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.
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
Other localised ferry services include a regular passenger service by Argyll Ferries between Dunoon and Gourock, which can be combined with a train ticket to Glasgow Central, taking only an hour and a half in total.
There are also numerous small operators round the Scottish coast that run day-excursion trips.