As an exiled Scot living in the South of England, whenever I have a yearning for Scotland I love to escape for a short break on the Island of Arran and then on to Glen Coe. Within an hour of arriving at Glasgow Airport you can be at Ardrossan for the short ferry crossing to Brodick with Caledonian MacBrayne. I base myself at Altachorvie, the HF country house in Lamlash, on the east coast. There is nothing better than to sit in the peaceful gardens watching the red squirrels and soaking up the superb views across Lamlash Bay over to Scotland's own Holy Isle (which you can visit).
HF offers guided walking holidays so even if you have booked only b&b you can join one of their groups for the day, with an expert guide. The most challenging walk, and my particular favourite, is to the top of Goatfell, at 874m Arran's highest point, with magnificent views over the Firth of Clyde. A visit to Brodick Castle, with its fine collections of furniture, paintings, porcelain and silver, is a must and I recommend stopping off at the Arran Aromatics Visitor Centre where they make fragrant natural toiletries. Arran offers so many options for a superb outdoor holiday - sea kayaking, gorge-walking, mountain biking, horse-riding and golf, so if you like the outdoors, this is for you.
After relaxing at Lamlash for a couple of days I drive to Lochranza in the north of Arran to take the CalMac ferry to the Mull of Kintyre (remember the Paul McCartney song?) and join the A83 road to Oban via Tarbert and Lochgilphead, over the famous Rest-And-Be-Thankful pass (you will understand the name when you get there!). Take your time, because the scenery is absolutely stunning. En route from Oban to Ballachulish stop off at Castle Stalker in Loch Linnhe to enjoy one of the most famous views in Scotland - it appears on many calendars. I base myself at HF's flagship Scottish property - Alltshellach Country House. Surrounded by towering mountains it has stunning views over Loch Leven - even from the indoor swimming pool!
On my last visit I opted to walk part of the West Highland Way. This is a long-distance route from Glasgow to Fort William, but you do not need to walk the whole way, because there are several parts where you can do short stretches. This area really is a walker's paradise, with so many options to enjoy mountain scenery at its best. Glen Coe, one of Scotland's most dramatic glens and famous for the massacre of the Macdonalds in 1694, has 49 miles of footpath; visit the National Trust for Scotland's Glencoe Visitor Centre for expert advice on walks and weather conditions. On my next visit I plan to walk to the top of Ben Nevis, Britain's highest mountain at 1344m and will join HF's guided walk to benefit from the knowledge and experience of their expert leaders, because then I will learn more. Enjoy Arran and Glen Coe when you come - I always do.
Exiled Scot and Marketing Consultant