Discover Argyll & the Isles via Ferry

Many an Argyll adventure starts with a ferry ride, so we thought we’d share some of the best ferry journeys in Argyll & the Isles.

With 23 inhabited islands in Argyll and a coastline of sea lochs and peninsulas, ferries a big part of the Argyll experience. And what better way to start a holiday than by boat? As you step aboard and take in the island-dotted horizons, the hustle and bustle of every day life gets left well and truly behind.

Travelling via ferry is a fantastic sustainable alternative!

Oban to Tiree

Cast off from Oban, navigate around Kerrera and then head out to sea for an epic journey past Mull to the island of Tiree. You’ll pass the island of Lismore and Eilean Musdile lighthouse before being treated to a wonderfully close view of Mull’s Duart Castle. Once clear of the Sound of Mull, you’re heading to the island of Coll. Watch out for dolphin, porpoise, basking sharks and whales – this is prime cetacean-spotting territory! The ferry always stops at Coll, which has some of the most beautiful beaches on the west coast of Scotland. Then you arrive on beautiful Tiree, which is officially one of the sunniest places in Britain! The island is famed for its sandy beaches and is a surfers’ paradise. 

Enjoy the breathtaking scenery when jumping on a ferry in Oban.

Kennacraig to Islay

This route from Kennacraig on Kintyre to Port Ellen and Port Askaig on the Inner Hebridean island of Islay is a stunner. If you’re heading to Port Ellen, you’ll also get a great view of three of Islay’s most famous distilleries, Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Laphroaig, as you sail by the coast of Islay.

When arriving in Port Askaig, treat yourself to a seafood platter at Port Askaig Hotel and enjoy the incredible views of the Paps of Jura. And once on Islay, well, you’ve eight distilleries to explore and plenty of beautiful scenery to drink in! Fancy one more ferry journey? It’s just a short hop across the water to Jura and the Jura Distillery.

The Five Ferries

This unique circular route takes in five short ferry journeys and some of Argyll’s most stunning peninsulas and sea lochs, as well as the lovely island of Bute. It’s suitable for both fit cyclists and motorists. Whether your engine- or pedal-powered, by catching five Caledonian MacBrayne ferries you can travel from Ardrossan on the Scottish mainland to Arran to the Kintyre to Cowal to Bute and then back to the mainland. The scenery is stunning, there are loads of interesting attractions and you get to experience five completely different ferry journeys!

Approaching the Victorian town of Rothesay on Bute.

Mull to Ulva

The tiny island of Ulva sits just off the west coast of Mull. The ferry runs on demand – you summon it by uncovering the red panel at the ferry station – and takes just a couple of minutes. The boat will drop you at The Boathouse, a licensed tearoom specialising in fresh local shellfish landed from the family fishing boat. They also serve a selection of homemade soups, rolls and daily specials. Work up an appetite with a peaceful stroll around the island. You can travel to Ulva by public transport from Craignure on the wonderful Ulva Ferry Community Bus, run by volunteers, taking in the dramatic scenery of the west coast of Mull – and a possible glimpse of sea eagles soaring – en route.

View of Ulva Island during sunset.

Mull to Iona

The passenger ferry takes 10 minutes to reach the Isle of Iona from Fionnphort on the island of Mull. Dreamy Iona is the birthplace of Celtic Christianity and has an air of peacefulness about it. The ferry journey feels peaceful too. It’s a short crossing so sit back, relax and savour the views back to Mull and across to Iona. The famous Iona Abbey is just a short walk from the ferry. Or why not escape the crowds, hire a bike and discover secluded beaches, listening out for elusive corncrakes along the way? For something different, Iona Music Festival is now in its third year and offers a headline list of fantastic bands in the intimate setting of Iona Village Hall.

Approaching Iona Bay with the iconic Iona Abbey.

Rhubodach to Colintraive

This ferry crossing is a short hop across the famous Kyles of Bute, transporting you between Rhubodach on the northeast of Bute and Colintraive on Argyll’s Secret Coast. This 10-minute crossing connects two quite different, but equally enchanting, worlds. Bute is a gem of an island and home to fabulous Victorian architecture, glorious gardens and the magnificent Mount Stuart. Argyll’s Secret Coast meanwhile is a magical area of sparkling sea lochs and picturesque villages. The road from Colintraive to Portavadie is a cracker, and on arrival, you’ll discover Scotland’s most scenic outdoor infinity pool! The ferry journey may be short, but it’s well worth getting out of the car to enjoy the views. Look out for the Burnt Islands to the north of the ferry.

The view over Colintraive Marina.