Beneath vast, panoramic skies, clouds roll over mountains with forested slopes and waterfalls, while ruined castles stand proud on rugged peninsulas, haunting reminders of Scotland's noble history. Sea lochs languish between rugged cliffs and small harbours and towns cling to the shore. Off shore, eagles soar and puffins build their nests on perilous island cliffs. Here whales, dolphin, porpoise and shark, carve passageways beneath the waves.
With such sights to see, it is understandable that Scotland's idyllic coastline and islands are ultimately best viewed from the sea. With this in mind, we at Steppes have chosen some of the very best vessels; offering a mix of traditional style and luxury, with expert crew who know not only the highlights, but also the hidden gems of this maritime region. In short, our cruises along Scotland's dramatic west coast and the islands of the Hebrides will not only be comfortable but, we hope, unforgettable.
Where do most cruises set sail from?
The bustling town of Oban is known as the ‘Gateway to the Isles’, as it’s the hub for boats leaving to the Inner and Outer Hebrides. It is also known as the ‘Seafood Capital of Scotland’.
Which regions are visited by expedition cruises?
Argyll itself offers over 3,000 miles of dramatic coastline along Scotland's west coast. Numerous sea lochs open into the coastal waters and are home to a fertile eco-system and fascinating wildlife. Traditional towns and villages lie along the coast where ancient woodlands, castles and world famous whisky distilleries are all waiting to be explored.
Out at sea lie the widespread and diverse archipelago of the Inner and Outer Hebrides. These islands have long been occupied and affected by the successive influences of Celtic, Norse and English, reflected in the diversity of the island's names. The islands are a source of much music and literature, while today's economy is dependent on tourism, the oil industry, renewable energy, fishing and crofting.
The largest island of the Inner Hebrides is Skye, a gem of an island. Its dramatic Cuillin Mountains dominate beautiful sea lochs and some interesting geological features. Swim in the Faerie Pools of Glenbrittle, visit the Old Man of Storr rock pinnacles and keep your eyes peeled for spectacular wildlife.
Mull is one of the most mountainous islands, best known for its wonderful wildlife, with nesting sea eagles and plenty of marine life in its waters, including whales. Here you can visit Duart Castle, take a trip on the narrow-gauge railway, go hill walking and sample whisky in the local distillery. The capital of Mull, Tobermory is instantly recognisable thanks to its colourful buildings surrounding the natural harbour. Built as a fishing port, the town has a mix of shops, cafés and restaurants and an excellent selection of locally produced arts and crafts.
Iona nestles off the coast of Mull and has been a place of pilgrimage for almost 1,500 years. Visit the restored Benedictine Monastery and the island's spectacular white sandy beaches.
The most southerly isle Arran, is small with a remarkable diversity of landscapes and seascapes. Tour Brodick Castle, climb Goat Fell and discover the standing stones of Machrie Moor before a visit to the distillery.
On a beautiful sunny day on Eigg, you could be forgiven for thinking you’re in the Caribbean. Here, walk along the singing sands and climb An Sgùrr, the remains of Eigg’s ancient volcano.
On the diamond shape Isle of Rum visit the eccentric Kinloch Castle, walk in the stunning mountain and coastal scenery, stroll on the beautiful beaches and enjoy the wildlife, especially the hardy Rum ponies.
Muck is the smallest, a low-lying island with sandy beaches and rocky shores. Here it's possible to climb the 452 ft Beinn Airein for views over the surrounding islands.
The Isle of Coll is a real gem, around 40 miles west of Oban. With numerous sandy beaches and an abundance of wildlife, it’s a little off-the-beaten-track and is tempting for intrepid explorers seeking some peace and tranquillity.