Set sail for adventure

Date published: 20 January 2020

Don’t stop at the dramatic backdrops and emotive scenery while cruising the coasts and lochs of Scotland – step ashore and continue the adventure!

Arriving by boat to some of the most beautiful and remote places the country can offer allows plenty opportunity for tranquil bucket-list experiences, from wild swimming to walking. On the other end of the extreme, nationally recognised events such as the Scottish Islands Peak Race, put crews to the test as they race not only under sail but also on foot, around towns, and up mountains! Somewhere in between, however, there are a host of locally organised events and adventure activities that you can participate in, all within close proximity to a marina, mooring or anchorage. Inspired by Mark Beaumont’s epic adventure taking part in 32 challenges in 12 days for the ‘Wild About Argyll’ campaign, here are some ideas on how you too can tap into your wild side once you tie up or drop anchor. You could even join up events to create your very own Sail-Athlon...

Join the Race

Imagine how smug you’d feel returning from a weekend break or holiday having ticked off a 10K or half marathon... Scotland boasts some of the most scenic running routes in the UK, which have won awards for good reason – from white sandy beaches and island views to laps around castles and up mountains, they’re worth the exertion!

  1. The TarbertTT10K, Loch Fyne, August - facebook.com/The-Tarbert-10K

Berth in the marina at Tarbert Harbour and step off the pontoons virtually at the start line. There’s a real community feel to this event, as it is organised entirely by two local girls, and refreshments and prizes are issued on the recreation area afterward.

  1. Mull of Kintyre Half Marathon and 10K, Campbeltown, May - mokrun.com

Campbeltown Marina is situated right in the town centre, so the event will be within easy walking distance. This is an extremely popular event due to the picturesque location and celebratory ceilidh that takes place afterwards - so book your spot in advance!

  1. The Kyles 10 Miles, Tighnabruaich, September - kyles10miles.co.uk

There are visitor moorings and a landing pontoon available in Tighnabruaich, and the route starts in the village, in front of The Royal Hotel. There are a range of local establishments on hand for refreshments once you cross the finish line.

  1. The Fell Race, Jura, May - jurafellrace.org.uk

On a slightly different league and not for the faint-hearted, this race takes in 7 mountain summits - including the paps! There are visitor moorings and a landing pontoon in Craighouse, with toilet and shower facilities available at the hotel.

Take a Hike

Take to nature and explore the great outdoors on foot, at your own pace, on one of many excellent walking routes around the region. No dates for the diary required, pack some appropriate footwear and you’ll witness the coastlines from a different perspective as you stretch those sea legs!

  1. The Kintyre Way - kintyreway.com

Berth in Tarbert Harbour and set off on the first section of the route to Skipness (11.5 miles), where you can end with a spot of late lunch at the Seafood Cabin. There is a local taxi available to take you back, or you can time your walk to coincide with the local bus and walk in the opposite direction. You could also sail down to Campbeltown Marina and base yourself there to take on sections 5 and 6!

  1. The West Island Way - westislandway.co.uk

Also broken up into manageable stages, this beautiful route round the Island of Bute offers a variety of landscapes, seashores, farmlands and forests. Berthing is available at Port Bannatyne, where 3 of the 4 stages start or end, and again local transport links are available.

  1. The Cowal Way - cowalway.co.uk

While berthed at the marina at Portavadie, tear yourself away from the luxurious spa facilities for a day and walk the gentle 6-mile section to Tighnabruaich, with views across the Kyles of Bute and past the Asgog Castle ruins. Be sure to check your tide tables though – this section can become impassable at high tide!

On your Bike

It’s not unusual to pedal your way to the pub once ashore, and there’s no doubt that it can make accessing provisions a little easier. In these instances, bike hire is offered at many marinas and pontoons these days, or through local businesses in the villages and towns. Foldable bikes are increasingly popular to keep on board and open up endless opportunities to explore – especially in more remote areas. The more adventurous sailor and experienced cyclist willing to invest time in preparation (and perhaps sacrifice the aft cabin!) could ride their way to personal victory at one of many cycling events across the region.  

  1. The Crinan Canal - crinancycles.co.uk

Known affectionately as ‘Britain’s prettiest shortcut’, transiting the canal doesn’t necessarily have to be a hasty affair - you can take up to 4 days dwell time. There’s plenty to see and do in the vicinity and the recently upgraded tow paths are perfect for a peddle. Bike hire is available in Lochgilphead.

  1. The Isle of Mull - cyclemull.co.uk

Arriving on the second largest island in Scotland by boat means that though familiar with its coastlines, you really are only touching the tip of the iceberg! Landing in Tobermory or at the Ulva Ferry Pontoon, for example, there’s no better way to explore the inland landscape of the island than by bike. Island-wide delivery can be arranged in advance and the provision of electrically assisted pedal bikes makes the hills much easier too! Booking is a must.

  1. The Isle of Gigha - gihga.org.uk

God’s Island may be tiny, at just 7 miles long and half a mile wide, but it sure is beautiful – and relatively flat! This makes for a very pleasant exploration by bike, taking in lovely beaches and Achamore Gardens. You can round it all off with some delicious local produce – don’t miss out on the award-winning Gigha Halibut! Bike hire is available not far from the excellent new pontoon facility, either at the activity centre or from Ardminish Stores.

Make a Splash

There are more ways than one to enjoy the marine environment once you’ve dropped your sails! From a peaceful paddle in an open canoe or kayak to testing your balance with some more challenging stand-up paddle boarding (SUP)... all the way to adrenaline-pumping surfing, windsurfing, and coasteering!

  1. Oban - verticaldescents.com

This part of the world boasts some of the most beautiful coasts, and coasteering offers a unique way of exploring them! The relatively new craze will have you kitted out to traverse sea cliffs, combining wild swimming with daring cliff jumps, checking out caves and wildlife along the way. Berth at the new transit marina in the centre of Oban, just a short walk to the meet-up point at Corran Halls.

  1. Tarbert (Loch Fyne/Argyll) - kayakmajik.co.uk

Less than two miles over the isthmus from East Loch Tarbert, where you can berth at the marina, a range of activities are available at West Loch. From SUP taster sessions and tuition to an island bagging sea-kayak trip to Gigha! Similar expeditions can be arranged on Loch Fyne, which is part of the Argyll Sea Kayak Trail, as well as coasteering trips from Tarbert.

  1. Westport Beach, Campbeltown - liveontheedge.co.uk

Surfing may be more synonymous with California than Campbeltown, but the south-west coast of Kintyre is renowned for its incredible surf, and you could learn to ride the waves just a few miles north of Campbeltown Marina. You’ll be in safe hands with a qualified instructor and beach lifeguard, provided with a board and the necessary 5mm suits to keep you warm!

  1. The Isle of Tiree - blackhouse-watersports.co.uk

This inner-Hebridean island is another surfer’s paradise with long white sandy beaches and unparalleled levels of Scottish sunshine. Here, you can find a huge range of water-sports, including kite-surfing! There are moorings available at Gott Bay, where pickups can be arranged to get you to the beach to start your preferred course.

Saddle Up

Probably not the horse-power you’re used to but equally as exhilarating! Horse riding and pony trekking allow you to get off the beaten track in a whole new way, and there are various options available for all levels of experience - from complete beginner to expert rider. You may need to plan a little in advance to ensure you have appropriate attire as your sailing boots won’t be so practical in stirrups!

  1. The Isle of Islay - islay-farm-accommodation.co.uk

Consider yourself royalty as you traverse the Queen of the Hebrides on horseback! A walk away from Port Ellen Marina is Ballivicar Farm, whose staff will have you tacked up and trotting along the island’s sandy beaches in no time.

  1. Lunga Estate - lungaridingstables.co.uk

Channel your inner cowboy at the only ranch-style stables in Scotland for a unique western trail riding experience. The ‘Pub and Picnic Rides’ are a particularly good way to spend an afternoon, or you could time your visit with Western Week at the beginning of June. Both Ardfern Yacht Centre and Craobh Marina are within walking distance of the stables.

  1. The Isle of Mull - mullponytrekking.webs.com

If you’ve ridden before and want to really get off the beaten track, an experienced hill trek will get you up close and personal with wildlife such as eagles and deer as you ride to a magnificent viewpoint and monument of Killiechronan Estate. It is best to berth at the Ulva Ferry Pontoon and make arrangements for the community bus to transport you to and from the estate.

By Kirsten Henderson
Tarbert Harbour