It’s shocking to think that up until last week I had been to 35 countries and Scotland wasn’t one of them, despite the fact that it’s only 2 hours away on the train from my hometown of Liverpool, England.
Edinburgh has always stood out as the ‘go-to place’ in Scotland and the one place I really want to visit. I’ve heard so many great things about it that I hadn’t even considered going anywhere else in Scotland. Besides from Edinburgh I didn’t know what it had to offer which was different from England or Wales.
I was lucky enough to be approached by VisitScotland to go on a blogger trip. So, after quickly Googling some of the locations I jumped at the idea!
The trip involved:
- Day 1: Glasgow
- Day 2: Oban
- Day 3: 3 island day trip: Isle of Mull, Isle of Staffa, Isle of Iona
- Day 4: Oban
I arrived in Glasgow at around 9.30pm and stayed at hotel INDIGO, a stylish boutique hotel where I got an early night ready to get the train to Oban the next morning.
The train goes direct from Glasgow to Oban and takes around 3 and a half hours. The scenic train journey is an experience in itself as it passes through the Scottish Highlands. The views are simply stunning, passing lakes, streams, waterfalls, lochs, snow capped mountains and farmlands. I plugged in my iPod and watched the world go by.
I used the Spirit of Scotland travel pass which I highly recommend, the flexibility it gives is perfect for any traveller. It allowed me four days of unlimited travel of your choosing between an eight day period for just £134.00. This included travel by train, ferry and coach.
I arrived in Oban early afternoon and was instantly taken aback by how beautiful it is. It felt like I was in a Nordic fishing village rather than anywhere in the UK. It overlooks a bay with a backdrop of mountains in the distance and fishing boats can constantly be seen sailing in and out of the docks.
If you’re like me then the best thing to do is relax by wandering around the town, taking in the sights and grabbing a coffee in one of the town’s many cafes. The chilled out atmosphere makes it the perfect place to unwind.
The town doesn’t disappoint of an evening either, offering a variety of restaurants including the Coast restaurant and Ee-usk, a trendy seafood restaurant down by the waterfront offering great views of the bay and a huge variety of seafood. I had the seabass which was delicious.
I stayed in the Oban Bay hotel which boasts a Sauna, Steam Room and Spa treatments, perfect for any rainy days. There is also an outdoor Jacuzzi for when the sun comes out. The highlight of the hotel is the conservatory overlooking the bay, it makes for the perfect spot to have afternoon tea.
Oban offers a variety of day trips but the absolute essential one you must do is the three islands tour. It costs £60 per person and takes the full day, leaving at 10am in the morning and returning at 8.30pm.
The trip involves visiting the following islands:
- Isle of Mull
- Isle of Staffa
- Isle of Iona
Isle of Mull
The scenic ferry from Oban to Mull takes approximately 45 minutes. Once there we jumped on a coach and drove across the island for an hour. The driver doubles up as a tour guide telling you everything you need to know about the island and its history including how Phil Collins visits every year and the variety of wildlife that lives their including sea eagles, otters and sealions.
Isle of Staffa
From the Island of Mull we jumped on a smaller boat to take us to the Isle of Staffa. Staffa is a small cliff island which is stunning, the unique rock formations on the island are very similar to the giants causeway in Northern Ireland. As soon as we arrived at the island dolphins surrounded the boat! I once went on a 2 hour dolphin tour in Australia and didn’t see any dolphins and after spending 30 minutes on a boat in Scotland I saw a pod of around 10/15.
I never dreamed that I would see dolphins on the tour but they seemed to be everywhere, I was truly in awe and was most definitely the highlight of the trip.
Once we arrived at the island the boat docked up and we were able to explore Staffa’s caves along with going to the top of cliffs.
Isle of Iona
After leaving Staffa our next stop was then Isle of Iona which is a slice of British paradise! Iona’s crystal clear waters and white sand beaches blew me away! I never knew Scotland or even Britain has beaches like it. It felt like I was on a small island in the Mediterranean as opposed to anywhere in Scotland. Iona really is Britain’s best kept secret, its beaches are easily the best I’ve seen in the UK, beating those in Newquay, Cornwall. The island’s small population makes for the perfect getaway location in Britain. At peak summer there are a 1000 residents on the island however this drops to just 30 in the winter.
Scotland exceeded all of my expectations and is a place I intend on returning to very soon. Iona really is a slice of British paradise and the perfect place to escape.