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Summer holiday's on Scotland's west coast and islands

Blue sea water

Scotland's west coast and islands come alive in the summer months. The days are long, the weather gets better, and the wildlife comes out in full.


But there's more to it than that. Let the islands capture your imagination: come to see the stronghold of sea eagles. To find the home of peaty whisky, the water of life. To take a dip in cold, crisp seas and stroll on deserted beaches. To eat an ice-cream on Cumbrae, or a fish supper in Tobermory. To see the bloom of wild flowers on the machair of Eriskay. To laugh at the midges, rain, wind, and searing sunshine - all in a day. 

Feeling inspired? Start planning your trip here, with our loose guide to a great summer on the islands. 

Fresh air, fresh food


Nothing quite says 'escape from the office' like packing up and jumping on a ferry to explore a beautiful island for a week or two. Forget your al desko sandwiches, the hours spent at the computer and all the vacuuming you haven't done. Shut the front door, and get outside: the west coast is waiting. 

Go to Harris for a gulp of clean Hebridean air: you'll find the best at the top of one of its many hills. Tackle one of Skye's 12 Munros, or hideout on Rum, the best-kept secret of serious walkers. 

And what about fresh food? You'll struggle to find anything less than exceptionally good seafood on the islands - from the tastiest mussels to the plumpest hand-dived scallops. Skye, the largest of the Inner Hebrides, is rapidly emerging as a real foodie hub. It is home to the Kinloch Lodge, where you can enjoy the ultimate dining experience, and the world-renowned The Three Chimneys. The island capital of Portree is home to many cosy pubs serving hearty food, while the Stein Inn the oldest inn on the island, lies in a gorgeous spot in the waterfront village of Stein. The island ambience creates the perfect backdrop as you sample the freshest of Scottish cuisine. 


Adventure seekers, come this way 

cyclist with bike looking towards water

Remember, you can take bikes on CalMac ferries for free - just call the port office to let them know you're coming. You'll find most of the roads on the islands are quieter than the mainland - just don't go pedalling about in the Mull Rally

Try the Five Ferries Challenge - Island Hopping and cycling through some of the most beautiful west coast landscapes. It's tough, but rewarding - and the satisfaction at the end of a long day in the saddle is unbeatable. Looking for a longer challenge? Try the Hebridean Way, from Barra to  Lewis: perfect roads, wild landscapes, and a warm pub at the end of each day.   

There's plenty to do without a bike too. Go kayaking, gorge walking, coasteering and abseiling - all in a single trip, if you head for Raasay House.


Let the kids run loose

little girl looking out window of ferry

The islands are some of the safest, quietest holiday places you'll find. It makes them perfect for families: just pack a bucket, net and spade and let the kids run free for an afternoon on the beach. You can't go wrong with a trip to Arran - or explore a few coves on Mull's 300-mile coastline. 

If you get stuck for ideas on how to wile away the island hours with the little ones,  or have budding little photographers in your crew then check out our Island Explorers Photography Check List. We'd love to see your pics from your island adventures - tag @calmacferries and share them using #CalMacExplorers on socials to feature on our wall. 


Get back to nature


Summer is an excellent time to spot wildlife on the islands. You might see otters, eagles, deer - as well as thousands of waders, puffins and kittiwakes. 

And where else would have a whole festival devoted to basking sharks? Head to Coll for a chance to see them in the wild - and even swim with them, if you dare. Elsewhere, there's the great Mull Eagle Watch - the chicks are in the nests from May to July, and fledging from August onwards. Then there's the Islay RSPB reserve The Oa, home to golden eagles, choughs and peregrine falcons - and, of course, the beautiful Achamore Gardens  on the isle of Gigha.


Indulge in a little nostalgia

Cumbrae Millport

On the hunt for a nostalgic summer holiday? Pack your finest vintage swimsuit, and head 'doon the watter' to Bute, Cowal or Cumbrae

Glasgow folk began the tradition in the 19th century - and although the ferries no longer leave from Glasgow, you can catch them at Gourock, Wemyss Bay and Largs. Drop into Nardini's while you wait for the ferry to Cumbrae for an enormous ice cream - and don't forget to get a selfie with the Crocodile rock when you're on the island.


Get the full experience

Wherever you go this summer - you'll see the islands in full flow. And we've only scratched the surface here: check out our Destinations pages for some inspiration and how to get there.

Ready to book? Great! Start building your ticket now by clicking the 'Buy tickets' button below.


Smooth sailing 

Choose the smoothest way to sail - buy online before you travel and make your phone your ticket. When you buy online, you get 24/7 access to view and manage your current and past bookings, check the status of your ferry service, and create an account, making it easy to plan your next island adventure. 

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