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The Best Boat Trips In Scotland

With Scotland being an island, it will come as no surprise that it has some of the best boat trips in the world to enjoy. Smaller islands with caverns, bird sanctuaries, some of the most incredible sandy beaches with Caribbean-like blue waters, as well as adrenaline-filled experiences. Here are some to wet your wanderlust appetite.

White sandy beach looking out to the Caribbean like blue waters.
Bosta (Bostadh), Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland ©M D Harding Travel Photography

The Best Boat Trips In Scotland

Isle of Harris & Lewis

Close-up of Callanish Standing Stones
Callanish Standing Stones, Isle of Lewis, Scotland ©M D Harding Travel Photography

The beautiful white sandy beaches, Lewis Chessmen, Iron Age dwellings, Gearrannan Black House Village, archaeological sites of Carloway Broch and Callanish Standing Stones, as well as the delicious Stornaway Black Pudding and Isle of Harris Gin, make it worth the 1 hour 40 minutes Calmac Ferry trip from Uig (Isle of Skye) to Tarbert (Isle of Harris) worth it! Also, don't miss a visit to the Lewis Loom Centre for Harris Tweed shopping and a visit to see how Harris Tweed is produced.

We can highly recommend a stay at The Uig Hotel (Isle of Skye) with beautifully decorated and comfortable rooms, delicious local and sustainable cuisine. Ideally located for an early or late crossing on the Calmac Ferry to the Isle of Harris.

Isle of Staffa

Isle of Staffa up close and entrance to Fingal's Cave.
Isle of Staffa, Scotland ©M D Harding Travel Photography

The small (½ mile long and ¼ mile wide) island of Staffa, is located in the Outer Hebrides. With its incredible formational volcanic basalt columns, dating back millions of years ago. Today it is home to black guillemots, fulmars, puffins, and Fingal's Cave.

Highly recommend the three-isles-boat trip from Oban including a visit to Mull, Iona, and of course, Staffa. While visiting don't miss going into the legendary Fingal's Cave (said to have been home to the giant - Fingal) with its mind-blowing acoustics.

Six images from a puffin, wild flowers, fishing baskets, beach, and small boat
The Best Boat Trips In Scotland ©M D Harding Travel Photography

Isle of Iona

Iona Abbey and Nunnery
Iona Abbey and Nunnery, Isle of Iona, Scotland ©M D Harding Travel Photography

The holy island of Iona is home to 130 people, though small in size, it is steeped in history! The burial ground of sixty kings (48 Scottish Kings, 8 Norweign Kings, and 4 Irish Kings). Today more known as the birthplace of Christianity with St Columba and twelve followers arriving in AD 563. After many Viking attacks and the massacre of 68 monks in AD 806, many of the monks relocated to the new Columban Abbey of Kellis in Ireland. Discover more about the incredible Book of Kellis. It is a peaceful island with white sand beaches, where you can explore Iona Abbey and Nunnery, St Oran’s Chapel, and Reilig Odhráin (the graveyard where ancient kings are said to have been laid to rest), wildlife, and the wildflower mohair.

Iona Abbey and Nunnery are maintained and protected by Historic Environment Scotland. If visiting several Historic Environment Scotland sites, you might like to purchase an explorer pass.

The best way to visit Iona is part of the Three Isles Tour from Oban with West Coast Tours.

Inchcolm Island

Iconic Forth Rail Bridge
Forth Rail Bridge & Maid of the Forth Boat, South Queensferry ©M D Harding Travel Photography

The small island of Inchcolm is 4 miles from South Queensferry, home to Inchcolm Abbey, a well-preserved 12th-century Abbey that was once a priory. The first inhabitants of the island were The Augustinian Canons. It is said that Alexander I sheltered here from a storm in 1123 and resolved to build a monastery in thanks for his life being saved. He died in 1124, before he could keep his promise. His brother David I invited The Augustinian Canons to establish the priory, going on to hold full abbey status in 1235.

Today you can enjoy leisurely walks around Scotland's most preserved medieval abbey in Scotland, get a rare glimpse of a 13th-century wall painting, seals basking on the shore, and possibly even a pufflin clowning around. Did you know you can also celebrate your big day (wedding) here at Inchcolm?

Book your trip onboard Maid of the Forth, to one of the Firth of Forth's islands. Admission to the abbey is via Historic Environment Scotland.

Bass Rock

Gannets feeding off the boat in front of Bass Rock
Gannets Feeding off the Boat, Bass Rock, Scotland ©M D Harding Travel Photography

Bass Rock is home to one of the largest colonies of northern gannets (150000). The steep-sided volcanic plug was formed over 340 million years ago and is sometimes called the "Ailsa Craig of the East". Located in The Firth of Forth the best way to see it up close is to book one of the boat trips from North Berwick Seabird Centre. Did you know it was also used as a prison during the 15th century by King James I?

Isle of May

Puffin with fish in its beak
Puffin with Fish, Isle of May, Scotland ©M D Harding Travel Photography

The Isle of May (seabird sanctuary) is one of the best places in Scotland for Puffin watching. You can visit by boat onboard The May Princess with Anstruther Pleasure Cruises from Anstruther between April - September. The trip takes around 4.5 - 5 hours including 2.5 - 3 hours on shore. The island is easy to explore on foot and now has a visitor centre with toilet facilities. Do buy any food before leaving Anstruther and please leave only footprints on the island. You might also like to take a hat (protection against breeding Arctic Terns). I have done this trip three times and I can't wait to return!

Various images including large crane, gardens, and P.S Waverley
The Best Boat Trips In Scotland ©M D Harding Travel Photography

P.S Waverley Boat Trip

The P.S Wavereley coming into Rothesay
The P.S Waverley, Rothesay, Isle of Bute ©M D Harding Travel Photography

There are various boat trips down the water onboard the P.S Waverley. We opted for the River Glyde, Glasgow to Rothesay, Isle of Bute on the west coast of Scotland. The scenery is idyllic. The P.S Waverley is the last seagoing paddle steamer, with almost 80 years of history! Step back into a bygone era in the traditional dining saloon and period lounges while enjoying light refreshments, afternoon tea or a hearty meal. Don't forget to view the Waverley's powerful triple expansion steam engine in operation and the paddles turning through the portholes. A real authentic experience not to be missed.

Rib Tay Broughty Ferry

Pirate Boat in Broughty Ferry Harbour
Pirate Boat, Broughty Ferry ©M D Harding Travel Photogaphy

There are different boat trip options available from a 30-minute mini tour to 2 hours dolphin sightseeing. We opted for the 1-hour trip departing from Broughtly Ferry Harbour around past the V&A Dundee. This adrenaline adventure is not for the faint-hearted, taking in a high-speed slalom through the Tay Bridge!

I hope you have enjoyed reading about these fun boat trips around Scotland and feel inspired to do one or more yourself.

Until next time take care, Michelle x


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