We’re just going to come out and say it: Scotland is one of the best places on the planet for sailing. Don’t believe us? Well read on…
Stunning scenery, sheltered coves and spectacular seas conspire with our wind and weather, to offer experienced skippers, and nautical newbies alike, life experiences to cherish.
Our friends at Sail Scotland have been busy putting some remarkable 360˚ videos together, which allow you to immerse yourself virtually, from the comfort of your armchair. Shot at seven places along the west coast and at Inverness in the north, these stunning films put you at the centre of the action as a deckhand or island explorer. Just click and drag when the videos are playing, to get the full picture!
Once you’ve watched them, we’re sure you’ll feel you #MustSeaScotland in 2020, our Year of Coasts and Waters. Join us on a 360˚ maritime odyssey as we head north along Scotland’s western seaboard.
The Isle of Islay – Scotland’s Whisky Island
Our journey starts on Scotland’s whisky island, Islay. Here you’ll find nine distilleries on an island modestly measuring 25 miles long by 15 miles wide. It’s a popular spot with those that love a wee dram, watching wildlife and of course sailing.
Islay is a great island to visit all year round, but May in particular, when Fѐis Isle (Islay’s Malt and Music Festival) is on, is sure to delight. Alternatively, visit in autumn and explore the sea lochs of Indaal or Gruinart to witness the annual arrival of thousands of over-wintering geese and swans.
The Isle of Staffa – Myths, Music & Wildlife
Our next stop is Staffa. You’ll find this National Nature Reserve, popularised in myth and music, off the Isle of Mull.
Legend has it that Irish giant, Fionn MacCumhaill, built a causeway from Ireland’s coast to Staffa so he could fight Scottish giant Benandonner. Centuries later, German composer Felix Mendelssohn was so inspired by Staffa, and Fingal’s (or Fionn MacCumhaill’s) Cave that he wrote his ‘Hebrides Overture’.
The island is a haven for charismatic clown-faced puffins as well as other seabirds in the warmer months and you might even spot basking sharks. The amazing 50-million-year-old hexagonal volcanic basalt columns that make up the island really must be seen to be believed. Several boat operators run trips to the island.
Oban – The Gateway to the Isles
This bustling town is Argyll’s biggest and a popular haven for sailors and visitors alike. There are moorings available at Oban Marina on Kerrera, North Pier Pontoons in the town and at Dunstaffnage Marina, just around the coast. All of this, as well as CalMac ferry sailings, makes Oban an ideal base for exploring the islands.
Located in the town centre, whisky lovers will enjoy a tour of Oban Distillery and there are several excellent seafood restaurants to try out too.
Boasting a commanding position above the town, McCaig’s Tower offers wonderful views across the bay. Don’t miss Dunollie and nearby Dunstaffnage castles – former strongholds of the once-powerful Lords of the Isles. Or explore Kerrera and visit imposing Gylen Castle and the Kerrera Tea Garden.
The Isle of Canna – Small Isles Seclusion
Inhabited since Neolithic times and rich in archaeology and Gaelic culture, Canna is one of the Small Isles, located in the Inner Hebrides, south-west of Skye. There are only 20 buildings on the island and neighbouring causeway-linked Sanday, and three of these are impressive churches, which are well worth visiting, as are the glorious beaches too.
Although the local crofting community is small, folks here are very welcoming and it’s a great place to weigh anchor if you’re sailing between the islands – there are 10 community moorings for visiting yachts.
Grab something tasty at Café Canna, drop into the post office or community shop, or take a self-guided walk around the island.
The isles of Mingulay, Berneray and Pabbay – Islands on the Edge
Our journey next heads way out west to the southerly tip of the Outer Hebrides and the wild islands of Mingulay, Berneray and Pabbay. These uninhabited islands, on the very edge of Europe, are now in the care of the National Trust for Scotland and are great anchorages for visiting sailors – especially those with an interest in wildlife.
Visit in summer, when the impressive 250-metre cliffs are teeming with nesting seabirds or explore Mingulay’s ghost village and imagine what life was like in bygone times. On Pabbay, you’ll find one of only two Pictish stones in the Outer Hebrides.
St Kilda – Splendid Isolation
This secluded National Nature Reserve is located 40 miles west of the Outer Hebrides at the outer edge of Europe and is the UK’s only dual UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A bucket-list favourite, the islands of St Kilda rise dramatically from the Atlantic Ocean and are a haven for seabirds during the summer months. There are no permanent residents here, with the final 36 St Kildians evacuating the islands in 1930.
Village Bay on the main island of Hirta is a perfect and sheltered place to drop anchor and you’ll find the UK’s highest sea cliffs here. Spend some time ashore exploring the ancient dwellings and see thousands of seabirds. Or sail between Hirta, Dùn, Soay and Boreray, and marvel at their dramatic scale.
The Isle of Skye – Eilean a’ Cheo – The Misty Isle
There’s no question that the Isle of Skye will seduce you! From the airy alpine crests of the Cuillin mountains and sheltered coves for sailors, to whiskies from Talisker, Torabhaig and nearby Isle of Raasay distilleries and ancient history, mysteries and myths – this is an island that will captivate you completely.
Don’t miss stunning Talisker Bay or the Museum of Island Life. Learn about the Fairy Flag at Dunvegan Castle. Or catch the ferry to neighbouring Raasay, which featured in the Channel 4 series Who Dares Wins and was voted as one of the ‘Best Islands to Visit in 2020’, by Conde Nast Traveler. Why not enjoy some amazing food across the island, relax and set your watch to #Skyetime?
Loch Ness – Dolphins, Nessie and the Caledonian Canal
Our final stop on this 360˚ tour is iconic Loch Ness. Extending over 22 miles, this is the largest lake by volume in the British Isles – there’s more fresh water here than all the lakes in England and Wales put together.
It’s deep too. 230 metres deep to be precise. This makes it the ideal place to hide, if you’re a timid pre-historic monster!
Loch Ness is also part of the magnificent Caledonian Canal, which should be on every sailor’s bucket-list. Running from Fort William to Inverness, you’ll take in the locks of Neptune’s Staircase, lochs Lochy, Oich, Ness and Dochfour and some of Europe’s finest scenery along the way.
At Inverness, the Capital of the Highlands, make sure you leave time to take a trip into the Moray Firth, where there’s a good chance you’ll spot resident bottlenose dolphins breaching and hunting.
Seeing Scotland’s Coasts and Waters virtually is one thing, but there’s only one way to really experience Scotland and that’s by planning a trip and coming here yourself. So what are you waiting for? Sail Scotland and see these amazing places for yourself!