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There’s nothing better than escaping the hustle and bustle of the city and getting out into the wild. We usually head to the forest by car, public transport or foot; but how often do you head out to sea on your way to the woods? There are hidden gems and well-travelled trails all across Scotland’s islands, just a boat-ride away.

visitscotland paultomkins ferry
(c) VisitScotland / Paul Tomkins

Ferry travel is much more affordable since the introduction of the Road Equivalent Tariff (RET), a Scottish Government policy which sets ferry fares at the cost of travelling the same distance by road.

The west of Scotland is blessed with island after island, filled with incredible scenery and forests aplenty. So head to the coast, hop on a boat and sail to a forest!


The largest of the Inner Hebrides, Skye's forests are set in a stirring landscape of jagged mountains, deeply indented sea lochs and gentle coastal fringes.

forest ferry glen brittle

If spotting wildlife is your thing, then Skye has plenty to offer. Top of any list is a visit to the otter hide in Kylerhea, but keep your eyes on the skies in Glen Brittle forest - sea and golden eagles are known to visit here - and look out for rare coastal birds and seabirds near Broadford.

Make sure to bring a pair of binoculars with you - the forests’ lack of light pollution makes them perfect for viewing the night sky. Broadford, Kinloch and Kylerhea have all been chosen as locations for Dark Sky Skye.

Skye sun coming through clouds at kinloch

Getting to Skye is easy – you can take the road bridge from Kyle of Lochalsh to Kyleakin, or one of the two ferries that run from Mallaig and Glenelg.


From Skye, it’s just a short ferry trip to get to the Isle of Raasay, a small island perfect for exploring on bike or foot. The name Raasay, or Ratharsair in Gaelic, translates to mean Isle of the Roe Deer, so keep an eye out for these magnificent beasts and other wildlife such as otters, mountain hares and sea eagles.

There’s plenty of history across the island to explore throughout your visit. Step back in time at Brochel as you visit the ruins of Brochel Castle, a MacLeod stronghold built over 500 years ago.

Ruined castle at brochel

During the 19th century Clearances, many people were evicted from their homes by desperate landlords, and were forced to start new lives elsewhere. Follow the eastern shore trail to the abandoned settlement of Screapadal, movingly remembered in Sorley MacLean's Gaelic poetry.


Arran has everything you could want from an island: beaches galore, gastronomical delights, red squirrels aplenty and stunning scenery.

signposts to forests on arran

Explore the Giants’ Graves at Glenashdale or walk in the footsteps of Robert the Bruce when you visit King’s Cave, where he is said to have sheltered. There are plenty of places to stop and fill up on cheese, chocolate and other tasty treats on your travels round the island.

You can jump on a ferry to Brodick several times a day from Ardrossan, which is less than an hours drive from Glasgow. Alternatively, you can travel via Claonoig on the Kintyre peninsula over to Lochranza.


It may not be an island, but you can still hop on a boat to the Kintyre peninsula. Stretching roughly 30 miles, from East Loch Tarbert all the way down to the Mull of Kintyre, head to Kintyre for panoramic sea views, ruined medieval castles, and the chance to spot soaring birds of prey.

You can catch a ferry from multiple locations including to Tarbert from Portavadie, near Tighnabruaich, or from Lochranza on the Isle of Arran over to Cloanaig.

looking down to tarbert and boats


The third largest island in Scotland is home to a wealth of flora and fauna, culture, history and stunning scenery. Set off the west coast near Oban, Mull is the perfect place to escape for the whole family.

There are specific wildlife watching hides at Fishnish and Quinish, but you can spot a wealth of sea birds including Mull's famous sea eagles at Mull Eagle Watch, and marine life such as dolphins, otters and seals around the island’s coastline.

pier at tobermoray on mull

You can travel to Mull via three routes: Lochaline to Fishnish, Kilchoan to Tobermory, and the most popular route, Oban to Craignure, which takes roughly 45 minutes and runs several times a day. The ferry terminal at Oban is only a short distance from the railway station, with trains running frequently to and from locations such as Glasgow Queen Street.

Boat life

From exploring abandoned villages to spotting eagles and dolphins, there’s plenty to do on some of the Scotland’s most stunning islands. It’s easy to hop on a boat and head over the sea to Skye, or get off the beaten track on small but beautiful Raasay.

Why not take advantage of the reduced ferry fares thanks to the RET and earn your sea legs this summer!


Where are your favourite forests to visit off the mainland? Let us know below or on facebook or twitter.

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