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The beautiful coasts and waters of the West

Family climbing along rocks on Arisaig beach

This year and next are both officially Scotland's 'Year of Coasts and Waters' - VisitScotland's celebration of the coasts and waterways that make our landscape so special.

At CalMac, we have been in the privileged position of working in and around the beautiful coasts and waters of west coast for over 160 years. They hold a special place in the hearts of so many people - especially ours. Here's why:

Beauty to behold in our landscapes

Water makes the landscape of the west coast so memorable. Whether it's summer or winter, blue skies or grey, there's beauty to behold.

It's here you'll find some of the world's best beaches. A number of the islands of the west coast boast long stretches of pristine white sands, framed with turquoise waters. In the north, the Outer Hebrides are blessed with stunning beaches all along the archipelago. From Tolsta beach on Lewis in the north to Culla Bay beach on Benbecula further south - a wildlife haven in breathtaking surroundings.

On Mull you'll find Calgary Bay - a really outstanding white shell sandy beach. In Gaelic - Cala Ghearraidh - it translates as beach of the meadow, perhaps a reference to the landscape which surrounds it which is now home to all sorts of wildlife and a beautiful sculpture and art trail.

From Camusdarach Beach on the Road to the Isles - you'll get a beautiful view of the Cuillin Ridge on Skye and the peaks and cliffs of Rum and Eigg in the distance. A perfect spot at any time of day or year.

family playing on Traigh Mhòr beach Isle of Barra

A window into our dramatic history

Not only are the coasts and waters of the west coast beautiful, they also offer us a window into Scotland's fascinating past.

On the island of Barra - Kisimul Castle is instantly recognisable - perched on in the middle of the sea, dominating the view around Castlebay. It's the ancient seat of the Clan Macneil and the only surviving medieval castle in the Outer Hebrides. It's thought that structure dates back to the 1400s, after the island was granted to Gilleonan Macneil by Alexander, Lord of the Isles. It withstood many savage attempts to take it - until it was abandoned in the early 18th Century. In the mid 1900s its fortunes changed once more when the then Chief of the Clan Macneil - who was by then an architect from New York - returned to sensitively restore the building for our benefit today.

Further south on the island of Lismore, you'll find Castle Coeffin - the story of which gives insight into an even earlier period of history. The castle is the ancient stronghold of the Clan MacDougall, and it's thought to be built on the site of a Viking fortress no less. The name Coeffin is linked to name of a Danish Prince Caifen (whose sister is said to have haunted the site until her remains were returned to Scandinavia).

Kisimul Castle

An incredible outdoor playground

If you're an outdoor type - our coasts and waters offer everyone of all abilities an incredible outdoor playground.

If you enjoy a coastal walk - there's plenty of trails to enjoy all over the islands. Perhaps one of the pinnacles for those who enjoy a challenge is the Isle of Arran Coastal Way. It's a 65-mile circular route around the whole island of Arran, doable over a week's break or in parts over a few visits. What better way to really immerse yourself in coasts, waters and island life?  

Water sports on the west coast also offer a fresh perspective and a new way to see our coastlines up close. Scotland is said to be one of the best destinations in the world for Sea Kayaking - and on the west coast you'll be able to paddle your way around mile upon mile of secluded bays, beaches and beautiful blue waters - seeing sights that aren't visible from land. Each island offers its own experts to guide you and routes which will provide you with the most memorable journeys.

surfer in Arisaig

The coasts and waters of the west coast are some of the most beautiful in the world. It's easy to see why. Where will Scotland's next year of Coasts and Waters take you?


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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 from 9th October 2020. 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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