Winter break ideas on Scotland's west coast
Islay and Jura
Islay is world-famous for winter-migrating birds. Just like humans, they stay a short time to rest, enjoy the islands then once recharged continue their journey. Islay has excellent beaches, from Saligo bay on the Atlantic coast to the Singing Sands in the south, which are offer amazing peace and tranquility. And of course, the brilliant range of distilleries are perfect for warming cockles on a brisk winter's day. For rural bliss and winter walks a trip to Machir Bay is a must.
A day trip on Mull and Iona
Get out of dodge for the day with a delightful trip over to Mull and Iona. Mull's lochs, glens and bright sandy bays provide a sense of calm and a snapshot of how beautiful Scotland really is. A short ferry ride and you will be in Iona - the burial place of early Scottish Kings including MacBeth and home to white beaches and clear turquoise waters. The abbey offers guided tours but be sure to book this in advance as limits on the number of visitors per tour have been introduced to keep everyone safe.
Wildlife on the west coast
Winter sees Scotland's bountiful wildlife come alive.
In Arran, look at the top of the crags where the snowy ridges meet the skyline for these majestic birds of prey. Lochranza is also great for red deer as they come right down into the village in winter and hang around by rugged Lochranza Castle. If you are very lucky you might even catch sight of the elusive 'white stag'.
Red deer can also be spotted in Mull, as well as porpoises and dolphins from the ferry on the way over.
Whilst on Islay & Juraduring the autumn and winter months, it won't be hard to spot geese - up to 7000 of them in fact! Around sunset wherever you are on the island you cannot miss them as huge flocks swirl around set against the stunning big winter Hebridean skies.
Arguably one of the best beaches in the world, Luskentyre is just as magnificent when you're wrapped up warm with your wellies on in winter as it is in summer when it looks like a tropical paradise. The unspoilt landscapes and panoramic seaviews create an otherworldly atmosphere, which is a million miles away from city life.
Portavadie Spa & Leisure
Set amongst beautiful lochs and rolling hills, Cowal & Dunoon is a peaceful haven perfect for a pampering break on the west coast. Sail in with CalMac and let their team of professional therapists revive your mind and body back to state of constant chill.
ASPA at the Auchrannie Resort, Arran
Indulge in island relaxation on an elegant escape to Arran. This idyllic spot is ideal to forget about the stresses and strains of modern life. The ASPA is based within the Auchrannie Resort - home of 4-star accommodation, restaurants, a shop, leisure clubs and an outdoor adventure centre. It's time well spent.
Bridgend Woods, Islay
Situated in the centre of this beautiful 'horse-shoe' shaped island, Bridgend woods is the perfect place to enjoy an afternoon with the kids. It can get a bit muddy so bring your wellies, and if the kids have their bikes bring them too - the roads are forest track so great for cycling.
There are lots of inroads, so no real defined route although there is good parking in Islay House Square or beside Bridgend Hotel (tea and cakes anyone?), so either of these places are a great place to start your winter woodland adventure.
Don't forget to... find the old rope swings which have been enjoyed by local children for years.
Balnakailly Woodland, Bute
The Balnakailly Loop is a short woodland walk around the north of the beautiful island of Bute. Walk the loop anti-clockwise from the Rhubodach - Colintraive ferry crossing by heading north through the gate, across the field and take the stile into the woodland.
This 4-mile round walk is the perfect way to spend a chilly winter's afternoon - take in the nature and wildlife, as well as spectacular views of the Kyles of Bute.
Don't forget to... take a diversion just after the turning circle, to the right of the sign posts through some uneasy ground to the WW2 bunker where you will see the mesmerising views of the Kyles of Bute.