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Rail and Sail

Travel to the islands without a car

Beach on Bute with view to Arran


Taking the car on a tour of the west coast islands might seem like a natural choice, but it shouldn't be. Leave the car at home, and turn your trip into a different adventure: taking the time to enjoy the views on foot or on the bike.

Travelling without a car means you can forget about the useless things that take up precious mental space too: where to find petrol, what the traffic's like, where to park, where you left the car keys. It's also a lot easier than you think - and with a bit of planning, it can be a whole lot smoother too.

Rail and sail: one ticket for train and ferry

Start from Glasgow or Edinburgh, and you can buy a  ticket that covers your train and ferry journey. With just one ticket, it means you don't have to queue at the ferry terminal - and it makes a day trip to Arran or Bute easier than you think. Going for the weekend? You can get a ticket to Mull, Skye, or even Barra.  

And if you've got a bigger trip in mind, the could be for you. It gives you one or two weeks of travel by rail, ferry and selected coaches across Scotland. You'll also get a load of discounts on other things like loch cruises and steam engine tours.

Not sure where to start? Head for Arran

Arran is perfect for a day or two's adventuring - and perfectly doable without a car. Fancy a hike up Goatfell? Stroll off the ferry and catch the ten-minute bus to the Arran Brewery, at the start of the trail. You can also walk straight out from Brodick, where the footpath takes you past a gaggle of very friendly ducks. You don't get that kind of thing when you're roaring past in a car.

The bus route runs through Lochranza on its way round the island, where you can stop off to tour the Arran Distillery and explore the ruined castle and dungeons.

Go for a day out on Bute or Dunoon

Whether you want to head for a tour and tasting at the Bute Brew Co, wander the marble halls of Mount Stuart, Bute makes a great day out. There are regular buses and taxis to Mount Stuart from the ferry terminal - and the brewery is in Rothesay, behind the castle.

Mount Stuart House

You can also get a rail and sail ticket for the Argyll Ferries to Dunoon from Gourock, and catch the bus up to the Benmore Botanic Gardens, which has an impressive collection of giant redwood trees.

Spend the time with friends and family

Life's a lot more sociable when your eyes aren't glued to the road. The rail and sail routes are a great value option if you're taking the kids over for an island adventure. It's great with friends too - especially if it's always hard to nominate a designated driver.

Get active

Leaving the car at home is a great excuse to get active on the islands. From an afternoon's pedal round Cumbrae to a week on the Hebridean Way, beginning with Barra, the islands are popular for cycling. It does get busy on the ferries at peak times - so it's best to ring ahead and let the ticket office know that you're coming.

Find out more about Rail and Sail

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