Easter family holidays on the west coast and islands
The west coast and islands are the best place for family holidays - here's why
Whether you like to head to the beach or race the kids to the top of a mountain, the west coast islands are perfect for a family break. And the best bit? Boarding the ferry, car packed full, teddies pressed up against the rear window, and the little ones rushing up on deck to watch the mainland disappear in the frothy wake.
But how do you choose which destination? Arran, Bute and the Cowal peninsula are within easy reach of Glasgow and Edinburgh - but head a bit further and you'll get the full delights of Mull, Islay, or Skye. There's plenty to see and do, and it's the perfect time to visit: the days are getting longer, but the midges haven't woken up yet. So get packed, and get booked: here are a few ideas to get you started with your family holiday on the west coast this Easter.
Arran for the best of everything
Set the kids free on Arran: give them a net and a bucket and send them rockpooling on the beach for an afternoon, or pedal out on mountain bikes in search of the island's muddiest trails. Not brought the bikes with you? Hire them from Arran Adventures or the Arran Outdoor Education Centre - where you can also book a bit of kayaking, archery, sailing, gorge walking, and climbing.
If you're on Arran for the Easter weekend, don't miss the Easter egg hunt at Brodick Castle - the National Trust's bunny has been up to his usual tricks, and it's down to your kids to track down those chocolatey treats.
There's lots of wildlife to see on Arran - especially in the spring, when everything's coming back to life. From the ferry, make sure everyone's watching out for dolphins and porpoises. And when you're on the island there are otters, eagles, and seals to spot - as well as little red squirrels and the huge red deer that roam freely over the moors in the north.
Bute and Portavadie for Easter egg hunts and beach picnics
With its winning combination of picnic spots, wildlife, and a grand Victorian Gothic mansion, Bute is ideal for a quick family getaway. If you arrive for Easter weekend, head straight to Mount Stuart for a monumental egg hunt and treasure trail through the mansion's grounds and rooms.
If you don't fancy the egg hunt, go for the extended house tour. You'll see all the public rooms plus a few extras that are normally off-limits, such as the swimming pool and the balcony.
Elsewhere on the island, take a picnic to Scalpsie Bay, and show the children how to sing to seals (they like it!) - and look out for the local cows that love to roam on the beach.
You can also catch the ferry from Rhubodach to Colintraive, and drive through the Cowal peninsula to Portavadie. Along the way you'll find breath-taking coastlines and some of the best - but least-visited - beaches on the west coast. Portavadie is a foodie's dream - stop off at the marina to sample some of the local seafood. You might even convince the little ones to try something a little more adventurous.
You don't need to book the ferry to Bute or Cowal in advance - just turn up, by your ticket at the port and go.
Mull and Iona for Balamory
Take the family to Mull for eagles, puffins, and otters - and for the pretty painted town of Tobermory, from the Balamory children's TV show. The ferry crossing from Oban to Mull is quick too: you can be in Craignure in only 45 minutes. That's enough time to enjoy a CalMac'n'Cheese - and then you've got 300 miles of dramatic coastline to explore.
Don't miss Tobermory, in the north - there's no prettier place to eat fish and chips on the harbour wall. Take the kids to Tobermory Chocolates for a full glut of Easter choccy - and then book onto one of the wildlife boat tours to go in search of the sea eagles, dolphins - even killer whales. Just keep those little hands out of the water!
Further south, you can park at Fionnphort and get the ferry to Iona for the day. Explore the history of Christianity in Scotland at Iona Abbey, built in 538AD - and see if you can spot Macbeth's grave in the churchyard.
Feeling sporty? There's the Bunessan fun run on 16 April - it's Easter themed, so don't be too serious about getting in the miles.
Skye for castles and the Cuillins
Roll off the ferry to Skye from Mallaig and your first stop should be Armadale Castle: there are woodlands to explore and dens to be made, as well as a museum and café. Drive north for Skye's unbeatable landscape: the Cuillin Range dominates the sky line. If the family isn't too keen on bagging the island's 12 Munros, there are plenty of shorter walks - try the Old Man of Storr, which is an adventure in itself. The view from the top of the craggy summit is spectacular.
Drop in at SEALL, Skye's cultural centre - with lots of live music and theatre throughout April. On 14 April (2pm at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig) there's a puppety animation festival, with captivating stories told through puppetry, physical theatre and music.
Islay for the best beaches and sea kayaking
It might be known for its whisky, but Islay has plenty for families too. Take the kids to the Singing Sands in the south, for the beach that makes an eerie sound in the wind. Saligo Bay in the north is one of the finest on the west coast: you could easily spend a day there, with a picnic. You can book wildlife-spotting boat trips too - with a good chance of seeing the local minke whales, basking sharks and seals.
Feeling a little more adventurous? Try a bit of sea kayaking - a half day lesson includes all the equipment and instruction, and it's a brilliant way to explore the coves and coastlines of the island. Then, if you're feeling really adventurous, you could always hop on the ferry to Jura, and explore the wild island of open moors and white-tailed eagles.
And that's just the start
How about spending Easter on Eigg? Aside from the Easter egg jokes, you could show the children how this little island is becoming self-sufficient - from renewable energy through to inspired community projects. Then take your little green warriors kayaking round the coast, or hop on the ferry to Muck or Rum. Go a little further than the Small Isles, and the Outer Hebrides are within reach - go for the stone circles, the Eriskay ponies, and the pristine machair dunes.
Wherever you choose to go for the holidays, we'll get you there - check our Timetables & fares to start planning. Easter eggs at the ready.