14 August 2015
History Scotland and CalMac Ferries present their pick of Scotland’s most popular ferry journeys. ...
History Scotland and CalMac Ferries present their pick of Scotland’s most popular ferry journeys.
Plan your perfect trip with our guide to these special ferry journeys, with tips on what to look out for during your trip – plus, some great ideas on what to do when you reach your destination.
1. Ardrossan to Brodick, Isle of Arran
(715,048 passengers in 2014)
In a ferry journey of less than an hour, you can reach the Isle of Arran, famed for its status as ‘Scotland in miniature’. On Saturdays during the summer, passengers can get wildlife spotting tips during the journey from members of North Ayrshire RSPB. Also keep your eyes open for Holy Isle off the Arran coastline to the south of Brodick and the rounded island of Ailsa Craig – a volcanic plug south west of the route; the rock has famously been used in the production of the finest curling stones.
Close to the ferry port is Brodick Castle a red sandstone castle which stands in lovely grounds overlooking the Firth of Clyde. Beautiful Goatfell is nearby, Arran’s highest peak (at 2,866 feet), surrounded by a wealth of walking and climbing opportunities.
With activities including walking along the Arran Coastal Way, wildlife spotting, and Bronze Age remains at Machrie Stone Circle, you can enjoy the best of Scotland distilled into one small but beautiful destination.
2. Largs to Isle of Cumbrae
(706,172 passengers in 2014)
At just ten minutes from the mainland, it’s no surprise that this accessible sailing is so popular, and the Isle of Cumbrae is a great destination for a day trip with a difference. Looking back at Largs, visitors can see a tower monument, known locally as The Pencil, which marks the site of the Battle of Largs in 1263 between the Scots and the Vikings. On Cumbrae itself, Scotland's National Sailing Centre lies on the road to Millport – a training site for elite sailing stars.
Life on Cumbrae centres around the beautiful coastline with the famous ‘crocodile rock’ on Millport beach, Britain’s smallest cathedral (Cathedral of the Isles) and for those who’d like to explore the whole island, plenty of walking and cycling routes.
3. Wemyss Bay to Rothesay, Isle of Bute
(674,088 passengers in 2014)
The Isle of Bute is one of Scotland’s most accessible islands, just a 35 minute sail from Wemyss Bay. As you enter Rothesay Bay, Canada Hill is on the left. The hill has a rather poignant tale as the place families would assemble to wave off loved ones leaving Scotland for a new life across the Atlantic.
One of the island’s most splendid visitor attractions is Mount Stewart, a sumptuous Victorian mansion complete with a white marble chapel and pretty grounds. Also popular is thirteenth-century Rothesay Castle, and the harbour town of Rothesay with its quirky, well-restored Victorian Toilets.
4. Oban to Craignure, Isle of Mull
(572,084 passengers in 2014)
The harbour town of Oban makes a pretty departure point for the trip to the Isle of Mull, leaving from a bay dotted with islands. After the ferry leaves Oban Bay and turns towards the Isle of Mull, the island of Lismore is visible to the right with its 26-metre high lighthouse, a welcome beacon for the mariners who play this busy route. Shortly before arriving at the port of Craignure, the ferry's route passes the impressive Duart Castle – the ancestral home of the Clan MacLean, the castle sits proud on a rocky promontory and dates back to the 13th century.
With some 300 miles of coastline, the Isle of Mull has plenty of opportunities for wildlife watching, the harbour town of Tobermory, or if you prefer something more historic, the Lochubie Stone Circle and Mackinnon’s Cave. The island is also the stepping stone to the nearby Isle of Iona, with sailings from Fionnphort.
5. Mallaig to Armadale, Isle of Skye
(239,453 passengers in 2014)
With its rugged and unique landscape, the Isle of Skye is Scotland’s second largest island (after Lewis & Harris). Breathtaking scenery abounds on this journey with the unmistakable craggy outline of the Cuillin Range ahead as you cross from Mallaig. But a glance behind and to the north reveals a tantalising glimpse of the majestic Knoydart Peninsula, reachable only on foot crossing sixteen miles of tough terrain and hidden from view is the UK's most remote village, Inverie.
Despite the presence of a road bridge to Skye, many thousands of visitors choose to take the scenic and relaxing ferry journey to Skye, following in the footsteps of generations of explorers.
Once on Skye, there are plenty of opportunities for walking (with twelve Munros on the island), wildlife spotting (including the chance to see Red Deer, Pine Martens and Wildcats). Visitors can also explore castles, villages, museums and art galleries.
Caledonian MacBrayne is the operator of the UK's largest ferry network, carrying some 4.65 million passengers and 1.1 million cars on 130,000 sailings in 2014 - an average of 385 per day across a 200-mile stretch of Scotland's west coast. The company serves a number of mainland to mainland routes, notably on the Mull of Kintyre and the Cowal Peninsula, as well as sailing to 24 island destinations. To find out more, visit the website.