Scotland is a beautiful country with vast Highland expanses and towering peaks to explore. It offers some of the most remote locations anywhere in the UK, but also boasts two of the most exciting and vibrant cities in Glasgow and the capital Edinburgh. It also has a plethora of stunning Scottish coastal towns to offer the intrepid traveller.

When one thinks of exploring Scotland, images of walking boots, rain jackets, and 4×4 vehicles are probably conjured up. And if you think about exploring Scotland by water, it’s almost inevitable you’ll think of a day trip to Loch Ness and the legend of the monster. What you probably won’t think of is a cruise, but it’s a solid method of exploring this magical country.

Again, playing on stereotypes, when picturing a cruise, it’s likely that you’ll imagine searing sunshine, pina colada on deck, and sandy shores to dock at.

In reality, cruises can take you to Iceland and the Northern Lights, around Europe, and, notably, around some of Scotland’s beautiful coastal towns.

Here are some of the locations different cruises might take you to in around Scotland, which might be worth revisiting if you ever think about booking a cruise.

Scottish Coastal Towns - Lerwick
Picture from Peggychoucair auf Pixabay



The 930-berth Viking Venus, operated by Viking Ocean Cruises, kicked off the 2023 cruise season in Lerwick on the Shetland Isles, Scotland’s most northerly point.

Shetland has become popular in recent years thanks to the BBC show of the same name starring Douglas Henshall, with its main town, Lerwick, being of particularly interest.

With a population of just 7,000, it isn’t a vibrant metropolis, but its quaint streets and breath-taking scenery are a must-see. You should visit this place at least once in your lifetime.

Lerwick is located 200 miles northeast of Aberdeen, so visiting the town via a cruise is perhaps one of the best ways to get to it. And it does help if you have the comfort of a cruise ship to retire to, just in case the famous Shetland weather turns suddenly.

Scotland from the sea Edinburgh Leith Harbour


Edinburgh is Scotland’s capital, and whilst cruise ships don’t stop in the city itself, they do generally include South Queensferry as a base from which to visit the famous city for a day.

Several Explora Cruises itineraries include Edinburgh, so you might pop into the capital as part of the European Canals and Scottish Lochs trip, or even en route to the Icelandic Lagoons.

Whichever way you arrive here, Edinburgh is always great place to visit.

From walking up Arthur’s Seat to wandering around the castle, there’s plenty to do, and the endearing Old Town will have you enthralled with its steep streets and quaint restaurants and pubs.

Try not to drink and eat too much though around town, as the exquisite restaurants onboard Explora’s cruise ships are worth checking out at the end of your day.

Scotland from the sea stornoway
Image by Julian Paren from Wikimedia


Stornoway is located on the Outer Hebrides, to the west of Scotland, and it’s another popular cruise destination.

Viking Cruises and Explora both take in the capital of Lewis and Harris, as well as many other providers.

What do they find there? Originally a Viking settlement, Stornoway has a rich maritime history, so arriving by sea is simply following in the footsteps of everybody from invading marauders to fishermen.

You might catch the Northern Lights here – it is on the same latitude as Stavanger in Norway and Nunivak Island in Alaska, but by the time they’re visible, you’re sure to be back on board the ship!

Scotland from the sea portree
Image by Gernot Keller from Wikimedia


Portree is the main town on the Isle of Skye, and it has a strong Gaelic heritage.

It was removed from the Carnival Cruise Itinerary last year, but Explora still docks there on several of their trips, including the journey to Wild Caledonia and across the Arctic Circle.

What can guests visiting Portree expect? Like Stornoway and Lerwick, Portree is a small town serving the surrounding area, as well as tourists.

However it is surrounded by hills, unlike the others, which makes it perfect for stretching your legs after a night on the ocean.

Ben Tianavaig to the south and Fingal’s Seat to the west are both over 1000 feet, or if you prefer, you can just relax in one of the cafes and restaurants serving those summer tourists.

What are your favourite Scottish Coastal Towns?
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Katharina is the founder, editor, photographer and the main travel writer at A Life Beautifully Travelled. She created this British family travel blog in 2017 to document her adventures around the globe with her husband. Born in Munich, Germany she has since lived in Dusseldorf, Paris, Glasgow, and London. She currently resides in Yorkshire with her family.

Katharina started travelling in her early teens and has explored over 4 continents, 16 countries, and 87 cities. Growing up trilingual and having graduated from an international school, she has a strong interest in other cultures. When she isn’t gallivanting around the globe or busy in her 9-to-5 job as an architect, she can be found exploring the UK (the country she currently calls home). There isn’t much Katharina, her husband and their son Finn love more than a fun family weekend getaway.

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