Are you holed up in winter hibernation just waiting for the first signs of spring? Well the good news is that there really is no need to hide, not with a ferry full of winter adventures awaiting across the CalMac network, whether you’re eighteen or eighty!
I love the instant romance of a holiday escape by ferry. Setting sail for a distant isle in search of adventure really inspires me and it will inspire you too if you head out with CalMac, who are currently stressing that everyone these days gets #MatesRates on their great value routes.
Join me now as I take you over the water in search of winter adventure. Grab a travel buddy – be it a loved one or a friend – as we head off to six great islands. What are you waiting for?
It’s doon the watter across the Clyde first off, with a trip from Wemyss Bay to the old Victorian-era resort of Rothesay. The waterfront has that lovely out of season sense of romance, ideal for bracing strolls, while in the more remote parts of Bute superb beaches await in the shape of Ettrick Bay and Kilchattan Bay. For keen walkers there is the brilliantly named West Island Way. Get it? It’s actually a great linear walk that takes in some of the most dramatic coastal stretches of this seriously underrated island.
Ok, so many of you probably know this Hebridean charmer for its whisky distilleries. There are eight to be precise! I am a big fan of the dram tinged adventure that a distillery hopping trip provides. If you want to be wilder rather than woozier, winter is a great time to get outdoors in Islay. This is when the population of the island soars by thousands – thousands of birds that is! Geese flock south to Islay to enjoy its relatively balmy temperatures. The best time to see them is around sunset, when they often set off en masse in a spectacular air show that you’ll never forget. There is an RSPB hide by Loch Gruinart.
There are two ways to look at Tiree in winter. One is that it remains one of the sunniest spots in the country and the other is that its flat, sinewy expanse is just ripe for being battered by the full ravages of an Atlantic storm! Either way is fine for keen adventurers, the sort who tend to bring their own windsurfing and surfing gear with them. Tiree offers world-class surf and wind conditions, so if watersports are your thing you are in for a treat. A seriously good dry suit is mandatory! I think Tiree is a great island for cycling and walking on too, with only low hills and acres and acres of unspoilt white sand beaches.
For me a sort of Inner Hebrides in miniature, Colonsay is often neglected. She is a wee stunner, though, with some great hills to ramble up and remote beaches; including one of my favourite beaches in Scotland – Kiloran Bay. On two wheels or on foot is the best way for adventurers to discover an island that, even in summer, never gets too busy. In winter you will feel like you have this glorious place to yourself, save the hardy and friendly locals who are always on hand to help.
Harris may well be my favourite island in Scotland, despite the fact that it is not officially an island! Let’s not get into all that here! In a word Harris is gorgeous. It is truly magnificent in winter, with a dusting of snow sitting on its mountains. These look otherworldly as they lie atop a scene that comes with epic white sand beaches, including arguably the best beach in Scotland at Scarista. For a seriously cool couples’ retreat I recommend you cosy up at Sound of Harris. This glorious, super stylish new self-catering escape boasts epic views of the eponymous sound and the couple that run it can put you in touch with suppliers direct, so you can source some great local produce to cook up an Outer Hebridean feast with!
If Colonsay is the Inner Hebrides in Miniature then wee Barra is definitely the Outer Hebrides in Miniature. I’m a massive fan of Barra, a real oasis for those who love the great outdoors. Right above the cute castle-kissed capital of Castlebay sits a vaulting mountain, Heaval, which makes for a great hike with some quite spellbinding views. Barra’s beaches are remarkable, stark white affairs, where in winter you will often be the only soul. You might run into the odd seal though! After a day of adventure the warm welcome of the legendary Castlebay Hotel awaits.
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*This blog comes in association with CalMac
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