20 Top West Coast Picks for 2020
It's the start of a new decade, the beginning of a new year and to mark it we would like to share with you our top twenty picks for 2020 on Scotland's West Coast.
1. The Year of Coast and Waters
2020 - the beginning of a new decade and a very special new year as we celebrate Visit Scotland's Year of Coasts and Waters.
At CalMac, we are privileged to operate in and around the waters of the West Coast of Scotland and we're excited to herald in 2020 and with it, the opportunity to celebrate what makes this part of the world so special - our coasts and waters. Look out for the extended annual or one-off events and activities taking place throughout the year celebrating the Year of Coasts and Waters.
2. Ferry Tales
For instance, as part of the year long celebration we'll be supporting the National Theatre of Scotland's Ferry Tales production alongside EventScotland. They'll be performing some pop-up theatre events on a selection of our routes, celebrating the waters and the voyages across them made by locals, workers and visitors throughout the years.
3. West Coast Waters
West Coast Waters Scotland 2020 is bound to be another highlight on this year's calendar. It's designed to tie in with Visit Scotland's Year of Coasts and Waters and will shine a light on all the ways you can immerse your senses in Scotland's West Coast. The project has been designed to offer you ways to see the sights, hear the sounds, taste the produce and experience nature in around the waters and coastline of the West Coast. Look out for Baton Relay events, a Scavenger Hunt trail and incredible ways to explore the history and heritage of destinations all across the West Coast.
This year, you can design your own Island-Hopping adventure with one of our Hopscotch tickets - built to allow you to island hop from one port to another at your own pace. There's a fantastic variety of options on offer including whisky themed hopscotch routes taking in the world-famous whisky regions of Kintyre and Islay, or the newest distilleries on Skye and Raasay.
5. Call the Midwife!
If you enjoyed some festive TV viewing this year including BBC1's Call the Midwife Christmas Special, you might fancy a multi-destination break to its setting on the Outer Hebrides - a stunning location at any time of the year, and our Hopscotch tickets will allow you to island hop over to, and all along the archipelago.
6. Pedal Power
Perhaps 2020 is the year you'll test yourself by cycling the Hebridean Way on the same archipelago - pedalling from one beautiful island to the other, surrounded by extraordinary scenery, beautiful beaches and amazing wildlife - all on the edge of the mighty Atlantic Ocean.
For something a little more leisurely, but just as beautiful, take yourself off to the Isle of Great Cumbrae nestled in the Firth of Clyde, and just a short ferry ride from Largs. At just four miles long, by two miles wide, the island offers a leisurely 10 mile cycle route, and the bike is the perfect way to take in views of Arran, Bute and Ailsa Craig.
This year, CalMac is partnering with some of the best tourism operators and attractions on the West Coast to create a brilliant selection of memorable day trips. One of the options includes a trip through the majestic island of Mull to Iona - a unique location in Scottish History. Come with us to see the beautiful scenery of Mull before exploring Iona - the cradle of Christianity in Scotland, known for its Abbey and its role as the burial place of Ancient Scottish, Irish and even Norwegian Kings.
9. Capture the magic of Staffa
As part of our CalMac Adventures range you can also visit the magical island of Staffa - an uninhabited Hebridean island, home to Fingal's cave - a cavern formed entirely of basalt columns, a wonder of the earth and the inspiration for Mendelssohn's 'Hebrides Overture'.
10. Explore Britain's only island country park
Mark the new decade with a trip to Brodick Castle, Garden and Country Park - the only island country park in Britain. The recently refurbished castle dates back to the mid nineteenth century, but the seat itself is centuries old and the ancient home of the Dukes of Hamilton. The castle is home to fascinating artefacts as a result. The country park offers ten miles of trails, and the chance to spot wonderful wildlife - including all of Scotland's Big 5 - red deer, red squirrels, otters, seals and golden eagles.
11. Rothesay Pavilion Reawakens
2020 is the year that Rothesay Pavilion will re-emerge from its multi million renovation. One of only a few Bauhaus inspired buildings built in the international modernist styles in the UK, and one of Scotland's favourite structures, it's a must see when you sail to the beautiful island of Bute. However, the island's architectural prowess doesn't stop there - it's also home to the exquisite Mount Stuart House and Gardens, a breath-taking Victorian Gothic Mansion with a unique story of its own.
12. A cultural treat
The West Coast of Scotland hosts numerous festivals throughout the year - each one perfectly showcasing their unique locations, as well as their subjects. Tiree's Music Festival has marked its first decade, and HebCelt on the Outer Hebrides will celebrate its 25th year in 2020. The tiny island of Colonsay enjoys a celebration or two - and each year holds a book festival, a festival of spring, a food and drink festival and a folk festival. This year, enjoy one of the many cultural treats the island have to offer.
13. Stretch yourself
Like its festivals, the islands of the West Coast love to host endurance events and competitions, with entrants traveling from far and wide to take part in races of all sorts set against impressive backdrops. Will 2020 be the year you run the Barrathon - Barra's Half Marathon, cycle the Mull Sportive, take on the St Kilda Challenge or run, bike and kayak The Heb - a race on the edge through The Hebrides?
14. Visit Britain's westernmost point
Many assume that the westernmost point on the British mainland lies in Cornwall. It's actually located on a remote headland in Ardnamurchan, in the Western Highlands. It's an impressive spot to visit - wild yet peaceful, and certainly stunning. Nearby, you can take the ferry over to the island of Mull, or travel from here up to Skye and beyond - perhaps it's a potential stop on a 2020 island hopping adventure?
15. Trail of Whales
As we mentioned, 2020 is the year where we celebrate Scotland's Year of Coasts and Waters. It's fitting to pick up the Hebridean Whale Trail - a trail of 30 unique sites across the West Coast, known for their popularity amongst dolphins and whales. It includes the most westerly point in Ardnamurchan and neighbouring Mull - and stretches up to the Outer Hebrides, and down to the Southern Hebrides and the Clyde. Incredible.
16. Wild time on deck
Perhaps this year you'll join one of the sailings where you can meet our wildlife officer who frequents our routes throughout Spring and Summer. We're privileged to operate in what is one of the world's most diverse marine environments and our wildlife officer will be delighted to tell you all about the mammals, bird and plant life you might see during your time on the West Coast.
The island of Eigg - part of the Small Isles archipelago - is home to the world's first community to launch an off grid renewable electricity system, having previously been reliant on diesel generators. This year, take the train along the historic West Highland Line to Mallaig and then set sail for the Small Isles. Hire a bike or kayak - the best ways to explore Eigg, and its neighbouring islands - with their unspoiled beautiful beaches and views.
18. Feed your passion for produce
The striking unspoilt landscapes of the West Coast delivers an incredible supply of local produce. This year, indulge in the world-class restaurants of the Isle of Skye and beyond, or explore the Eat Drink Hebrides Trail and the Mull and Iona Food Trail - both self-guided journeys leading you to some of the best places to taste the best of the West.
19. Trace the past
The West Coast is steeped in history. You'll find traces of the past all over the area. It has a wonderful collection of castles - but look closer in 2020 and travel even further back in time to find the Standing Stones of Machrie Moor on Arran, to Raasay's Iron Age Dun Borodale Broch, Mull's Bronze Age Burial Cairns, or even Skye's dinosaur footprints near Staffin.
20. What are you waiting for?
Every journey starts a story. Let's begin yours - filled with wildlife, scenery, history, heritage, food, drink, outdoor adventure, culture and celebration.
We hope to see you aboard in 2020.