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A beginner's guide to getting the ferry

Beginners guide to getting a ferry


Taking the ferry: a guide for first-timers

You've decided to go to the Western Isles. Maybe you've even booked your trip. But you're not sure what to expect on the way over the water.

Read on, landlubber. By the end of this guide, you'll be a ferry aficionado.



Loch Sea forth - on board

Choose where to go

For many, the hardest part of taking the ferry is deciding which island to visit. With almost fifty ports to choose from, the destination decision is a tough one. Luckily, our destination finder has all the answers. Filter by your favourite activities or interests, and we'll recommend the best places to find them.

Top tip:

If you need accommodation, check availability for this before you book your sailing.


Plan your travel to the terminal

The journey to the terminal is part of the adventure.

You need to arrive no later than the check-in time on your booking confirmation, so give yourselves plenty of time. If you're heading up to Oban and beyond, you'll pass through some of mainland Scotland's most jaw-dropping scenery - it's a journey you won't want to rush.


Top tip: Taking the car on the ferry? Find somewhere to top up your tank before you board - not all the islands have fuel stations.


Check for service updates

Before you set off, check our service status and info page for any unavoidable last-minute schedule changes. You can also follow our updates on social media, or through our app.


At the port

Mull and Iona Port

Tickets? Tick!

When you get to the port, head straight to the booking office so we can check you in. Taking the car? You'll also need to pick up a boarding pass. This splits in two - give the top part to our team when you board the ferry, and the bottom to the marshals at your destination. Simple.


Food for thought

Some ports - like Oban and Mallaig - have bustling harbours renowned for serving some of Scotland's finest, freshest, seafood. Be sure to sample some if you get the chance. Already eaten? Spend your time seal or otter-spotting - these savvy sea mammals are often slinking about checking for scraps. Just keep an eye on the time so you don't miss your sailing.


On board

Park like a pro

Parking on board

Boarding with a car or bike couldn't be more straightforward. Our marshals will tell you when and where to park, and where you should go after leaving your wheels. Follow their instructions, and boarding is no more complicated than a trip to your favourite local car park.


Wrap up

For the full ferry experience, you'll want to venture up on deck. Be warned: even on the warmest days, there's be a cool sea breeze - if you're sensitive to the cold, a jumper is a must.


Top tip: seats on deck are popular, especially on sunny days. Bag yourself a space as soon as you can after boarding.


Scout for a good spot

On board funnel

Don't just settle for the first seat you see. Our bigger boats have loads of comfy places to enjoy the spectacular views: indoor, outdoor, with food, with drinks, quiet, bustling - whatever you fancy. Find somewhere that suits, get comfortable, and keep your eyes peeled for dolphins, seals and majestic seabirds.


Top tip: If you get seasick, choose a spot in the centre of the ship - where any motion is much less noticeable.


Above all...

Relax and enjoy yourself... we'll let you know when it's time to return to dry land. 


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