The council area of Argyll & Bute is a land of lochs, mountains and islands; at just under 7,000 sq. km it is the second largest of the 32 council areas within Scotland, but the 11th smallest in terms of population. The area, which includes all the islands within the southern Inner Hebrides as well as Bute in the Firth of Clyde, boasts a coastline of about 4,800km/3,000 miles; included within this coastline are numerous sea lochs that turn much of the land in to a series of peninsulas.
So that’s the cold, hard facts about Argyll; the reality is it’s a land steeped in a history and culture that connects it closely to Ireland. At some time around the 6th century, settlers known by the Romans as the Scotti came across the North Channel and formed a new kingdom that became known as Dalriada. The Scotti were separated from the Picts by hills they referred to as Druim-Alban, the backbone of Alban, while they referred to the land of the Picts as Braghaid-Alban, the upland of Alban.
As mentioned above, a series of sea lochs create a number of peninsulas within Argyll, which meant that the people of Dalriada were reliant on boats to travel around; even today ferries are used a great deal to cover long distances as quickly as possible. For us, the indented nature of Argyll makes it easy to separate in to different areas.
The first of these, eastern Argyll, lies between Lochs Lomond and Long with the two only being separated by the narrow isthmus between Tarbert and Arrochar. Between Lochs Long and Fyne is the claw-shaped Cowal peninsula with Dunoon as its main town and port; regular ferries run between there and Gourock cutting the travelling distance considerably.
Between Lochs Fyne and Awe, the longest sea and freshwater lochs in Scotland respectively, is the area we are referring to as mid-Argyll with Inveraray at its heart and Kilmartin Glen contributing much to the area’s history. In the south of this area is Knapdale, itself split in to even more small peninsulas, and, further south, the long peninsula of Kintyre, the mainland island.
Nestled between Lochs Awe and Etive is the area known as Lorn with Oban, one of the main ferry ports in Scotland, its main town. To the north of Loch Etive is Benderloch & Appin, the most northerly part of mainland Argyll. To the west of this mainland area are the islands of the southern Inner Hebrides and beyond those the large expanse of the Atlantic Ocean.