We are proud to be a multi-award-winning cruise specialist

4 of the best small ship cruises to Scotland

Cruise Advice

If Scotland were on the other side of the world, you wouldn't hesitate to put it on your 'must visit' list, like David Attenborough on his series Wild Isles, where he visited coastlines and landscapes around the UK, including Scotland. Read on to discover the four best small ship cruises to Scotland.

Beautiful scenery, lots of history, great food (and whisky), dramatic landscapes, busy cities, culture, wildlife, castles and more. Because it's on our doorstep, we tend to set it aside as something we can do at any time. Here are some of our favourite small ship cruise lines plying the waters around Scotland...

1. Hebridean Princess

This little gem of a vessel will take you to beautiful and remote destinations including the Scottish mainland and the rarely visited islands, enabling you to explore far and wide without the worries of packing and unpacking, or missing the fantastic sights because you need to keep your eyes on the road. A focus on cycling or walking is the highlight of certain itineraries, but whichever itinerary you choose, you can be super active, or totally lazy. Choose from an extraordinary variety of cruises in 2024 and 2025.

Hebridean Princess in Scotland

2. Lord of the Highlands

Small enough to transit the intricate waters and impossibly tight locks of the Caledonian Canal, whilst still able to go to sea, albeit in the sheltered waters around Scotland's hauntingly beautiful fretted west coast, this little ship carries a maximum of 38 guests. Lord of the Highlands has the same unmistakeably Scottish Feel as Hebridean Princess, with the same relaxed house party atmosphere, and the 6- and 7-night itineraries all make a transit of the Canal, combined with exploration further afield.

Lord of the Highlands

3. Ponant

French cruise line Ponant offers a whole host of Scottish small ship cruises, including a 7-day, in-depth exploration of Scotland's most beautiful archipelagos - the Orkney, Hebrides and Shetland Islands - where there's a chance to spot orcas like David Attenborough did on his BBC Series Wild Isles. As well as whisky distillery visits and the chance to explore the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh before and after your cruise, back on board, Ponant's 184-guest explorer ship Le Lapérouse mixes a modern super yacht feel and nautical tradition with French flair, alongside onboard lecturers by local experts.

Le Champlain in Scotland

4. European Waterways

We have been moving from 'very small' to 'tiny' as we list the best vessels for your Scottish exploration, so it is only right that we finish off with two lovely barges operated by European Waterways, the 12-guest Spirit of Scotland and the 8-guest Scottish Highlander. The perfect vessels to charter for a magical trip with family and friends, these cosy but stylish barges are a great base for walking and cycling, exploring towns and castles, pretty villages and remote countryside, and enjoying fantastic meals based on local produce. After a wee dram or two you might even spot the Loch Ness monster...

European Waterways - Spirit of Scotland
Meet the author

Edwina Lonsdale is Managing Director and together with husband Matthew, owner of Mundy Cruising. Most recently she's cruised on Windstar and has also sailed with Silversea, Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas, Crystal, SeaDream, Ponant, AmaWaterways and Aqua Expeditions. Her favourite destination is the Galapagos however she's also enjoyed cruises in the Mediterranean, Danube, Middle East, East Africa & Indian Ocean, Brahmaputra, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, the Mekong, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, the Caribbean and the Arctic. When she’s not travelling she loves reading, food and wine.

More about Edwina

Get your free subscription to Cruise News

The UK's most authoritative magazine about the world of luxury cruising. New ships, new destinations, new experiences and new offers. Be more informed, every two months, with Cruise News.

Order your copy