Have you ever seen a sunset so purple that you would not have been surprised if a UFO would have landed right next to you? A sunset so spectacular that would wish it would have lasted forever? A sunset at nine or ten pm?
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The sunset was obviously the final highlight of the day trip I want to tell you about. The other day I stumbled across a blogpost on Laretour, an awesome Scottish travel blog, about a day trip to Inverary. Nostalgia overcame me. Although I had not been to Inverary directly, I visited this area of Scotland called Argyll and Bute for a day trip last July. My friend invited my along on a motorcycle trip and after a quick coastal detour for ice-cream in Largs (the home of Nardini’s Scottish ice-cream) we drove up towards Helensburgh, through the hills around Arrochar and then south towards Dunoon. If you have your own wheels – whether they are two or four – a drive around Argyll and Bute might be just the perfect day trip to see the hills, lochs and islands of Scotland without wasting too much time on the big roads leading north.
Map of our Argyll Route
Just to give you an idea of the distances we covered on that day (almost 230 miles), I have traced our rote on the map below. Google Maps might calculate this route to take six hours, but considering traffic and rain in the morning, stops for ice-cream and dinner and a bit of exploring here and there, we were on the road for about 12 hours.
Read more: My top tips for driving in Scotland
Highlights along the Way
As as I said, we started the day in typical Glasgow rain. As the forecast was terrible for Argyll and Bute in the morning, but better in the afternoon, our first destination was Largs in the south-east of Glasgow. The showers on the way were heavy, but once we reached the coast our endurance was rewarded with a little bit of sunshine and an extra scoop of Nardini’s delicious chic-mint ice-cream. Largs itself is a typical British sea side town – very popular with families, a beach promenade full of attractions, more ice cream shops and little boats offering day trips and funny enough, a Viking museum which I will have to keep on my list for another day. A special point of interest is Kelburn Castle, where the annual Kelburn Garden Party brings a music and arts festival onto the castle grounds. Also, one to do some day in the future!
Read more about Ayrshire in this post.
The rain was terrible most of our drive around this area, and even though it remained dry for a bit when we were in Largs, I couldn’t be fussed unpacking the camera – sadly, no photos…
The fastest route from Largs to Dunoon would have lead back towards Paisley over the Erskine Bridge and along Loch Lomond – even fast is the ferry connection between Gourock and Dunoon – but as it is with motorcycle trips we were not interested in fast routes, but in scenic ones. The drive along Loch Long proved to be exactly that.
Leaving Helensburgh towards the north it feel like this sea loch is never-ending. The road is quiet and dotted with a few bed & breakfasts here and there. But mostly you get to have the views all to yourself. The train line connecting Glasgow to Oban and Fort William runs along this Loch as well – a great alternative for parts of this trip without your own vehicle!
Check out my 7-Day Scotland Itinerary!
The hills of Argyll and Bute, especially the ones around Arrochar belong to the most popular peaks for Glaswegian day hikers because on the one hand it takes only an hour to get there by car, and on the other you can take a train straight to Arrochar-Tarbet as well. From there it is just a short trek or – if you’re lucky – a brief hitch to a variety of trails leading up Ben Arthur (The Cobbler), Beinn Ime and Beinn Narnain.
If you like us, only want to stop to marvel, I can highly recommend the view point called ‘Rest and Be Thankful’ – yup, that’s what it is actually called!
Ardkinglas Woodland Garden
By far the biggest surprise of the day was the experience of exploring Ardkinglas Woodland Garden. The Garden is part of a wider network of woodland walks and home to one of the UK’s highest conifers. Call me a nature nerd, but doesn’t that sound exciting? If you still think a tree is a lame attraction, wait until you see it! The tree stands an incredible 64.28m tall – looking up from below can make you dizzy!
The Garden has a donations box at the entrance and a map shows you the various paths you can follow. There are all sorts of trees and flowers to discover, and maybe even fluffy red squirrels. The most quirky find along the path was a time capsule buried in 2007 and to be dug up again in 2057 – I wonder what is in it!
I re-visited the Garden on this 3-day road trip around Argyll!
The drive from Ardkinglas to Dunoon was some of the most beautiful stretch of our road trip through Argyll and Bute, and not only because it was finally dry AND sunny… You move from coast to coast and through the lonely interior of the peninsula, there is not much traffic around you and you’ve got it all to yourself.
Dunoon itself is yet again another seaside town with a promenade, gorgeous sea views and lots of historical architecture to marvel at. What it is also really famous for though is the fresh seafood! It was around dinner time when we arrived and we hadn’t eaten since the ice-cream in Largs. We headed straight for a restaurant called The Braes, which was an awesome choice! We ordered a plate of Loch Fyne Langoustines to share, figured out how to eat them with a quick Google research and dug into our burgers for mains. Just what we needed!
Since we had taken the Loch Long route on our way there we chose the faster Loch Lomond route to get back to Glasgow. Darkness was slowly rolling in but we made it through the narrow and windy roads to Luss just in time for the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen – yes, that’s the sunset I was talking about in the beginning of the post. The kind where you have a hard time believing that you’re still in Scotland. Look!
Have you ever done a road trip around Scotland, or know of any other great day trip itineraries from Glasgow? Hit me up with your suggestions!
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All photos by Kathi Kamleitner (except Google Maps screenshot).