Small ship cruises: The best way to see Scotland - Scotland Magazine

Small ship cruises: The best way to see Scotland

Wildlife encounters, island hopping, and expert guides, here’s why a small ship cruise is one of the top ways to see Scotland

Small ship cruises are one of the best ways to see Scotland, here’s why…

Scotland is home to thousands of miles of coastline that frame its myriad isles and skirt its sea lochs, so what better way to explore Scotland’s coastal scenery and experience its unique island cultures than on a comfortable, liveaboard boat?

Forget huge cruise liners, with so much onboard entertainment that you could be anywhere. With small ship cruises you get a front-helm view, personable service, and a deeper understanding of the places you visit.

Make a beeline for The Majestic Line

Credit: Jonathan Neville

A popular small ship cruise company, trips with The Majestic Line are fast running out for 2022 and even 2023, though there is some availability left: its six-night Coastlines & Castles of Argyll cruises, which depart from the company’s home base of Holy Loch in Dunoon, will run in April and October 2022, and still have space. A great way to get to know this vastly underrated part of Scotland, guests will visit famous castles such as Inveraray as well as get to see lesser-known fortresses, such as the ruins of Castle Stalker, Lamlash Castle and Tarbert Castle, before bedding down in their private cabin. Guests can enjoy gourmet meals in the saloon of the 1930s-style gentleman’s motor yacht Glen Shiel at anchor (pictured), with different views each evening, and look out for dolphins, which often swim in the wake of the boat, when the ship is underway.

Price from £2,640pp;

Sail away with VentureSail

Credit: PTCreative

I f an adventure aboard a classic ship appeals, then VentureSail is running its seven-day Tall Ship Sailing in the Hebrides cruise between 14-30 July 2022. Guests will board the three-masted tall ship Blue Clipper and set sail around the Outer Hebrides and Skye from Mallaig. Itineraries are at the mercy of the elements, but rest assured, your skipper will know the best anchorages and secret coves to hide away and will give you a real off-the-beaten track experience, while offering insight on how the sea has shaped the islands and their environment. All cabins are en-suite and guests are welcome to try their hand at sailing, or just sit back and let someone else do the hard work.

Price Tall Ship Sailing in the Hebrides £1,530pp all-inclusive;

Short-stay cruises with Hebridean Adventures

Credit: Paul Sharman

I f you’re looking for a short cruise, which you can tag on to other travels, then Hebridean Adventures has you covered. The company runs whale, dolphin, and wildlife cruises from April to September aboard its converted fishing boat MV Monadhliath, which take a maximum of eight guests, so you needn’t have to fight for space to see things. Running out of Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, the cruises are informal and offer a good chance of wildlife sightings. If you want to learn how to turn your sightings into prose, then you might want to join the three-night Wildlife Watching and Nature Writing Cruise on 20 June 2022, during which you’ll be accompanied by author Karen Lloyd as you visit the seabird cities of the Shiant Isles and then motor on to the Summer Isles.

Whale and dolphin cruises from £885pp for three nights; Wildlife Watching and Nature Writing Cruise £975pp;

This is an extract. Read the full feature in the January/February 2022 issue of Scotland, out on 17 December.



Published six times a year, every issue of Scotland showcases its stunning landscapes and natural  beauty, and delves deep into Scottish history. From mysterious clans and famous Scots (both past and present), to the hidden histories of the country’s greatest castles and houses, Scotland‘s pages brim with the soul and secrets of the country.
Scotland magazine captures the spirit of this wild and wonderful nation, explores its history and heritage and recommends great places to visit, so you feel at home here, wherever you are in the world.