Travel around Scotland by ferry

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Journey Planner
  • A ferry sails past a small green island towards an atmospheric fog
    Caledonian MacBrayne ferry MV Lord of the Isles departing Oban bay, Argyll
  • A small sign among thistles and grass on a beach says 'Ferry Q Here' beside the jetty
    Cromarty to Nigg Ferry at Nigg, Highlands of Scotland
  • A close-up of a rusty cog and wheel on a platform in the water with an organge lighthouse at the dock in the background
    The harbour at Stromness, Mainland, Orkney

Scotland’s various ferry services not only provide a vital life line for the inhabitants of the islands, they are also an ideal way for visitors to reach and explore the unique beauty of these remote areas.

Firth of Clyde and the Inner and Outer Hebrides

Caledonian MacBrayne (generally known as 'CalMac') operates all main services on the Firth of Clyde and to the Inner and Outer Hebrides, sailing to over 20 destinations in passenger or car ferries. Mainland ports which serve the islands in the west include Oban and Kennacraig in Argyll, and Mallaig and Ullapool in the Highlands.

Argyll Ferries also run a regular passenger service between Dunoon and Gourock, which can be combined with a train ticket to Glasgow Central, taking only an hour and a half in total.

It is recommended to book tickets in advance when possible, although you can normally buy passenger tickets on the day.There are a number of value ticket options as well as the discounted Island Hopscotch and Island Rover tickets which  offer from eight continuous days to one month of unlimited travel on the ferries. The passes don’t guarantee a place on a specific ferry, so it’s best to book ahead.

Make sure that you check the journey information before you travel, for details on baggage allowance, checking in times and delays or cancellations due to weather conditions.

Ferries to Orkney and Shetland

Serco NorthLink Ferries operate nightly car ferries from Aberdeen in the north east to Lerwick in Shetland, with stops en route on alternative days at Orkney's capital, Kirkwall.

The ferries are popular so make sure you book in advance. Travel time is around 12 hours direct, and just over 14 hours via Orkney.

There is also a car ferry from Scrabster in Caithness to Stromness on Orkney, which takes around an hour and a half.

Pentland Ferries run a car ferry from Gills Bay, near John o' Groats, to St Margaret’s Hope in Orkney while John o' Groats Ferries run a summer-only passenger ferry from John o' Groats to Burwick in Orkney. Many of the Orkney Islands are linked by services run by Orkney Ferries.

You'll find that you can book Serco Northlink Ferries or Pentland Ferries directly with the companies, or through Ferrysavers.

Shetland's inter-island ferries are run in conjunction with the local council, and information about routes and timetables can be found on the Shetland Islands Council website.

Ferries in other areas

There are also numerous small operators running day-excursion trips around Scotland's coast and islands. Find more information in our listings, or check out out tours section for more ideas about what to see around the Scottish coast.