Cycling and camping on these two islands off Oban

The Islands of Lismore and Kerrera

Oban is famous for a few things – its seafood, its whisky and its ferry terminal – from here you can get ferries to Mull, Coll, Tiree, Colonsay, Barra, Kerrera and Lismore. Kerrera and Lismore are the closest to Oban (Kerrera dominates the skyline) but once there both feel like they exist in another time.

Lismore with Flora

I have been to Kerrera many times and Lismore fewer and both are perfect for a day trip or even longer. My daughter Flora was coming back to Oban from her home in Glasgow so that we could go and visit these islands and do some photography and exploration. The weather was good on the day she arrived but she had an appointment with the doctor so even though I was all ready to go, bike panniers stuffed, I wasn't sure if we would actually make the 5.15 ferry to Lismore! We cycled from the house to the Calmac ferry terminal and made it with a couple of minutes to spare. I love last minute things like that – how I would be spending the next 24 hours was going to depend on catching that ferry, and the exhilaration I experience is almost worth the stress! Flora didn't agree though!

So we were on the ferry, me feeling exhilarated and Flora feeling slightly stressed but happy to be there. The wind was whipping our hair and we made the familiar journey out of Oban bay past the white house on the Esplanade which was Flora's first home, past Dunollie Castle and Maiden Island and we headed towards Achnacroish on Lismore.

The ferry journey is about 50 minutes long, enough time to feel like you are really going on a trip, and enough time to catch up on what's been going on in our lives. When we arrived we noticed that one of our meals for the evening had burst a bit so we sat on the kerb by the ferry slip and ate it there and then and cleaned up as best we could. Then we struggled up the hill out of Achnacroish and set off towards Coeffin Castle. The sun was shining and the air was warm and the roads were quiet and the hedgerows were full of wild May flowers as we rode along. We turned down towards Coeffin Castle and had to push our bikes at the end as the track is very rough.

Flora Lismore

The Castle is set on a spit of land overlooking a small bay on one side and towards the Morvern Hills on the other. It is completely ruined – you can't go inside although you can climb to the top and look through the window. The area around it is flat and grassy with grazing sheep, and there are also some interesting hillocks topped with wind battered trees. We explored the area and Flora found a friendly cockerel.

We had decided to camp nearish to the castle but we had to find an area away from it that didn't interfere with the farmer down there (you pass the farm house on the way to the castle so the farmer will see you on your way down!) After the tent was up I tried out my new gas stove and we had a very exciting dinner of pot noodles (we had shopped in a hurry!).

The sun was going down by now so we wandered about trying to find good vantage points for photos and just enjoying the wildness of the landscape. The sky was light for a long time after sunset and I took my tripod out and photographed the castle in the dusk.

Flora on Lismore

Then we settled down for the night and although it was a bit chilly we both slept well and in fact we slept in, which meant we couldn't catch the first ferry back to Oban. That turned out OK though as it was another sunny day so we were able to go for a walk along the coast, make our instant porridge, pack up slowly and make our way back up the hill and onto the main (single track) road. The Gaelic Heritage Centre isn't far from the castle so we went there for lunch – scampi and chips followed by coffee and cake eaten outside on the deck, and after a brief look in the cottage on site we cycled back to Achnacroish to catch the ferry back to Oban.

Heritage Centre

Useful Information about Lismore

  • The island is 10 miles long and the roads are all single track or dirt track.

  • There are two ferries – a vehicle and passenger ferry from Oban to Achnacroish which takes about 50 minutes and a passenger only ferry between Point on Lismore and Port Appin on the mainland. This takes about 10 minutes.

  • There is one village shop/post office on the island.

  • There are a few self catering cottages and b&bs, and a bunkhouse/campsite

  • The island is relatively flat and is ideal for cycling

  • There are two castles – Castle Coeffin and Achinduin Castle

More information can be found here »

Isle of Kerrera

Flora Cycling

The day after our trip to Lismore we went to Kerrera. As is typical of the west coast of Scotland, the weather had changed, and now it was drizzling and it didn't look like it would be clearing up. We weren't put off though and cycled down to the Calmac ferry terminal at Gallanach (it's about 10 to 15 minutes cycle ride from Oban) to catch the ferry across. Had a quick chat with Duncan the ferryman who I have known for years but it could only be quick as the journey is only about 5 minutes.

Once there we hopped back on our bikes and set off for the castle and tea room.

Flora on Kerrera

There are welcome signposts at intervals along the track keeping you aware of your progress towards the Tearoom (including 'It's all downhill from here!'

We went to Gylen Castle first which is just beyond the tearoom. It was still very wet and there isn't much in the way of shelter in the castle but we had a look inside then roamed around it, Flora posing for the camera; 'Flora go and stand over there!' I have been to the castle on many occasions and I never tire of it. The beaches below are also good for swimming (although they are pebbly so a bit sore on the feet getting in and out), in fact my first Scottish winter sea swim was just here in February 2012!

Eventually the lure of a bowl of soup and a cake became too much so we cycled back to the Kerrea Tea Garden run by my friends Martin and Aideen and tried to dry off before cycling back to catch the ferry to Oban.

Kerrera Tearoom

Useful Information about Kerrera

  • The main ferry is from Gallanach, a couple of miles south of Oban. This is run by Calmac and is a passenger only ferry (cars are not permitted on Kerrera except for people who live there!). Calmac Ferry »
  • The other ferry is from the South Pier in Oban and takes you to the north of the island where there is a restaurant, marina and lovely walks. This is currently only for marina customers so please check before you travel! Marina Ferry »
  • The castle and tea room take about 40 minutes to walk to (the tea room is almost 2 miles from the ferry). There is also a longer 6 mile loop which is a gorgeous walk if you have time and inclination. You pass the tearoom and the castle is only a short walk from the loop. Kerrera Tea Garden »
  • It's great to cycle on Kerrera but you will need a mountain/hybrid/gravel bike - the track is a bit rough for road bikes.

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