Food for the soul on Scotland's west coast
The last few months of the year are always a special time here in Scotland, and particularly so on the west coast. Nature provides a feast for all the senses. Read on for inspiration on how the outdoors, in this part of the world - and in yours too - are food for the soul and the perfect antidote to a challenging year.
We are lucky that the landscapes of the west coast of Scotland are always extraordinary and offer something different each season.
Since one fifth of the country is covered in trees, the later months of the year are particularly special - the golden autumn hues on the hillside are so enjoyable to see, and they then give way to the prominence of towering evergreens in the winter months.
Exploring stunning woodland trails is a beautiful way to recharge the batteries. On the island of Arran - less than an hour's ferry ride from the mainland - there are several trails to enjoy and similar to other forests in this part of the world, you'll able to lose yourself in the surroundings as well as the fascinating stories about the past. On Arran they can feature everything from prehistoric chambered cairns to remnants of the Clearances.
On the Cowal Peninsula, the Benmore Botanic Gardens is known as 'Argyll's magnificent mountainside garden'. It's 7 miles north of Dunoon and a brief ferry ride from Gourock on the Clyde. Up until November, you can walk through 'Redwood Avenue' - the stunning entrance to the gardens, which is lined with towering 150-year-old giant Redwood trees. From there, you can explore the garden's 120 acres featuring world famous plants from the Himalayas to the Americas, all planted and grown as if they were in their natural habitat.
You can hear from the curator of Benmore Botanic Gardens in our 'Bringing the Islands to you' film series - as he shares the spectacular views and learning experiences you can have from a visit to Benmore. The film also features Ailidh Lennon from Iona - a chef, weaver and gardener about how she and her neighbours have developed their own community garden at home - a source of both food and wellbeing.
As the year closes, nature also puts on some spectacular light shows. Here on the west coast we can catch a coastal sunrise on the islands. Less daylight hours means they're a little later, and perhaps easier to see since you don't have to rise so early. Cooler air and misty mornings make them even more dramatic.
Further north, the coast is also a particularly good location for a lightshow of a different kind - the Aurora Borealis. On the same latitude as parts of Norway and Alaska means that when the conditions are right, places like the northern edge of Skye or neighbouring Raasay are
among the best places to catch the spectacular Northern Lights on a cold, clear evening. Once seen, never forgotten!
Research has shown that spending time in wildlife rich environments is a good mood booster. Scotland's west coast is the best location to see and hear some of the country's most renowned species. Autumn and Winter are a busy time for some animals, and there's more chance of seeing them when there may be less of us humans around.
In Autumn, during the rutting season, you might hear stags roar on the hillsides. The Isle of Rum is a popular destination for spotting deer throughout the year.
Islands like Islay, Jura and Mull are a wildlife lover's paradise. Otters and seals will frequent the hundreds of miles of coastline you have to explore, and on Islay, in addition to visiting Barnacle Geese arriving during autumn for their own seasonal holiday from the harsher Norwegian climate, there will be a spectacular gathering of water birds.
Nature certainly saves the best for last. Autumn and Winter in the outdoors in this part of the world - and in yours too - are food for the soul and the perfect antidote to a challenging year. Relax, recharge and enjoy the sights, tastes and sounds of the season.
It's certainly been a different year for everyone, and where travel is concerned, there's a few extra considerations we all need to make. We are delighted to bring more of you back to the islands - and when you travel with us, we'd encourage you to plan ahead and be prepared:
If you're travelling on our bookable routes - reserve your tickets in advance.
If you need accommodation, don't travel without confirmation.
Follow all our safer travel guidance to help keep the islands and one another safe.
Be in the know before you go. Read up on how your destination is handling the response to the COVID19 and find out what arrangements are in place locally.