Top Tips for visiting Scottish Islands


After travelling around the Scottish islands for years, I have some top tips to pass on when visiting these beautiful islands. Below are the first 5 (other installments will be available in the future):

1) When booking car spaces on Caledonian Macbrayne Ferries (to travel to the islands) in Summer or at busy times such as Easter or Bank Holiday weekends, make sure to book your vehicle and the driver/passengers in advance. These sailing can get full very quickly and if you arrive at the ferry without booking, you may be disappointed. This can obviously be a problem if you turn up for the last ferry of the day and you have booked accommodation for the night on another island and you cannot get there!

Top tips for visiting scottish islands - Calmac Ferry at Castlebay

Top tips for visiting scottish islands – Calmac Ferry at Castlebay

2) Go to the Caledonian Macbrayne website  and order a copy of their brochure which has all the ferry timetables in it. It´s free and it will help you to plan your journey/s, as well as giving booking information and prices. Also in the brochure is information about Island Hopscotch tickets. These can save you money if you are travelling to more than one island.

3) Also, when reading the Caledonian Macbrayne timetable, be sure to note down what time you have to be at the ferry BEFORE boarding. For vehicles this can be from 10 to 45 mins and for passengers can be up to 30 mins. For certain longer routes (see below), you will also have to complete a Passenger Registration card.

• Oban – Castlebay
• Oban – Colonsay
• Oban – Coll
• Oban – Lochboisdale
• Oban – Tiree
• Coll – Tiree
• Lochboisdale – Castlebay
• Tiree – Castlebay
• Uig – Tarbert
• Uig – Lochmaddy
• Ullapool – Stornoway

Passengers travelling on these routes must observe the check in times for registration for the particular sailing and be on board at least 10 minutes prior to sailing time. Each passenger must complete a Passenger Registration card. These cards will then be collected from you on boarding and, where applicable, the second (landing) part of the card needs to be be retained for collection on disembarking.

4) Buy a Historic Scotland  membership card. This will give you access to more than 70 top heritage attractions in Scotland. This is excellent value if you intend to visit lots of attractions when visiting Scotland and the Scottish Islands. Attractions include:

Shetland Islands – Mousa Broch, Jarlshof, Clickimin Broch, Scalloway Castle, Fort Charlotte etc
Orkney Islands – Skara Brae, earls palace, Knap of Howar, Maeshowe, Ring of Brodgar etc
Outer Hebrides – Calanais Standing Stones, Dun Carloway Broch, The Blackhouse at Arnol, Kisimul Castle etc
Inner Hebrides – Iona Abbey, Iona Nunnery, Rothesay Castle etc
Mainland Scotland – Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle, Linlithgow Palace, Fort George, Urquhart Castle etc

Top tips for visiting scottish islands - Skara Brae

Top tips for visiting scottish islands – Skara Brae

The membership card costs £49.50 per year for 1 adult or £54 for 1 adult and up to 6 children (age 5-15). Please bear in mind that it costs £18.50 to visit Edinburgh Castle during peak season!

5) If you visit the Scottish Islands in summer, make sure to take a midge repellent. The midges in certain parts of Scotland (such as the Isle of Rum) can be horrendous and they can ruin your holiday if you are not prepared. This is especially true for campers or people who plan on being in the outdoors a lot (walkers, climbers etc). I have used Avon Skin So Soft, which has worked well, but there are others such as Smidge with a good reputation.

If you have any feedback on these Top Tips, please do not hesitate to contact me at [email protected]

1 Comment

  • Thanks Lee many of the above learnt from bitter experience I would add a thermos and some sandwiches as cafes can be few and far between. Off to Lewis in 3 weeks time so will put into practice.

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