island.
Why: The island is not only stunning but it is also relatively simple and hassle-free to travel to.
What to do: One of the main attractions of Millport is cycling around the 18km coastal road. It is a great way to explore the island at your own pace. Bike hire prices range from around £3 an hour to £6 for a full day. On Millport, hidden behind trees, is Britain’s smallest cathedral. The Cathedral of The Isles dates from 1851. There are many cafes and restaurants to grab a bite to eat – most of which are dog-friendly. The Ritz Cafe is worth a visit, with its 1950s themed interior. Millport has a plethora of sea life and you will be able to see seals, diving gannets, and even dolphins. There are several famous rocks on the island including the Indian Rock, the Lion Rock and, of course, Crocodile Rock. Perfect for photo opportunities! Or for some light-hearted fun, why not try out the crazy golf for just £2 per person.
Credit: David Dixon
Getting there: There are numerous direct trains from Glasgow Queen Street to Oban every day. You can also take the West Highland Line from Glasgow to Oban (3 hours and 20 minutes), which is considered by many to be the most scenic rail journey in the world.
Why: Oban is the busiest town in Argyll and has a fantastic atmosphere. It is a bit further away from Glasgow, so it might be a better place for a weekend trip as it is the perfect starting point for island-hopping.
What to do: Oban has more to do than most people think. As the seafood capital of Scotland, there are many restaurants (and even a snack van!) which provide fresh fish straight from the shores to your plate. For beautiful panoramic views overlooking the town, climb up McCaigs tower. The Roman-esque colosseum is free to enter and, if you’re staying overnight, is the perfect spot to catch a magnificent sunset. For just £10, you can go on a guided tour of Oban Distillery where you can see how Oban single malt whiskey is made and you will even get a sample of the whisky too. If you are staying in Oban for the weekend, take a day trip to the surrounding islands of Mull, Iona and Staffa.
Isle of Mull
Getting there: The ferry from Oban to Craignure on Mull takes around 55 minutes.
Why: The Isle of Mull is the second-largest island of the Inner Hebrides and is very picturesque. The charming capital of Tobermory, with its colourful buildings, is famous for being the setting of the children’s programme Balamory. What to do: There are many beautiful beaches to explore with clear sea, golden sands, and an abundance of wildlife; puffins, seas eagles, whales, otters, dolphins. On a rainy day, visit An Tobar and Mull Theatre, which is a multi-arts organisation which presents live events throughout the year; live music, theatre, crafts, film, dance, comedy. Although the theatre is currently closed due to Covid-19, they have filmed two short plays to be shown online in the autumn. In the North of Mull, Calgary Art In Nature displays work by local artists and woodcarvers. There is a woodland walk where you can see incredible art sculptures along the way.