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Five Autumn Highlights with Robin McKelvie

Arran in Autumn


As autumn unfurls with its falling leaves and darker nights it can be tempting to join some of Scotland's wildlife and start hibernating for the winter. Hibernate, though, and you miss out on a slew of CalMac destinations that really come into their own during this spectacular season.

When the leaves start burning with fiery oranges, reds and yellows, the summer crowds ease, leaving the isles for you to explore at your leisure. Some of Scotland's most interesting wildlife is at its best in autumn, other isles tempt with cosy dram filled pubs and others have Michelin star restaurants for a foodie treat. There is a world of autumn fun out there for you. What are you waiting for? Join me now for 5 toe warming, spirit soaring autumn experiences...


1. Wildlife Safari on Mull

Autumn is a great time to take a wildlife safari break on the Inner Hebridean Isle of Mull. It is best known perhaps for its marine wildlife with its waters rich with porpoises, dolphins and whales. The basking sharks may just have left, but plenty of their marine mammal cousins are still around. In the skies you can look out for golden eagles and their even bigger cousins, sea eagles. This is a great time of year too for spotting the UK's largest land mammal, the mighty red deer, as they come down to the lower slopes as the frosts arrive. You can hear their bloodcurdling rutting cries only in autumn.

2. Chill Out on Arran

Arran for me is the chill and pamper capital of the Firth of Clyde. It starts from the moment you board the ferry and enjoy steak pie made with Arran Ale and a wee dram from the Isle of Arran Distillery (watch out for their second distillery next year!). The best base for a chillax is the Auchrannie Resort . They have a full-blown health spa here, complete with myriad treatments, as well as two swimming pools. Swirl in a gentle wave of bracing seaside strolls and a swathe of places to eat and drink and Arran really stacks up for a relaxing autumn getaway.

Autumnal deer in Lochranza (3) Arran Ferry

3. Christmas Tweed Shopping

The Outer Hebridean island of Harris is famous for its locally made Harris Tweed. All genuine Harris Tweed must have been produced in the Outer Hebrides (which is monitored by the Harris Tweed Authority ). It is a real high quality product you cannot find made elsewhere and it makes for a really special Christmas present. You can visit a number of wee galleries and independent weavers. In Tarbert near the ferry terminal I like Harris Tweed , which stocks a wide range of eye-catching treats. My two wee daughters are big fans! For my Harris CalMac blog click here.

4. Foodie Break on Skye

Skye, the largest of the Inner Hebrides, is rapidly emerging as a real foodie hub. It is home to the only Michelin restaurant in the Hebrides, Kinloch Lodge. I love Marcello Tully's cooking here - you can take a cooking course too if you want some of his skills to brush off on you. The Three Chimneys may have lost its Michelin star last year, but it deserves to get it back under superb chef Scott Davies. A rising star is Calum Munro at his tiny Scorrybreac. Book early for a table here. The island capital of Portree is home to a number of cosy pubs serving hearty food, while the Stein Inn the oldest inn on the island, lies in a gorgeous spot in the waterfront village of Stein.

5. Whisky Galore on islay

If you love whisky, no, I mean really love whisky then there is only one island for you. Islay is Scotland's undisputed whisky island with no fewer than eight whisky distilleries crammed on to one gorgeous wee island. There is the smoky southern trio of Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Laphroaig, while the island capital is home to Bowmore and Bruichladdich lies just across Loch Indaal. Inland lies tiny Kilchoman, while the wild east coast tops things off with Caol Ila and the one no one spell (trying reading this then looking away and spelling it!) Bunnahabhain. This is the perfect time to visit without the crowds. Many of the distilleries offer tours and have well stocked shops too, where you can often pick up a bottle that you cannot buy anywhere else. This would make the ideal Christmas pressie for whisky devotees!

Robin enjoying a tasting at Bowmore Islay traffic jam 

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I've written a few more blogs for CalMac that may help you plan your day trip adventures so feel free to check these out.

Bio: Robin McKelvie has been travelling on Scottish ferries ever since he was a wee boy and writing about them and the places they serve since he became a travel writer in 1997. Robin has travelled to over 100 countries, but still rates Scotland 'as easily my favourite destination in the world'. These days, as well as penning travel articles for newspapers and magazines across five continents, Robin also writes guidebooks, does a lot of social media and also talks travel for the BBC. He also blogs about Scotland for multiple websites. 

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