Top Places to Visit on the West Coast of Scotland

Top Places to Visit on the West Coast of Scotland

From Stranraer in the south to Durness in the north, the magnificent west coast of Scotland exudes wild beauty. Around three hundred miles long as the crow flies, the real distance tips into the thousands with every loch and bay, peninsula and windswept island. With each mile as unique and breathtaking as the last, discovering the endless beauty and scenic swathes of the coastline promises unending appeal.

To whisk away on a fairytale sojourn and uncover mountain-framed lochs, ancient castles and picturesque seaside towns, venture to some of the top places to visit on Scotland’s west coast. From hidden glens to wildflower fens, here is our curated guide.

Galloway Forest Park

The Milky Way above Galloway Forest Park

Turn your attention to Galloway Forest Park to begin your west coast discovery. An extensive area of protected forest, the park covers three hundred square miles of wilderness and beckons for immersion in nature. Head over to one of the Forest Park’s three visitor centres at Clatteringshaws, Kirroughtree (known as the park’s gateway centre) or Glentrool. Whether you’re exploring on foot or by bike, Galloway Forest Park’s twenty-seven miles of waymarked paths and ribbons of world-class bike trails offer exhilarating adventure.

To satisfy culinary curiosity, make time to visit Portpatrick. Residing on the west coast just outside of the park, Portpatrick is adored for its pastel-hued houses and generous offering of places to eat and drink. Later, return to the forest by night for celestial enchantment and savour one of the most star-studded skies in the UK. A designated International Dark Sky Park, Galloway Forest Park was granted official status in 2009 and awarded a gold tier for its rare stargazing opportunities. Thanks to very low light pollution, over seven thousand stars and planets can be seen in the sky above Galloway on clear nights, as well as the Milky Way and Aurora Borealis.  

Loch Lomond & The Trossachs

The perfectly still waters of Loch Lomond

Loch Lomond & The Trossachs is a stunning National Park famous for its iconic beauty, wealth of wildlife, and array of things to do. Whether you are seeking peaceful lochside picnics, soul-stirring walks or simply the chance to surround yourself with untamed nature, this scintillating setting is just perfect. For a particularly unforgettable experience, you can take the opportunity to lace walking boots and summit Ben Lomond, Scotland’s most southerly Munro, from Loch Lomond. Over three thousand feet high, this bracken-brushed mountain promises a rewarding hike and affords gorgeous vistas over Loch Lomond along the way.  

Residing on the shores of the upper Firth of Clyde and the mouth of Loch Long, the picturesque town of Dunoon also awaits nearby. Surrounded by watery inlets and backed by rolling hills, this waterside haven on the Cowal Peninsula is one of the most beloved gateways to Loch Lomond. An important port home to a historic castle and Victorian pier, Dunoon is a wonderful destination for activity seekers, diners, shoppers and history lovers alike.


The Old Man of Storr above the sweeping landscapes of the Isle of Skye

The Hebrides is a seabound archipelago peppering the west coast of Scotland. Encompassing both the Inner Hebrides and Outer Hebrides, the archipelago is made up of hundreds of islands, each with their own distinct beauty and allure. Some inhabited, some uninhabited, and each sensationally wild, the islands of the Hebrides are home to some of the most beautiful places imaginable. From the multi-coloured houses of Tobermory on the Isle of Mull and the sea caves of Staffa, to the romantic remoteness of Ulva and Iona and the fairy glens of Skye, magic abounds.

Travel by ferry from Oban, Mallaig, Uig and Ullapool on the mainland’s west coast to reach the islands and revel in the Hebrides’ unparalleled magnetism. From walking along the Hebridean Way to wildlife watching to trying the best watersports, all manner of activities cater to all wilderness wishes. Particularly enticing, the Isle of Skye makes for a divine destination in the Hebrides and is connected to the mainland by bridge. The largest of the Inner Hebrides’ islands, it’s well-known for its towering mountains and wild swimming pools. Uncover its walks, castles and white-sand beaches before satiating your appetite with a visit to one of the island’s restaurants or distilleries.


A waterside view of Oban on the west coast of Scotland

For those looking for a touch of urban glamour during their wild escape, day trips to Oban fulfil staycation desires. A part of Argyll & the Isles, this seaside resort town on Scotland’s west coast has long been loved for its pretty seafront houses, rich history and local culture, and is also famed for its exquisite cuisine. Hailed as the Seafood Capital of Scotland, Oban’s restaurants and eateries serve some of the finest seafood feasts imaginable and use ingredients sourced fresh from local dayboats. Visit McCaig’s Tower for the best views over the town or make way to nearby Ganavan Sands for the most magical sunset spot. To take your Oban adventures slightly further afield, you can also catch the Calmac ferry from the Port of Oban across to the Isle of Mull.


A mountain road weaving through the mountainous Glencoe Valley

One of the most famous glens in Scotland, Glencoe is a place of otherworldly beauty. Set within Lochaber Geopark, it is formed of a deep valley hugged by striking mountains and shaped by millions of years of glacial and volcanic activity. These days, its sweeping peaks and ridges, verdant valley slopes, and idyllic coastline call to peace seekers and wayfarers alike. Embrace the opportunity to explore Lochaber, regarded as the Outdoor Capital of the UK, and uncover the silver-screen landscapes used as backdrops to James Bond: Skyfall and the Harry Potter film series.

For those seeking outdoor pursuits, then Munro hiking, mountain biking, sea kayaking and outdoor swimming are all activities that can be savoured here. Especially alluring, Glencoe Mountain Resort on Rannoch Moor offers both summer and winter activities. The oldest ski centre in Scotland, it is most famous for its skiing and snowboarding opportunities and is even home to the steepest black run in the UK. To adopt a more leisurely pace, follow the weaving network of streets around the village of Glencoe, making sure to pop into the Clachaig Inn. The site of Hagrid’s Hut in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, this charming inn has welcomed travellers for over three hundred years and serves a seasonal menu of wholesome repasts.

Fort William

Waterside views of the west coast town of Fort William

Should you be looking for an adventure of inspiring proportions, then turn your attention to Fort William. Known as the Gateway to Ben Nevis, this highland town is a dream destination for those wishing to climb the UK’s highest peak. Arrive in style at this lochside town and bask in the views across Loch Linnhe and the undulating summits of the Glen Nevis valley. Nearby, the Nevis Range Mountain Resort proposes snowsports and ski runs in winter, and forest trails and mountain biking in summer. For the best panoramas, there’s also a mountain gondola, the only one of its kind in the UK, that carries passengers up to the top of Aonach Mòr mountain for exceptional vistas.

To learn about local history, Fort William town centre is home to the West Highland Museum. Visit the museum on set days throughout the year, before venturing over to the nearby Ben Nevis Distillery for a tour. One of the oldest licensed distilleries in Scotland, this is certainly the place to learn about, and sample, craft malt whisky. To keep magic flowing, you can also take a ride from Glenfinnan Station across the Glenfinnan Viaduct. Travelling in the comfort of the station’s Jacobite steam train, this spellbinding journey leads you from Fort William all the way to Millaig in the north and showcases some of the country’s most awe-inspiring landscapes.


Eilean Donan Castle reflected in loch waters near Dornie, West Scotland

Exuding romantic seclusion, the former fishing village of Dornie is one of the top places to visit on Scotland’s west coast. Residing within the unspoilt realms of the western Ross-shire Highlands, it overlooks the waters of Loch Duich and Loch Alsh and is framed by snowcapped mountains in winter. Only a stone’s throw from Skye Bridge on the well-known Road to the Isles, it is an ideal base for exploring near and far. A particular highlight in the village itself is the iconic Eilean Donan Castle. One of the UK’s most recognisable castles, this thirteenth-century castle sits at the meeting point of three lochs and is adored for its breathtaking setting. Soak up the sights from the banks of the loch and photograph the castle reflected in the glassy water, before heading inside to discover a fascinating historical timetrap filled with Jacobean treasures.


Beautiful Kishorn views from Applecross in West Scotland

Follow the NC500 around Wester Ross for a bewitching way to see the highlights of the west coast, before wending your way to Kishorn. A collection of villages known as Achintraid, Ardarroch, Sanachan, and Courthill Chapel, Kishorn occupies a sublime aspect overlooking Loch Kishorn. Making your arrival even more striking, the mountain roads that cruise their way towards Kishorn include Bealach na Ba, one of the most popular, and most challenging, mountain passes for road cycling. While away the hours exploring Kishorn, before spending oceanside moments in the neighbouring beauty spots of Applecross and Plockton. A quaint idyll, Plockton is particularly renowned for its swaying palms, fishermen’s cottages, and sheltered harbour, and is often referred to as “the Jewel of the Highlands”.


Rua Reidh Lighthouse above the sea near Gairloch in Wester Ross

Presenting a picture-perfect vision of the Highlands in miniature, Gairloch in Wester Ross promises the kind of aesthetics to satisfy all wilderness escapism dreams. Ensconced in verdure and met by a sandy shore, this oceanside paradise sits within a sheltered bay and is shouldered by mist-shrouded mountains. Follow mountain paths, bathe under the sun on vast, salt-speckled beaches (nearby Big Sand is irresistible) and lose yourself to the phenomenal views across the Minch towards the Isle of Skye and the Hebrides. For a memorable putt, journey over to Gairloch Golf Club and practise your swing to a scenic backdrop of loch and mountain. Later, to indulge your culinary desires, take a seat at one of the local eateries and sample seasonal delicacies, along with a local tipple.


The picturesque fishing town of Ullapool with cottages overlooking the water

A gem in the West Coast crown, Ullapool is one of the best destinations for dreamlike reveries. A characterful fishing town that blends Scandinavian nuances and Scottish charm, it offers a year-round curation of things to see and do. Tread footsteps along mountain paths and coastal reaches and discover local attractions, such as Knockan Crag National Nature Reserve, Lael Forest Garden, and Corrieshalloch Gorge and the Falls of Measach. Hike under the sweeping shadows of golden eagles to the top of Stac Pollaidh mountain, or take a hamper to the slopes of Ullapool Hill for picnics and panoramas. For further enchantment, take the Caledonian MacBrayne from Ullapool to the Outer Hebrides and uncover unspoilt islands that captivate hearts and inspire lifelong memories.

Ready for a West Coast sojourn? Take a look at our luxury cottage collection in Scotland.


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