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Summer holiday's on Scotland's west coast and islands

Blue sea water

Scotland's west coast and islands come alive in the summer months. The days are long, the weather gets better, and the wildlife comes out in full.

But there's more to it than that. Let the islands capture your imagination: come to see the stronghold of sea eagles. To find the home of peaty whisky, the water of life. To take a dip in cold, crisp seas and stroll on deserted beaches. To eat an ice-cream on Cumbrae, or a fish supper in Tobermory. To see the bloom of wild flowers on the machair of Eriskay. To laugh at the midges, rain, wind, and searing sunshine - all in a day.

Feeling inspired? Start planning your trip here, with our loose guide to a great summer on the islands. And remember, planning ahead is crucial as we go into 2021 - vessels and islands attractions may still be working to reduced capacity. 

Fresh air, fresh food

Fresh seafood platter

Nothing quite says 'escape from the office' like packing up and jumping on a ferry to hide on an island for a week or two. Forget your al desko sandwiches, the hours spent at the computer and all the vacuuming you haven't done. Shut the front door, and get outside: the west coast is waiting.

Go to Harris for a gulp of clean Hebridean air: you'll find the best at the top of one of its many hills. Tackle one of Skye's 12 Munros, or hideout on Rum, the best-kept secret of serious walkers.

And what about fresh food? You'll struggle to find anything less than exceptionally good seafood on the islands - from the tastiest mussels to rich Atlantic salmon. Skye, the largest of the Inner Hebrides, is rapidly emerging as a real foodie hub. It is home to the Kinloch Lodge, where you can enjoy the ultimate dining experience, the world-renowned The Three Chimneys, and the delightful Scorrybreac should also be on your list of culinary discoveries. The island capital of Portree is home to a number of cosy pubs serving hearty food, while the Stein Inn the oldest inn on the island, lies in a gorgeous spot in the waterfront village of Stein. The island ambience creates the perfect backdrop as you sample the freshest of Scottish cuisine.

Get active

Hebridean Way cycle

Remember, you can take bikes on CalMac ferries for free - just call the port office to let them know you're coming. You'll find most of the roads on the islands are quieter than the mainland - just don't go pedalling about in the Mull Rally.

Try the Five Ferries challenge - island hopping and cycling through some of the most beautiful west coast landscapes. It's tough, but rewarding - and the satisfaction at the end of a long day in the saddle is unbeatable. Looking for a longer challenge? Try the Hebridean Way, from Barra to Lewis: perfect roads, wild landscapes, and a warm pub at the end of each day.  

There's plenty to do without a bike too. Go kayaking, gorge walking, coasteering and abseiling - all in a single trip, if you head for Raasay House.

Let the kids run loose

Arran family fun

The islands are some of the safest, quietest holiday places you'll find. It makes them perfect for families: just pack a bucket, net and spade and let the kids run free for an afternoon on the beach. You can't go wrong with a trip to Arran - or explore a few coves on Mull's 300-mile coastline.

Get back to nature

Jura wildlife

Summer is an excellent time to spot wildlife on the islands. You might see otters, eagles, deer - as well as thousands of waders, puffins and kittiwakes.

And where else would have a whole festival devoted to basking sharks? Head to Coll for a chance to see them in the wild - and even swim with them, if you dare. Elsewhere, there's the great Mull Eagle Watch - the chicks are in the nests from May to July, and fledging from August onwards. Then there's the Islay RSPB reserve The Oa, home to golden eagles, choughs and peregrine falcons - and, of course, the beautiful Achamore Gardens on the isle of Gigha.

Indulge in a little nostalgia

Cumbrae Millport

On the hunt for a nostalgic summer holiday? Pack your finest vintage swimsuit, and head 'doon the watter' to Bute, Cowal or Cumbrae.

Glasgow folk began the tradition in the 19th century - and although the ferries no longer leave from Glasgow, you can catch them at Wemyss Bay and Largs. Drop into Nardini's while you wait for the ferry to Cumbrae for an enormous ice cream - and don't forget to get a selfie with the Crocodile rock when you're on the island.

Get the full experience

Wherever you go this summer - you'll see the islands in full flow. And we've only scratched the surface here: check out our Destinations pages for some inspiration and how to get there.

Ready to book? Great! Start building your ticket now by clicking the 'Buy tickets' button below.

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The practicalities

It's certainly been a different year for everyone, and where travel is concerned, there's a few extra considerations we all need to make. 

  • New guidance is in place from the Scottish Government. We're working closely with Transport Scotland and at present there are no national travel restrictions in place. However, in addition to the latest nationwide guidelines, please do follow the specific local measures in the health board area you are travelling from and to, which includes minimising the use of public transport as much as possible.

  • Things can change quickly, so be extra vigilant and prepared.

  • If you are travelling with us on our bookable routes - reserve your tickets in advance.

  • If you need accommodation, don't travel without confirmation.

  • You must follow all of our safer travel guidance to help keep the islands and one another safe.

  • Be in the know before you go. Read up on how your destination is handling the response to the COVID19 and find out what arrangements are in place locally.


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