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Scottish Islands: how to get there

Hello all :)

Now, if you're going to go to one of many of Scotland's islands or peninsulas - but, asides from flying, you're not sure how to get there - then this post is for you.  

These are the main ferry operators:

Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac):
Western Ferries:
Argyll Ferries:
Kilcreggan Ferry:
NorthLink Ferries:
Pentland Ferries:
John o' Groats Ferries:

Here are the trains:

Arran, Bute, Great Cumbrae, Rosneath and Cowal

In the Firth of Clyde lie the islands of Arran, Bute and Great Cumbrae.  These can all be accessed by CalMac car ferry journeys.

The main route to Arran is via ferry from Ardrossan.  There are two train services from Glasgow Central per hour; one stops in the south of the town, continuing to Largs, while the other runs through Ardrossan Town station and meets the ferry at a station at Ardrossan Harbour. 
On Sundays, there are only five trains a day on the harbour route.

CalMac also operate a ferry link between Lochranza, in the north of Arran, and Kintyre - it runs to Claonaig in summer and to Tarbert in winter.  Handy for island hopping!  The ferry is fairly frequent to Claonaig in summer, but only once-daily to Tarbert in winter.

The ferry to Great Cumbrae - often just called Cumbrae - departs from Largs.  Largs is accessible by train from Glasgow Central - the services are usually hourly and call at major town such as Paisley, Johnstone, Saltcoats and Ardrossan en route.

To reach Bute, take the train to Wemyss Bay (pronounced 'Weems Bay') on the Inverclyde Line.  The service passes through Paisley, Bishopton, Port Glasgow and Inverkip on its way to the town.  The station at Wemyss Bay is an architectural wonder - do take a few minutes to pause and look around, if you can.  The train service usually operates hourly.  The station at Wemyss Bay is also right next to the ferry terminal, from which the MV Argyle or MV Bute will waft you over to Rothesay, the main town on Bute.

A short CalMac ferry service also connects Rhubodach, in the north of the isle, across the 400 yard Kyles of Bute to Colintraive in Cowal.

Western Ferries run a car ferry between McInroy's Point in Ayrshire and Hunter's Quay in Cowal. 

There are usually five trains per hour between Glasgow Central and Gourock, via Paisley, Bishopton, Port Glasgow and Greenock.  From Gourock station, McGills operate bus services 901 and 907 to McInroy's Point to meet with the Western Ferries ferry service to Dunoon, the main town in the Cowal peninsula.  While route 901 continues down the Ayrshire coast to Largs, route 907 travels on the ferry to Hunter's Quay before continuing on to Dunoon.  The 901 and 907 both start in Glasgow.

Argyll Ferries run a passenger-only ferry service between the centre of Gourock and the centre of Dunoon.  The terminal at Gourock is close to the rail station.

From Gourock ferry terminal, Clydelink run an SPT passenger ferry service to Kilcreggan on the Rosneath peninsula.  This service runs fairly frequently - though not on Sundays - and connects at Kilcreggan with fairly regular bus services to the villages of Coulport, Cove, Rosneath, Garelochhead and Helensburgh - the latter two of which have railway stations.  This provides another route to the peninsula - you can take the train from Glasgow Queen Street to Garelochhead, and change onto the bus there.


  • HorizonsHorizons Member, VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭✭
    CalMac also operate a ferry link between Lochranza, in the north of Arran, and Kintyre - it runs to Claonaig in summer and to Tarbert in winter.  Handy for island hopping!  The ferry is fairly frequent to Claonaig in summer, but only once-daily to Tarbert in winter.
    I never thought I would have to use this service but I actually did during summer when I did Islay - Kennacraig - Claonaig - Lochranza. Many thanks to a Swiss couple who told me of this handy route from Islay - Arran
    I'm Anirudh, an Indian travel blogger who has explored a lot of Scotland by public transport. My blog. Find me on Facebook | Instagram

    Best of Scotland in 1 week itinerary (fully by public transport)

    My Scotland travels (includes EdinburghSkye, HarrisMullArranOrkneyLoch Lomond, Islay, Oban, DunoonSpeyside)

  • spootsspoots Member ✭✭
    Kintyre, Gigha, Islay, Jura & Colonsay

    CalMac run ferries from Portavadie in Cowal to Tarbert in Kintyre, from Lochranza to either Claonaig or Tarbert depending on the season, and, in the summer from Ardrossan - the ferry terminal is directly accessible by train from Glasgow Central once an hour (five times daily on a Sunday) - to Campbeltown in the south of Kintyre.  

    West Coast Motors bus services tie the region together, providing connections between the main settlements and the ferries.  They also provide connecting services between Dunoon, Rothesay (using the ferry from Rhubodach) and Portavadie, enabling some very nifty island-hopping.

    In summertime, Kintyre Express ( offer direct ferry services between Ballycastle in Northern Ireland and both Campbeltown and Port Ellen on Islay.

    Most of the ferries to the Southern Inner Hebrides run from Kintyre.

    CalMac run ferries between Tayinloan on Kintyre to Gigha.

    They also operate services from Kennacraig on Kintyre to Port Ellen on Islay, and to Port Askaig.  A few services from Port Askaig continue to Oban via Colonsay.

    Here is the bus timetable for Islay, serving the main town at Bowmore (which has a VisitScotland iCentre):

    To reach Jura, the ferry is handy at Port Askaig.  A passenger-only service ( operates from Port Askaig to Feolin Ferry.  In summer, a passenger-only service ( runs from the main village of Craighouse to Tayvallich in Kintyre.  And yes, there is a bus service to Tayvallich, operated by West Coast Motors - it runs from Lochgilphead.

    There's even a bus across Jura! (

    The main route to Colonsay is operated by CalMac, and runs from Oban.  The service takes roughly two hours and fifteen minutes before arriving in Colonsay at the village of Scalasaig.  To reach Oban, you can get the train  from Glasgow Queen Street, which runs along a scenic route via Garelochhead, Loch Lomond, Crianlarich, Dalmally, Loch Awe and Taynuilt.

  • spootsspoots Member ✭✭
    edited March 2018
    Mull, Lismore, Kerrera, Iona, Coll, Tiree & the peninsulas of Morvern and Ardnamurchan


    The easiest way to get to Mull for many is the CalMac ferry from Oban to Craignure; a fairly short and frequent sea crossing.  At Craignure you'll find the island's VisitScotland iCentre, with lots of handy information to help you on your trip.

    When you arrive at Craignure, there are buses operated to West Coast Motors (  There are two routes from Craignure; one goes to Fionnphort (pronounced 'Finnerfort') for the Iona ferry and the other goes up the coast to Fishnish and the island's town and main centre, Tobermory.  Another route runs from Tobermory to Dervaig and Calgary (for Calgary Bay).

    Morvern and Ardnamurchan

    Mull also provides one of the easiest ways of reaching the Morvern and Ardnamurchan areas of the Highlands.  CalMac operate a ferry route from Fishnish to Lochaline, in Morvern, and another route from Tobermory to Kilchoan in Ardnamurchan.  Kilchoan is the westernmost village on the British mainland.

    There are also rather few-and-far-between buses from Fort William to Kinlochmoidart, Strontian, Lochaline, Drimnin, Acharacle, Salen and Kilchoan.  These are operated by Shiel Buses (


    CalMac operate the passenger ferry route from Fionnphort to Iona.  This service arrives at Baile Mòr, the island's only settlement, close to Iona Abbey and Nunnery.

    Lismore and Kerrera

    CalMac operate the short ferry trip from Oban to Lismore.  Argyll and Bute Council also run a ferry service from Port Appin to Lismore (

    The ferry service to Kerrera runs from Gallanach.  Gallanach is located to the southwest of Oban, and is roughly a ten-minute drive from Oban town centre.  There is no bus service to Gallanach, so a taxi is required from Oban.

    Coll and Tiree

    It is possible to fly from Oban Airport to Coll, Tiree, Colonsay and Islay: (  Oban Airport is located near the village of North Connel; the airport is served by West Coast Motors bus services to and from Oban.

    Loganair also operate flights from Glasgow Airport to Tiree (

    CalMac operate the ferry service from Oban to Coll and Tiree.  A small number of these ferries continue to Barra.

    The ferries dock at Arinagour on Coll, and at Scarinish on Tiree.

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