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You don’t have to be holidaying on an island to go on a boat trip this summer, these are a few of our favourite small sailings, regular services that take you to remote locations and day trips where you can spot an abundance of wildlife.
The popularity of the Cromarty Ferry has meant it will now begin sailings a month earlier than usual on the first of May, sailing from Cromarty across the firth. Originally intended for carrying workers to the fabrication yards at Nigg this service now primarily transports tourists and a small number of vehicles with sailings every hour.
This is one of the best ways to spot some of the local wildlife. Dolphins and porpoises are frequently seen playing alongside the boat as well as seals and a huge selection of birds. It’s a relaxing and altogether civilised way to travel and see a bit of the coast, free from the stresses of motorway. From Nigg you can head to Portmahomack for the day before gently bobbing back to the lights of Cromarty as the sun quietly sets.
Seashell Cottage is right in the centre of the village, a quick stroll from where the ferry departs, in fact everything is accessible on foot from here, the museum, great restaurants, shops and the pub.
Traditionally those wanting to visit Orkney for a day trip were not best served by the two different car ferries leaving from Scrabster and Gills Bay. The timetables and ferries were more suited to freight than day trippers and those wishing to take their own cars often found the cost to be off putting.
A new ferry service has recently been started however specifically to cater for visitors who want a quick excursion without their car. This passenger only ferry sails directly from John O’Groats to Burwick, a convenient crossing of only 40 minutes. There is a large free car park and a connecting coach transfer to Kirkwall for every ferry, making it easy to see the many attractions of the islands.
Hill House is in Lybster, an easy and scenic drive away. As well as making a great pet friendly base to relax it is ideal for families to explore all over the north of the country.
The Kylerhea to Glenelg crossing takes you on the last remaining turntable ferry in Scotland. With a capacity of only a handful of cars it is a quaint but very memorable journey with departures every 20 minutes.
The vast majority of Skye traffic crosses via the bridge leaving the south east corner gloriously quiet. The bridge has been fantastic for tourism on the island but it somehow lacks the romance of the old Kyle ferry.
The Glenelg crossing has that in spades, in fact the single-track road to get to the ferry is like stepping back in time. Once on the other side you are in the most green and peaceful corner of Skye, where it’s easy to relax and switch off.
Teangue House sits right at the bottom of the Sleat Peninsula just a short drive from here, close to a distillery, one of Skye’s finest beaches and an abundance of hiking and biking it is the islands best kept secret. Brilliant views and sumptuous luxury await you.
The Calmac ferry from Eriskay to Barra is a fantastic voyage. It would be worthwhile doing just for the scenery alone and the opportunity to see some of the eagles that nest on a rocky outcrop just as you approach Barra.
The timetable is scheduled so that it is easy to do a day trip with plenty to see and do to occupy yourself. Bikes are free on the ferry and the road round the island makes for a great loop, there are no big hills but give yourself a little extra time to get back to the ferry if it’s windy. Alternatively, driving will give you more time to check out the castle, and the lovely beaches.
Eriskay Views Cottage is walking distance from the pier and has a fabulous outlook. Everything you need for a relaxing holiday can be found on the island but it is conveniently connected to the Uists by causeway to make arriving and departing a lot easier.
Mull has an abundance of ferry journeys connecting it to the mainland as well as some smaller islands. For most who are driving to the island then the ferry from Oban to Craignure is the easiest option but for those with a little more time on their hands then the smaller ferries from Kilchoan and Lochaline are an outstanding way to access some of the more remote parts of the mainland.
There are limited public transport connections to these services so taking a car is a must but that does mean you can explore the roads less travelled. The scenery here is wild and entrancing, a brilliant contrast to the more developed and hillier Mull.
For a luxurious retreat to return home to after a day adventuring then you can’t get any better than Glenforsa House. Overlooking the water and only a five-minute drive from the Fishnish pier it is luxurious and modern as well as being a warm and inviting spot to relax after a day taking in all that fresh sea air.