Travel to the Small Isles
Updated: Nov 14, 2022
The Small Isles comprise 4 main islands - Canna, Eigg, Muck and Rum - which lie just south of Skye off the west coast of Scotland.
The islands are accessed by boat or ferry from the mainland with a year round service available from Mallaig and summer sailings available from Arisaig (to Eigg, Muck and Rum) and Elgol, Isle of Skye (to Canna, Rum and Eigg).
Caledonian MacBrayne operates a year round service to the Small Isles from Mallaig. The ferry does not visit every island every day. Timetables vary from summer to winter. The most recent timetable can be found here. [Top tip - make sure to scroll down the full page as additional sailings/ tidal change details are often contained below the main timetable].
Good to know:
Book in advance. Not only does this ensure that you get a space on the ferry but it is also the best way to get timely service updates. If you provide a mobile number at the time of booking, you will receive a text about any changes to service. You can also get up to date information here or by downloading the Calmac Service Update App. Changeable weather can lead to cancellations. We recommend travel insurance to cover any unexpected change of plans.
Please note that only residents and contractors can take cars to the Small Isles. More information can be found here. A huge part of our appeal lies in the fact that we are largely car free. Help is usually available for transporting luggage if required. Speak to your accommodation provider about this.
There is no parking at the ferry terminal however there is parking at the West Bay car park just 5 minutes away from the terminal. There are 3 rapid charge electric points in this car park. Additional long stay parking is available at the East Bay car park which is around a 10-15 min walk away from the ferry departure point.
Please ensure you arrive in plenty of time (especially in summer when it can get very busy) to find a parking space and check in for your ferry. We recommend travelling up to Mallaig/ Arisaig the night before your sailing and taking the opportunity to stay overnight and enjoy some of the local scenery and offerings on the Road to the Isles. You can find some great suggestions here. Alternatively stay in Fort William which has a wider range of accommodation and head to Mallaig/ Arisaig in the morning.
If you want to take equipment on the ferry (kayak/ bike etc), please contact the office at Mallaig to check arrangements/ availability. You will be required to lift these onto and off the vessel yourself.
Pet tickets may be required over the summer months. Check for more information and availability here.
Sheerwater operates a passenger boat to Eigg, Muck and Rum from April - mid September from Arisaig Marina. Please check here for the most up to date timetable.
Good to know: (Information correct as at May 2022)
Please ensure you check in at least 30 mins before sailing.
This is a passenger only ferry.
There is parking available at Arisaig Marina which is free for day trippers or £2.50/ day £15/ week for longer term stays.
You may have the opportunity to witness spectacular wildlife including whales, dolphins and various sea birds on this trip . As such, journey times may be a bit longer.
Dogs are permitted on board at no additional cost provided they have been booked on.
A maximum of 6 bikes can be taken on board (no electric bikes) at a cost of £4 per bike. (Make sure to pre-book). Please contact them directly to inquire about additional equipment.
The train and bus stations are both within a 10-15 min walk from the marina.
If you are staying on Eigg you can also join the Sheerwater for a day-trip to Muck or Rum or circumnavigation around Eigg. Please check their website for more details.
Private boat hire to the Small Isles
Minch Adventures can provide a private sea taxi service to the Small Isles. Please visit their website for more details.
The MV Lochan (Isle of Muck) may be available for private charters to the islands and group wildlife trips. Contact Colin MacEwen for prices/ availability t: 01687 462362 email@example.com
Private charter trips are also available from Elgol on the Isle of Skye through Bella Jane boat trips.
Public Transport links to Mallaig / Arisaig
You can travel to both Mallaig and Arisaig by bus or train on the famous Road to the Isles.
Travel by train to Mallaig/ Arisaig
Mallaig and Arisaig are well served by trains. The Scotrail timetable for the West Highlands can be viewed here. (Average price £8 one way).
Caledonian Sleeper to Fort William
The Caledonian Sleeper departs from London Euston to Fort William every day except Saturday. From there it’s just a quick hop onto another train for a trip along one of the most beautiful routes in the world - the scenic West Highland Line from Fort William to Mallaig (which stops at Arisaig on route). This train journey, noted as one of the Great Railway Journeys of the World and made famous in the Harry Potter franchise, is definitely part of the experience of travelling to the Small Isles.
For an extra special experience you may wish to book The Jacobite for the final stretch of the journey from Fort William to Mallaig. It is not possible to purchase a single ticket or different day return. You can only purchase a same day return ticket for this service. Available from April to October, the Jacobite trip has been described as one of the greatest railway journeys in the world. Please check ahead for luggage bookings/ requirements.
“Starting near the highest mountain in Britain, Ben Nevis, it visits Britain's most westerly mainland railway station, Arisaig; passes close by the deepest freshwater loch in Britain, Loch Morar and the shortest river in Britain, River Morar, finally arriving next to the deepest seawater loch in Europe, Loch Nevis!”
The Jacobite Railway
Good to know:
It’s a short 5 minute walk to the ferry terminal in Mallaig from the train station.
It’s a 15 min walk from the train station to Arisaig Marina - the departure point for the Sheerwater boat.
You must reserve a cycle space for your bike prior to travelling. Some routes can be very busy so it is worthwhile doing this as far in advance as you can. (No bikes on The Jacobite) Please note that reservations are also required on the ferry/ boat trip. See above.
Travel by coach/ bus to Mallaig/ Arisaig
CityLink runs daily bus services between Fort William and Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness. Shiel Buses operate a service between Fort William and Mallaig (including a stop at Arisaig). They also offer combined bus and boat tickets. See their website for more details. Buses stop close to ferry/ boat departure points. Please ask the bus driver where to alight if unsure.
Travelling by car to Mallaig / Arisaig
Edinburgh - Mallaig 4hr 4 min (186.4miles) via A9
Glasgow to Mallaig - 3hr 31 min (150.3miles) via A82 & A830
Inverness to Mallaig - 2hr 33 min (105.3miles) via A82 & A830
(Arisaig is on route to Mallaig - about 10 mins prior).
You may wish to build in extra time for sightseeing/ delays.
Good to know
Visitors are not allowed to take cars to the Small Isles without a permit which is only given in exceptional circumstances. More information available here.
In Mallaig, long term parking is available at the West Bay car park just 5 minutes away from the terminal. Additional parking is available at the East Bay car park which is around a 10-15min walk away from the ferry departure point. Please see the map above.
In Arisaig, parking is available at Arisaig Marina which is free for day trippers or £2.50/day £15/week for longer term stays.