Scotland has a rich network of coastline, canals and
lochs to be navigated and explored – or just to wile away the hours on.
Scotland’s coastline can be anything from white, wide
beaches to jagged mountains and sea cliffs. There are coasts dotted with
tiny villages, multi-coloured ports and islands solely the domain of
nesting sea birds. There are lochs that sparkle, seeming never to end
and rivers that wind serenely through city and glen. Famed for the clear
air and even clearer waters, Scotland is a world-class destination for
sailors of all abilities and all crafts. Whether it be yachting in
Ayrshire, relaxing in the Hebrides while a local professional crew
navigate the waters, or steering yourself and dropping the pace through
Scotland’s picturesque canal system, there’s a holiday for experienced
sea farers and adventurous land lovers alike.
Messing around on boats
There are a number of recommended sailing routes in
and around the country. The picturesque 80-mile-long Ayrshire coastline
with its mix of headlands, pristine beaches and ports is as good a place
as any to start. A trip on the Firth of Clyde can take in Ayrshire’s
three well-equipped marinas: Largs, Troon and Ardrossan. All good
stopping points for supplies, excellent restaurants, amenities and
historical attractions. The islands of Arran and Great Cumbrae are both
accessible from the Ayrshire coast too. Arran, often referred to as
‘Scotland in miniature’ – mountainous in the north, gentle rolling hills
in the south, offers the diversity of rugged coastlines, deserted
beaches and villages. It’s abundant in wildlife too. The Isle of Cumbrae,
though much smaller – its coastline is only 10 miles long – is well
worth a visit, even just to see the smallest cathedral in Europe – the
Cathedral of the Isles.
Further north lies the majesty of the Hebrides.
Generally believed to be some of the best sailing in the world, the
Hebrides offer visiting sailors everything from sightings of whales,
dolphins and grey seals to seabirds and golden eagles. Turquoise hued
waters warmed by the Gulf Stream and of course the many, varied islands
The East Coast offers some great sailing routes too.
From Berwick, close to the Scottish Borders, up to Wick in Caithness,
there have been many new marinas built and improvements to facilities in
many of the local fishing harbours. Many visitors to this area visit
Eyemouth, which is an important dive centre, Port Edgar and sail down
the Firth of Forth to the sea bird sanctuary Bass Rock, home to the
largest island gannet colony in the world. Many travel across to
Anstruther in Fife too. Further north still is the Moray Firth where
there are excellent new marinas at Banff and Lossiemouth. The Moray
Firth is one of the best places in Scotland to catch sight of whales,
dolphins, porpoises and seals.
All hands to the deck
There’s plenty of options for novices too. New Horizon
Sailing in the Hebrides offers skippered sailing holidays around the
Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland with a difference. Guests can chart a
berth or the whole yacht and being a Royal Yachting Association (RYA)
accredited sailing school can learn the craft, at all levels, too.
Absolute beginners can try taster cruises or weekends of sailing in the
sheltered waters of the Firth of Clyde or begin RYA training. More
experienced sailors can further their sailing qualifications, or notch
up some sea miles on the longer, more challenging waters of trips to St.
Kilda, Orkney and Shetland. Holidays are on board a comfortable Oyster
yacht under the watchful eye of experienced skippers. The emphasis is on
enjoying the yacht, the company, the sailing, the incredible wildlife
and scenery constantly on offer and when the day‘s done some good food
and wine in one of the many secluded anchorages.
For a slower pace, Scotland’s canals offer a chance to
unobtrusively drift along and explore Scotland’s interior waterways and
countryside. The network of inland canals stretches 137 miles and dates
back 200 years. Scotland has four major canals: the Caledonian Canal in
the Highlands, a major feat of canal engineering; connecting Loch Lochy,
Loch Oich, Loch Ness and Loch Dochfour, four natural lochs, with a
man-made canal through the Great Glen. The Crinan Canal in Argyll and
Bute links Loch Fyne with the Sound of Jura and is known as ‘Britain‘s
most beautiful shortcut‘. The Union Canal which runs between Edinburgh
and the Falkirk Wheel, and the Forth and Clyde Canal that crosses the
country from the Clyde through Glasgow to the Forth. A holiday on a
canal boat can be taken either on a narrow boat, barge or cruiser and no
previous experience is required. A couple of hours is all that’s needed
to learn the ropes and you’re free to explore the waterways, lie back or
visit the many canal side pubs and restaurants along the route. With a
top speed of around 4 miles per hour, you don’t get much more mellow
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