Scotland’s Most Accessible Islands
Firstly, what do I mean by “Scotland’s Most Accessible Islands“? By that, I mean the easiest, quickest, and cheapest to get to!
We LOVE a good island getaway… An escape from the 9-5 grind, and an adventure to the wonders that lay beyond our coastlines. But, you don’t have to sail for hours to be able to convert to island time. In fact, some of Scotland’s best islands are more accessible than you think!
There’s something special about the moment the ferry leaves the mainland slip and sets sail towards island life. It almost marks a departure from the reality of mainland life and the start of a journey to a place where the clocks go a little slower.
So, if you’re on a tight schedule or tight budget, here are five of Scotland’s most accessible islands.
A quick summary of what’s to come. Feel free to click right through:
ISLE OF ARRAN
Arran is 20 miles long, 56 miles round, and is known as ‘Scotland in miniature’. True to its nickname, it has something for everyone.
The short 55-minute ferry trip over from the North Ayrshire coast takes you to a land of history, wildlife, and leisure facilities. Now, you can even meet the Arran Alpacas!
However, it’s a shame if you’re a golfer. The island only has 7 courses to choose from.
Ahh… I forgot sarcasm doesn’t travel well through text… 🤷
Ferry Tickets are only £8.00 return for a foot passenger and £31.90 return for a car. An island paradise at that price? Surely one of Scotland’s most accessible islands!
I was lucky enough to live on Arran for a while. So here’s my recommendation.
If you’re tight on time, I’d recommend checking out the Cladach area, just north of Brodick. There, you’ll find the awesome Arran Brewery, the Arran Cheese Shop, Arran Aromatics, and Brodick Castle. You’ll also find the starting points for the Glen Rosa and Goat Fell trails – all within walking distance of each other.
The views from the peak of Goat Fell are absolutely worth the climb… as long as you get a clear day.
And, if you’re a craft beer fan like me, I’d definitely recommend the Arran Brewery tour. The brewery’s story is super interesting and you get to taste all 8 of their beers at the end. What’s not to love?
ISLE OF SKYE
The Isle of Skye is known for its rugged landscapes, medieval castles, picturesque fishing villages, its history and outstanding scenery. At 50 miles long and 25 miles wide, the Island is the largest of the Inner-Hebridean archipelago.
And, the beauty of this one is that there’s no ferry required – there’s the Skye Road Bridge, and since 2004 its been toll-free. Does that even make it an island? YES. Let’s not get into that debate again.
Although it’s around a 5-hour journey from Glasgow, again, the scenic drive there is all part of the adventure. The A87 route crosses the iconic bridge and in a matter of minutes you officially touch down on Skye’s soil. And of course, no ferry fees apply, just fuel.
I’m gonna hand the reins over to Adam for this one. Adam says:
“If you like Scotland for its dramatic landscapes and scenic views then you’ll find no better place than the Isle of Skye. It’s a photography hot spot and it’s known as a magical place to visit.”
“On Skye, you’ll be absolutely spoiled with things to see and do. Some of our favourites include the infamous Old Man of Storr, Neist Point Lighthouse and the Magical Fairy Pools. If you’re going to the pools, make sure you get yourself a dook in the cold waters (it’s non-negotiable).”
“If you’ve got a sweet tooth then why not check out Donnies Tablet Shed, a wee purple ‘honesty box’ which gets filled up daily with fresh tablet. You can seek out this wee shed in a remote part of Skye called Geary. The tablet is unreal and the views on the drive there are some of the best on the island.”
“In terms of food in Skye you can’t really go wrong, just find one of the old pubs which have a lot of character and some hearty scran. Just bear in mind that all places close for food really early, roughly 5pm.”
ISLE OF CUMBRAE
Cumbrae’s slogan actually happens to be ‘Scotland’s Most Accessible Island’. At a swift 8-minute ferry ride over, by the time you’ve found a seat on the ferry’s top deck, it’s time to get back down to disembark.
The ferry only costs £3.40 per foot passenger, £12.95 per car, and of course, bikes are free!
It’s a super affordable island adventure. The ferry departs from Largs on the North Ayrshire coast, which is quickly reachable from anywhere around Ayrshire or Glasgow via a short, direct train ride. So, it’s great for a weekend staycation if you only have one, two, or three days to explore.
Also, Cumbrae happens to be where we’re bringing our ‘Alternative Eco Cabin’ Concept in late 2021! Check them out:
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Cumbrae is known as a cyclist’s paradise with a scenic 10-mile cycle circuit around the island’s perimeter. On your way round keep a keen eye out for its three unique rock formations – Indian Rock, Crocodile Rock, and Lion Rock.
But what the island lacks in size, it makes up for in adventure.
If you’re an outdoorsy type, you’re in luck. There are some awesome walks around the whole island from a climb up to the Glaidstone viewpoint to enjoy 360-degree panoramic views across the Clyde, to a relaxing stroll along the palm tree-lined promenade along the beachfront of Cumbrae’s main town of Millport. After all of that, you might want to catch a refreshing pint with the locals, fireside, in one of the few cosy bars.
You can now charter a boat to visit Cumbrae’s little brother, and uninhabited island, ‘Wee Cumbrae’. Check out my Voyage to Wee Cumbrae blog.
ISLE OF MULL
The ferry to Mull only takes a short 46 minutes from Oban. Although Oban is a 2 hour, 30-minute drive from Glasgow, let’s be honest, the scenic drive through The Trossachs National Park certainly isn’t a chore.
For the movie buffs, you’ll find filming locations of Entrapment, Highlander, End Game, and Harry Potter. You can also visit the charming town of Tobermory with its iconic coloured houses.
Adam actually visited Mull earlier this year. I’m gonna hand back over to him for this one!
“The Isle of Mull is the perfect place for the city breakers, those looking for a proper island escape. As with all the Scottish islands it’s incredibly scenic, but there was something especially peaceful about Mull.”
“In Mull, and in Oban for that matter, it’s all about the freshly caught seafood. My recommendation would be the seafood restaurant called the Mishdish which is one of the beautifully coloured buildings in Tobermory. You can also grab a pint in the Mishnish pub which is next door.”
“My tip would be to book ahead. We went in August and there were a lot of disappointed people walking up to a fully booked restaurant.”
“Fingals cave on Staffa is an amazing geological formation (similar to the giants causeway of Northern Ireland) you can visit from boat trips leaving from Mull. We saw minke whales, seals, and common dolphins on our way over!”
“We mentioned that the Isle of Mull is a great place to escape and relax. To be honest, you can get this pretty much anywhere on the island. However, Calgary Bay is got to be up there with the best spots. It’s a perfect scenic part for a picnic at the beach.”
ISLE OF BUTE
Here’s one off the Inverclyde coast. Setting off from Wemyss Bay, also directly connected to Glasgow via train, the 35-minute ferry journey will take you to a land of beauty and great splendour. With a rich Victorian past, the main town of Rothesay is definitely one for the history buffs. There are even Victorian toilets that are considered a national treasure. Who’d have thought?…
Be sure to check out Rothesay’s own castle, which is bizarrely round-shaped with its own moat.
The west of the island is a stark contrast to the Victorian east. There are almost some Hebridean vibes with its quiet sandy beaches, rugged coastlines, stunning views, and ancient ruins.
Continue the trip around, and you’ll reach Ettrick Bay, the most popular of Bute’s beaches with its very own shipwreck.
Bute is also one for the vegans with its very own dairy-free vegan cheese factory.
So, there you have five of Scotland’s most accessible islands, that are all pretty quick, easy, and cheap to get to.
Missed one? Click below.
Why not make your next trip a Scottish island adventure? Check out Cal Mac’s many wonderful island-hopping combinations.
I’d also highly recommend Clyde Charters’ trip to Wee Cumbrae. Check out: