Updated: Nov 14
Linger Longer on the Small Isles - Travel Guide to Rum and Canna
This trip covers the beautiful islands of Rum and Canna. Both quite distinct in character, appearance and size - a two week trip allows time to fully appreciate and experience both these isles and everything they have to offer.
Our itineraries are not meant as tick lists. We’ve included some highlights here but we encourage building in time for both ‘doing and being’ allowing for days of activities and days to meander. We believe this is the best way to enjoy a trip to the Small Isles. Read more about our ‘why’ behind slow travel here.
Week 1 - Rum
The Isle of Rum is the largest of all the Small Isles and a National Nature Reserve. A holiday here is a holiday for outdoor and nature lovers starting before you’ve even set foot on the island. The boat trip is stunning with regular wildlife sightings, views to Skye and the Cuillins and of course the other Small Isles. Keep a lookout for seals, dolphins and even whales in addition to a wide variety of seabirds. Rum’s history dates to early stone age settlers and it is renowned for both its wild landscape and wildlife.
Arriving in Rum
The ferry docks at the pier in Loch Scresort on the eastern side of the island. The main settlement, the village of Kinloch, is 1km away along a lovely, clearly signposted coastal path which passes by the visitor centre, public toilets and the campsite. Accommodation is mostly within walking distance of the pier but please check with your accommodation provider for the best way to reach your accommodation from the boat.
A range of accommodation is available - from the campsite, glamping cabins and bothies (Guirdil and Dibidil) to the guesthouse and bunkhouse. More information is available here. Please book as early as possible, especially in the summer months, to avoid disappointment.
Rum is home to 23% of the entire population of Manx Shearwater. The birds nest in burrows on the Rum Cuillin, only flying into them at night when there are less predators about. The noise of this spectacle truly makes this one of nature’s great events.
Our coastline is a favourite breeding ground for otters and seals. A 10min walk from the pier takes you to the enclosed Otter Hide with fantastic wildlife viewing opportunities.
With a bit of patience, both white-tailed eagles and golden eagles can be viewed in the skies over the island.
Visit the famous Rum red deer at Kilmory. October is rutting season - the sound of the roaring stags is particularly evocative around dawn.
There are a range of low level walking routes from the ferry pier (including a short one to the Otter Hide). Follow the 40 min circular nature trail for fantastic views of Hallival.
Traverse the Rum Cuillin - a challenging but spectacular route with incredible views over the Hebrides (5 peaks, 13 miles). If you have less time or want to do a shorter walk then the two closest summits to Kinloch - Hallival and Barkeval give incredible views and shorten the walk to 8.5miles.
Follow the Coire Dubh Trail for a shorter walk with a real flavour of Rum and fantastic views.
Head over to the sandy beaches of Kilmory at the north end of the island (5 miles from the ferry pier but suitable for mountain bikes). Beautiful views across to the Skye Cuillin mountains.
Rum is best suited to mountain bikes with a few recommended trails across the island:
Cycle from Kinloch to Harris Bay (8 miles each way)
Cycle from Kinloch to Kilmory - (5 miles each way).
The Isle of Rum shop (a 20 min walk from the pier) stocks a range of provisions from everyday supplies to vegan and gluten free options.
You can place an order for a food shop through the Isle of Rum shop a week before your holiday. See here for more details.
Kim’s kitchen serves lunch and evening meals through the summer months - April to October. Catering for all dietary requirements and with an emphasis on local produce.
Visit the craft shop by the red phone box for a variety of home made crafts.
There are a number of events planned throughout the year including a foraging walk, a kayak and yoga weekend, an art retreat and stargazing weekend. Check with Rum bunkhouse for more details.
Good to know
Refuse - Please dispose of all refuse at the skip located at the pier. There are also recycling facilities for plastics and bottles located here.
The pier is usually a hive of activity when the ferry arrives - supplies and deliveries arriving and residents carrying out essential duties. Please be mindful of this and observe all signage/ guidance.
You can find a list of FAQ’s about the island here.
There are two public toilets at the village campsite - a 10- minute walk from the ferry terminal. The Village Hall also has toilets - a 25 min walk from the ferry terminal.
Rum Visitor Centre is on the lower shore road near the old pier. You can find out more about the island’s special features, walking routes, fishing options and pick up various useful leaflets. The centre is open every day throughout the summer months.
Further resources/ reading
Blog post about a long weekend on Rum by Scottish Travel Blogger Kathi Kamleitner.
Youtube video of the Rum Cuillin route by the Highland Hikers.
Week 2 - Island hop to Canna
For week two of your slow travel experience, we suggest island hopping to the most westerly of the Small Isles, Canna. Known as ‘the garden of the Hebrides’, Canna has fertile soils, green meadows and has been recognised as a bird sanctuary since 1938. The island supports over 20,000 breeding seabirds, including puffins, razorbills and guillemots. Canna is connected to the smaller island Sanday to the south-east of the island by a small road bridge.
Canna might be small but has an abundance of wildlife, wild flora, over 1,000 sites of historic interest (Canna is thought to have been inhabited since 5000 BC) and a rich Gaelic heritage. There are regular events through the summer months and ceilidhs are often hosted in the shearing shed which visitors are warmly welcomed to.
You can sail from Rum to Canna on the MV Loch Nevis (Caledonian MacBrayne service) every day through summer except Tuesday and Thursday. The 1hr boat trip offers up beautiful views and the chance to view seabirds and a variety of sealife.
Arriving in Canna
The ferry docks at Canna Pier on the east of the island. Amenities include toilets, a shower, a Community Shop (open 24hrs using an honesty box) which sells food and crafts, Cafe Canna and refuse/ recycling facilities.
Accommodation options include a guest house, campsite and self catering properties. More details available here.
There is an abundance of wildlife on the Small Isles. Here are some of the highlights on Canna:
Explore Canna’s smaller neighbouring island Sanday (connected by bridge) and make your way to the eastern part of the island to see the local puffin colony. Enjoy a virtual visit here.
Look to the skies on warmer days and you are likely to see either golden or sea eagles over Canna.
The waters around Canna are home to a range of sealife including the Common Dolphin, Harbour Porpoise, Minke Whale, Orca Whale and Basking Sharks.
Walking/ Places of interest
Canna coastal circuit. Take a circular walk around the whole of Canna with magnificent views out to the neighbouring Small Isles and beyond. Allow 8-9hrs (summer conditions) for this 12mile walk.
Canna House on the island has an archive of Gaelic materials from the collection of the Campbell family. Take time to visit the Canna House Walled Garden whilst here.
Visit the Rocket Church (near the pier) so named for its shape. It houses an exhibition about the island’s natural and archeological history.
Take in a beautiful sunset from Sanday beach or in Autumn/ Winter take in the spectacle of the sun sinking straight into the Atlantic over Hyskeir Lighthouse.
Visit the Punishment Stone - where criminals would have their thumb wedged into a hole.
There’s a great list of local walks available here.
Join a guided walk or event with the Canna Ranger. Scheduled events are listed here and general information about the Ranger service here. Learn more about the history, ecology and sea life surrounding Canna with an expert guide.
Café Canna is an award-winning little restaurant and bar. The dishes are almost entirely sourced locally with even the beer made locally. Booking is advised.
Organic vegetables from Canna House Garden are available in the community shop.
The local community shop, situated a short walk from the pier, stocks essentials, local goods (including free range eggs & home-made bread) and crafts from local artists. The shop operates on an honesty basis and provides free wifi and a kettle for hot drinks.
Good to know
There is a phone box available next to the post office if you are unable to get mobile reception.
The post office is open 6 days a week through summer (10-4pm).
We recommend taking a bike to the island to give you greater range and flexibility when exploring. There is no bike hire on the island but you can hire from Mallaig Pool prior to coming over (please book all bikes onto the ferry - there is a maximum limit)
Refuse - Please dispose of all refuse at the large container located at the pier. There are also recycling facilities for plastics and bottles located here.
Canna hosts a 10k run every year. Check out the Isle of Canna website for more information.
In Scotland, you can go on to most land to enjoy the outdoors – as long as you behave responsibly. This is known as Scottish access rights and is different to the position in England and Wales. When you are enjoying the outdoors, you must follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
Further advice on wild camping is available from NatureScot here.