Get on a boat, go see an island

Published

Michael Comerford

If this is how good the view looks on video, imagine what it’s like actually being there. Though, statistically speaking it will be dark and pishing it down. Hmm.

If during your time in Glasgow you don’t step foot on a boat, you’re almost certainly denying this city its historic right of existence. You may not be one of the tobacco lords of the Eighteenth Century, or one of Jimmy Reid’s work-in comrades, but anyone can see that this city’s connection with the water runs deep. Don’t panic, You are fortunate, and rectifying your arrogance is easy.

Caledonian MacBrayne ferries serve 45 ports on the west coast of Scotland. Grab your sleeping bag/tent/SYHA membership card and a copy of Cal Mac’s summer timetable. Pick an island and get the train out to one of the ports like Oban or Mallaig. Oban is three hours by train, and Mallaig is more like five (ScotRail do combined ‘Rail & Sail’ tickets). The transit time is not wasted however, you’ll be travelling on the West Highland Line, which has been awarded best rail journey for three years running by Wanderlust.

If the weather is fine on the ferry, sit out on the deck and watch the landscape change. If not, stand out on deck making loud whooping noises at the gale force winds. I opted for Barra and spent most of the five hour journey on deck just watching the mainland getting smaller and the sea getting bigger. If the weather is awful there’s always a shop, a canteen and TV screens on board.

Castlebay is a picture perfect start to an island adventure, with Kisimul Castle that dominates Barra’s sheltered southern bay. For one of the smaller islands Barra has a good topographical mix of features for you to explore including white sandy beaches and moderately steep hills. Heaval the island’s highest point at 383 metres, offers views across the whole of Barra and some of the surrounding islands. If you’re looking to escape from job applications, dissertation plans and the day-to-day there is no better place.

Got more time and feeling more adventurous? Why not bring your bike and go island hopping from Barra up to Lewis …


Summer Timetables
calmac.co.uk/timetables/calmac-summer-timetables.htm

Route Map
calmac.co.uk/destinations/route-map.htm