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Summer Sailing in Scotland Guide

Date published: 18 June 2021

Wondering why you #MustSeaScotland this summer? From the depths of it sparkling aquamarine waters to the soaring summits of its breathtaking peaks, summer in Scotland is packed full of unforgettable experiences. 

Exploring its natural wonders or its manmade icons; delving into its storied history or diving with its giants; draining a dram or drinking in the sunset; what will you discover this summer in Scotland?

Whatever you’re looking for, there’s no better way to find it than by taking to Scotland’s waters. We’ve picked out just a few of the countless things to see and do in Scotland this summer. Get planning!

COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS

Check the current Covid-19 restrictions in Scotland and continue to plan and book ahead when considering your trip. You can search VisitScotland's website for businesses that are open and Good to Go, where they have a Covid-19 risk assessment.

DIVE DEEP WITH BASKING SHARKS

Inner Hebrides

Set sail for the Inner Hebrides this summer and you might just find yourself sharing its waters with the second biggest fish on the planet – the mighty basking shark. Don’t worry, these gentle giants only feed on plankton – but seeing them glide through the water, mouths agape, is a humbling, epic experience.

Tempted? Delve into the deep with Basking Shark Scotland, who offer high adventure, low impact, eco-conscious diving tours led by marine biologists.

Looking to go wild this year? Grab our guide to spotting Scotland’s wildlife!

SAIL ‘BRITAIN’S MOST BEAUTIFUL SHORTCUT’

Crinan Canal, Argyll

It’s easy to see why people fall in love with the Crinan Canal. Meandering through the ancient coastal kingdom known as ‘Dalriada’ in the heart of Argyll & Bute, the 200-year-old waterway might be just nine miles long but it features some of the most spectacular scenery to be found anywhere in Scotland. A single summer visit to the Crinan with the canalside in bloom and the sun beating down is all it’ll take for you to see why it’s known as ‘Britain’s most beautiful shortcut.’

(c) Fiona Sherry

TAKE A DIP IN THE FAIRY POOLS

Skye

Stretch your sea legs and head inland to explore Skye’s world-famous Fairy Pools - a series of flowing pools on the River Brittle filled with crystal-clear azure waters that’s magical in more than just name. Summer is the perfect time to pack your bathing suit and try some wild swimming – but be warned, even with the sun beating down, it can be chilly!

CAPTURE DUNNOTAR CASTLE

Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire

Ruined but romantic, evocative but eerie, Dunnotar Castle is a fallen fortress plucked from a fairytale. Set on a soaring cliff top overlooking the roaring waves of the North Sea, summer is the perfect time to take in the epic views this coastal bastion offers and hear of the pivotal role it’s played in the history of Scotland. Most famously, a small garrison held out against the might of Oliver Cromwell’s army for eight months and saved the Scottish Crown Jewels, the ‘Honours of Scotland’, from destruction.

TAKE A TURN ON THE FALKIRK WHEEL

Falkirk

Elegant, audacious, and utterly enchanting – The Falkirk Wheel is a soaring symbol of the regeneration of Scotland’s historic canal network and a marvel of modern engineering. Linking the Forth & Clyde Canal to the Union some 35 metres above, the world’s only rotating boat lift replaced the 11 locks that once carried countless vessels between the two waterways and must be seen to be believed. Nowhere else on the planet can you sail through the sky, held up in the heavens by a combination of graceful engineering and the same power as it would take to boil eight kettles!

Scotland is home to some amazing engineering. Find out how to explore it by boat with our guide! 

SINK YOUR TOES INTO THE CARIBBEAN SANDS OF VATERSAY

Outer Hebrides

The first time you catch a glimpse of the Isle of Vatersay’s East Beach and you might think you’ve strayed far, far off course and ended up in the Seychelles. Sweeping white sands, sparkling aquamarine waters and rolling hills in the distance – the bay is one of Scotland’s most beautiful beaches and well worth a summer trip to the southernmost tip of the Outer Hebrides.

CLIMB NEPTUNE’S STAIRCASE

CALEDONIAN CANAL

Take a trip to beautiful Banavie near Fort William to see the majestic Caledonian Canal’s iconic staircase lock flight – Neptune’s Staircase. This amazing feat of engineering, overlooked by Ben Nevis, raises the canal by 19m (62ft) over a quarter of a mile of continuous masonry and takes around 90 minutes for a boat to travel up or down the locks. Built by famed engineer Thomas Telford between 1803 and 1822, it’s the longest staircase lock in Scotland and the perfect location to enjoy a spot of ‘gongoozling!’

TAKE A DIP IN GOUROCK POOL

Gourock

Outdoor pools in Scotland. Yes - you read that right. As unlikely as it seems, they do exist, and Gourock Pool – opened in 1909 – is one of the last surviving examples. Possibly because it’s heated. Head along on a Wednesday for the ever-popular midnight swimming sessions and take a unique dip beneath the stars.

SPEND A NIGHT IN WIZARD POOL

Loch Skiport, South Uist

There are few anchorages in Scotland that stir the soul in the same way as the secluded, magical – and aptly-named – Wizard Pool in Loch Skiport. It’s the perfect base to explore South Uist’s many beautiful bays, lochans, and unspoiled white sand beaches. But, even if all you do is berth up and relax, you’ll never forget a night spent beneath the stars with the mighty mountain Hecla’s serrated peaks silhouetted against the bright sky.

(c) Eda Fransen Sailing

DANCE THE DAY AWAY AT THE Hebridean Celtic Festival

Stornoway, Isle of Lewis

Set in the stunning grounds of Lews Castle, HebCelt might just be the most atmospheric music festival on the planet. Hear music celebrating Celtic cultures, tinged with contemporary, rock and indie-folk influences and explore the many wonders of the Hebrides.

(c) Colin Cameron

SAY HELLO TO SANDWOOD BAY

Kinlochbervie, Sutherland

Often called the most beautiful beach in Britain, Sandwood Bay is a striking stretch of pink sand flanked by colossal cliffs and backed by the large dunes of Sandwood Loch. Unreachable by road, it’s also known as Britain’s most remote beach. Standing alone on its dunes, admiring the haunting beauty of the sea stack of Am Buachaille (“the shepherd”) as it stands its ground against the might of the Atlantic Ocean is an unforgettable experience.

OPEN WIDE AT THE OYSTER SHED

Carbost, Skye

Located in the wee village of Carbost on the Isle of Skye,  The Oyster Shed Farm Shop’s oysters are grown in the crystal-clear waters of Loch Harport and are said to be some of Scotland’s finest. If oysters don’t take your fancy, the wee hut serves up an array of smoked salmon, mussels, crab, and scallops – as well as delicious cheeses and chutneys. Make sure to wash down all that world-class seafood with a wee dram at the nearby Talisker Distillery, just a short walk from the Shed.

Love whisky? Check out our guide to sailing some of Scotland's greatest distilleries!