Oban or An t-Òban (Scottish Gaelic meaning 'little bay') is located in a natural bay providing easy access to the many islands hugging the west coast of Scotland. These isles were a major focus for the spread of Christianity in the Early Middle Ages, the most famous being Iona, a centre of Irish monasticism for four centuries. The area immediately surrounding Oban is also steeped in ancient history and is famed for being the Capital of Scotland where kings ruled the new northern Kingdom of Dalriada. Dunolie Castle is one mile north of Oban and stands on older Bronze Age foundations while Kilmartin Glen, a few miles to the south, boasts one of Scotland's richest prehistoric landscapes, and is designated by Historic Scotland as an official Ancient Monument.

Up until the 18th century, Oban was a tiny settlement supporting localised fishing and farming with a few thatched cottages surrounding the bay. However, the village began to flourish when the whisky distillery was founded in 1794, followed by the development of a busy port, which shipped slate, whisky, wool and kelp to Glasgow and Liverpool. In 1809, Oban became the headquarters of a militia regiment and continued to host various military units for years to come. During the same period, Sir Walter Scott visited the burgh and re-published his 'Lord of the Isles' poem, stimulating more interest in the town and attracting a gradually increasing stream of tourists.

Abundant tourism has continued to this day, aided by the opening of the railway station for the West Highland Line in 1880 and the continued demand for the ferry terminal where boats sail to the Isle of Mull and the many Hebridean islands. As you wander through this attractive town enjoy relaxing in one of the many cafes or perhaps visit some of the attractions including the Oban Distillery, the Waterfront Centre, the scrumptious Chocolate factory or the War and Peace Museum. You won't fail to notice the iconic landmark standing high above the town. This is McCaig's Folly, which was built by a local banker in 1897 and provided employment for local stonemasons. McCaig hoped it would also provide a lasting monument to his beloved family - however it was never finished! If you feel like a climb and want to take that special holiday photograph, views from the folly are magnificent.

Whatever you decide to do in Oban, you will thoroughly enjoy your time here. Soak up the atmosphere of this busy hub, stroll along the waterfront to the cry of the seagulls, admire the colourful fishing fleet anchored in the harbour and watch the ferries come and go from the port carrying travellers to adventures further afield. In the mid-afternoon you will board the coach and return to your hotel looking forward to some relaxation, dinner and evening entertainment.


Isle of Mull and Iona

Your bus will leave Loch Awe and travel through picturesque scenery to Oban, the Victorian tourist town surrounded by a beautiful bay, which is protected by the nearby Isle of Kerrera. Here you will catch the morning ferry to Mull, the fourth largest of all the Scottish islands. On a good day, you should venture on deck to view the magnificent Scottish scenery as you float past woodland, heath, crags and peaks. During your journey, look out for glimpses of Scotland's wildlife such as deer, otter, eagles and seals as you weave through the islands of Kerrera and Lismore. Landing at the hamlet of Craignure on Mull, you will board your coach and travel through the glorious island countryside and glimpse stunning sandy beaches shining in the sun or maybe shrouded in mysterious mist. Mull is a haven for wildlife watching and peaceful relaxation while offering travellers panoramic views of cliffs, green mountain slopes and rippling seas. After half-an-hour you will arrive at the pretty harbour of Fionnphort at the tip of the Ross of Mull renowned for the quarrying of dense pink and red granite used for buildings needing strong stone, like lighthouses and bridges.

It is here that your appreciation of the area's ancient heritage begins. Iona is the symbol of Scottish Christianity and it is thanks to the monk, St Columba and his 13 followers who founded a monastery here in 563 that the island has become respected as a place of worship and pilgrimage for many centuries. The abbey that we can see today is from a later era, though archaeology has revealed evidence of a monastic enclosure that would have surrounded a small settlement with a timber church and huts in which the monks would have lived and worked in silent, secluded meditation. Columba died in 597 and his monastery became a centre of pilgrimage for important individuals, most notably some of the great kings of Alba. Over the centuries, Iona's importance fluctuated until in 1200, a great abbey and St Ronan's Nunnery were built, though they were later abandoned and fell into disrepair. For a further 400 years the settlement lay in ruins until an Ecumenical Christian group called the 'Iona Community' began to restore the abbey in 1938 and now welcomes visitors from around the globe.

Following in the footsteps of thousands of pilgrims, relax in the peace, tranquillity and inspiring scenery of Iona. Enjoy the walled gardens and wander through the historic buildings remembering the history of all that has gone before. In the afternoon, return to your hotel knowing you have had an unforgettable journey to a place steeped in never-ending history.


Cruachan Power Station and Inveraray

Your coach will start its journey near the magical 15th century Kilchurn Castle on the shores of Loch Awe, the longest freshwater loch in Scotland measuring 25 miles long. You will pass the intriguing St. Conan's Kirk, built in the 1930s by Walter Campbell. The original church was a small building begun in 1881, but Campbell wanted to make his mark and managed to design an attractive and eclectic church that blends numerous different styles of ecclesiastical architecture and now stands proudly overlooking the loch.

You will soon notice the Cruachan Power Station. Built between 1959 and 1965, it is an amazing example of Scottish engineering. It was opened by Queen Elizabeth II and carried water-powered electricity from the Scottish wilderness to Glasgow's city centre. Originally, Cruachan was the highest head-reversible pump power station in the world. Nowadays, it can produce electricity for the grid within two minutes if its turbines are already primed. The power station was built into the hollowed-out rock of Ben Cruachan, sometimes called the 'Hollow Mountain'. It collects water from Loch Awe and from the surrounding hills in its storage reservoir located part way up the mountain. At times of peak demand the water is released from the reservoir and flows through the station's turbines to generate electricity.

You will enjoy the guided tour that starts from the Visitor Centre. Hear the legend of the 'Old Hag of the Ridges' who was the guardian of the fountain that welled up from the peak of Ben Cruachan forming Loch Awe. The tour will take you on a bus one kilometre inside the excavated mountain cavern that stands as tall as the Tower of London! Next you pass through the visitors' walkway to admire the sub-tropical plants that flourish in the humid conditions inside the mountain. The viewing gallery will showcase the Generating Hall housing the four generators used to produce this hydro-electricity, which is available to Glasgow homes at the flick of a switch.

In the afternoon, your bus tour continues through the narrow Glen Aray, following the valley eroded by the River Aray that empties into the head of Loch Fyne at Inveraray. Pass the wee settlements of Tullich, Ladyfield, Drimfern, Sallachry and High Balantyre and keep an eye out for soaring Buzzards and perhaps even a Pine Martin. Arriving in Inveraray, you will be met by a picturesque tourist centre on the shores of Loch Fyne. In 1745, the powerful Clan Campbell built their ancestral home here, Inveraray Castle, which is still the home of the Duke and Duchess of Argyll. Visit the magnificent Castle and admire its modern, baroque, Palladian and Gothic-style architecture while gaining an insight into the heritage of the Clan Campbell. Wander through the black-and-white painted streets of Inveraray and visit the many gift shops while viewing the panoramic mountainous landscape surrounding the loch. You could also visit the renowned Inveraray Jail, a living museum where real people portray life in a 19th century prison. You can even interact with the costumed characters, watch courtroom trials or visit the tiny cells in which 'inmates' tell you about their prison ordeals.

As the day draws to a close, your coach will take you back to the comfort of your hotel - with rooms slightly more luxurious than those cells in Inveraray Jail! Enjoy good food and inspiring views while reflecting on the wonders of Scottish hydro-engineering, Scotland's stunning countryside and the many attractions you enjoyed in the photogenic Inveraray.


Tighnabruaich and Dunoon (6, 7 & 8 Day Holiday Only)

Leaving the hotel on Loch Awe, this coach trip will glimpse the hidden secrets of the Clyde Sea Lochs and Kyles of Bute. Soon you will reach the beautiful and remote eastern shore of Loch Fyne. Reminiscent of the Norwegian fjords, Loch Fyne stretches 65 km inland from the Sound of Bute and is the longest and deepest sea loch in Scotland. It was formed after the last ice age in Scotland nearly 1,000 years ago. When the glaciers retreated, the sea levels rose and flooded the lower land of the U-shaped valley of Glen Fyne, which had also been carved out by a mighty glacier. For many years, Loch Fyne has sustained a fishing industry with its famous oysters, as well as herring, salmon, crab, prawns, mackerel, haddock and cod. While your bus gently glides along the shore, look out for birds of prey swooping through the sky or, from June to August, basking shark feeding on plankton in the deep waters. You may even catch sight of the many divers who come to Loch Fyne to search out their underwater marine treasures including starfish, brilliantly-coloured sponges and sea squirts.

Dotted along the edge of the shore you will notice white croft cottages and ruined castles - a glimpse of past lives that once thrived and fought on these shores - and finally you will reach the charming Tighnabruaich on 'Argyll's Secret Coast'. This pretty village is popular for sailing and yachting and is famed for its tremendous views of the isles of Rothesay and Arran. Continuing north in this breathtaking area you will drive by Lochs Ridden and Striven, passing Auchenbreck Wood and near to the remains of Auchenbreck Castle dating to 1610 - once the residence of Sir Duncan Campbell. Once past Loch Tarsan, your coach trip will finally weave its way through heather and moor towards the Holy Loch, Loch Long and Dunoon.

Dunoon is the largest town in Argyll and showcases impressive villas built in the early 19th century, which were followed by grand hotels for the discerning Victorian tourist. Dunoon pier was built in 1835 and fleets of paddle steamers brought holiday makers "doon the watter" from Glasgow; the pier still welcomes the last surviving ocean-going paddle steamer, the Waverly. There was once a castle at Dunoon, which was a major stronghold and originally built in the 11th century but it was abandoned by 1650 and nothing remains of it but a few grassy lumps on top of the hill that juts out into the Holy Loch; though it offers excellent views over the town to the Firth of Clyde. The Holy Loch was the home port of a major US Navy submarine squadron, which helped to support the economy of the area before closing in 1992.

As your day draws to a close, your bus trip will take you north from Dunoon past the famous arboretum at Benmore Botanic Gardens featuring some of the tallest trees in Britain including an avenue of Giant Redwoods reaching over 37 m high! Passing the tranquil Loch Eck, you will travel through the Argyll Forest Park to the village of Strachur and once more touch the glinting shores of Loch Fyne. Returning to the hotel on Loch Awe, your memories of this coach trip and the mystical views over the Kyles of Bute will remain with you for ever…


Fort William, Glencoe and Rannoch Moor (7 & 8 Day Holiday Only)

After breakfast, your coach will leave Loch Awe travelling near Historic Scotland's Bonawe charcoal blast furnace. This furnace was established in 1752 by a Cumbrian ironmaster who brought in iron from northern England and then used the extensive woodland of Argyll to guarantee him an almost endless supply of charcoal; the furnace employed over 600 people in its heyday.

Climbing to the wilderness flats of Rannoch Moor, you may pass deer and native Caledonian Pine - and possibly glimpse a kilted bagpiper too! The famous moor is pitted with deep, dark bogs and covered in rare plants and flowers. Your bus will follow the route of General Wade's military road, which was built for the British army during the Jacobite Uprisings in the 18th century. Notice the white walls of the remote King's House Hotel in an idyllic setting and thought to be one of Scotland's oldest licensed inns, originally built in the 17th century. The hotel was sited at the head of Glen Coe for travellers crossing the uninviting Rannoch Moor and was later used as barracks for the Crown forces under the command of the Duke of Cumberland.

Eventually, you will pass into the narrow Glencoe - the location of battles between the Clans MacDonald and Campbell, which culminated in the infamous bloody massacre. However, it is the glen's thrilling beauty that will take your breath away as you journey towards the bridge at Ballachulish at the mouth of Loch Leven. Finally you will reach Fort William where you will have the option of lunching at our recently-modernised Highland Hotel, a true Victorian retreat. The historic garrison town and modern outward-bound centre of Fort William is squeezed between Loch Linnhe and the highest mountain in Britain, Ben Nevis. Your coach tour now gives you the option of experiencing the Nevis Range mountain gondola system, the only one of its kind in Britain. It was originally constructed on the mountain of Aonach Mor as a way of transporting skiers to the snow-capped slopes, but now all can enjoy this exhilarating 15-minute ascent while viewing Scotland in panorama with views far over the ocean to the Inner Hebrides!

After breathing the clear Scottish mountain air of the Nevis Range, your journey returns south from Fort William hugging the shores of Loch Linnhe and passing the wee Corran Ferry. Travelling on, you pass the forests of Glen Duror and Barcaldine comprising numerous gorges, crashing waterfalls, shadowy trails and an interesting mix of broadleaf and conifer woods as well as some gigantic firs and ancient oak wood. On past Loch Creran and the attractive Isle of Lismore the bus will finally reach the Connel Bridge east of Oban, which crosses Loch Etive as it narrows on its approach to the Firth of Lorne and the open sea. The name comes from the Scottish Gaelic for 'rough water' seen now at the Falls of Lora, a rocky shelf causing spectacular rapids during parts of the tide cycle. Travelling along Loch Etive to your hotel on Loch Awe, try to spot the colony of Common Seals resident in these waters and know that the 13th century St Modan's Priory lies across the loch in which, it is said, Robert the Bruce held a parliament; the last in which Gaelic was the language spoken. Arrive finally at Loch Awe and rest, remembering your day filled with inspiring beauty and unique Scottish memories.