Though it's not possible to travel very far right now, we can all still dream about our next trip to Scotland and hope that we'll be able to welcome you again very soon. You can find more information on visiting Scotland during the Covid-19 recovery phases.
Sailings to and from Orkney and Shetland are open for all travellers however, there are currently local restrictions in Aberdeen. To allow for physical distancing, there will be limits on the numbers that can sail, so please book ahead to avoid diappointment. All passengers must disembark the vessel upon arrival and that visitors to Orkney and Shetland must book island accommodation before arriving. NorthLink Ferries are also requesting that travellers wear face coverings within the ferry terminals and on board. If you have any enquiries or want to keep up to date with all the latest travel information, please visit NorthLink Ferries Coronavirus help page.
CalMac Ferries have now published the next phase of their timetable which will run from 15 July until 18 October 2020. This will be published on 2 July 2020, and bookings will open on a rolling two-week window from that date. Visit the CalMac website for all the latest travel information.
The next phase will include more frequent sailings and will increase available capacity for customers. CalMac are implementing guidelines and safety measures – including physical distancing which are designed to keep customers and crew safe and the number of customers CalMac can carry on their vessels. If you’re considering travel, we advise you to plan ahead carefully. Please be aware that only those who are permitted to travel as per the Scottish Government’s guidance will be allowed on board and be prepared to answer questions about possible symptoms and reasons for travelling. Please remember to maintain physical distancing of 2 metres at all times, both indoors and outdoors, and to wear a face covering when travelling by ferry.
Many of the greatest adventures start with a ferry ride - where will yours take you? Scotland's various ferry services are a vital life line for island residents, and a great way to 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. Mainland ports which serve the islands in the west include Oban and Kennacraig in Argyll, and Mallaig and Ullapool in the Highlands.
For CalMac ferries, it's recommended to book tickets in advance wherever possible, although you can normally buy foot passenger tickets on the day of travel. If planning on making multiple ferry journeys, you can consider purchasing an Island Hopscotch ticket which combines multiple journeys, or you can leave the car behind and opt for a great value Rail and Sail ticket.
Purchasing the passes doesn't guarantee a place on a specific ferry, so it's best to book ahead if you are travelling with a vehicle. Always check the journey information before you travel, for details on baggage allowance, checking in times and delays or cancellations due to weather conditions.
Argyll Ferries also run a regular service between Dunoon and Gourock, which can be combined with a train ticket from Glasgow Central and only takes an hour and a half in total.
Ferries to Orkney and Shetland
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 main port, Kirkwall. Travel time is around 12 hours direct, and just over 14 hours via Orkney.
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.
NorthLink Ferries also operate car ferry services from Scrabster in Caithness to Stromness on Orkney, which takes around an hour and a half.
The quickest route to Orkney is with Pentland Ferries who operate from Gill's Bay, near John o' Groats, and St Margaret's Hope in South Ronaldsay (just over 1 hour). This is also the greenest way to travel to Orkney as their new purpose built catamaran, MV Alfred, is the most environmentally friendly passenger ferry of its size in Scotland. In summertime, John o' Groats Ferries offer a passenger ferry service from John o' Groats to Burwick, South Ronaldsay. Many of the Orkney Islands are linked by services run by Orkney Ferries.
Ferries are popular so make sure you book in advance. You'll find you can book Northlink Ferries or Pentland Ferries directly with the companies.
Ferries in other areas
There are also numerous small operators running day excursion trips around Scotland's coast and islands. Find more ferry operators in Scotland or check out our tours section for more ideas about what to see around the stunning Scottish coast.