How to visit the Isle of Rum, one of the Scottish Small Isles

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The Isle of Rum lies on the West coast of Scotland and is the largest of the Small Isles, a group of islands that you can reach from Mallaig.

Rum has a small community living on it and growing tourism especially considering that not too long ago it was known as the Forbidden Isle and was purely a nature reserve that you couldn’t visit.  Times, they are a changing.

island of rum on Scotland's west coast

Although growing, Rum isn’t on the typical tourist trail and that’s because it doesn’t have the infrastructure that many of the other Scottish Islands have. There are no roads as such, you can’t take your car, there’s only one small shop and only a couple of accommodation options.

Add that in to the fact that it’s one of the worst areas for Scotland’s midges and you can see why it’s not on many people’s vacation list.

For those who do make the trip you’re rewarded with stunning views, honestly they are some of the best I’ve seen in Scotland, amazing nature and a real feeling of peace and quiet.

Things to do on the Isle of Rum

castle on isle of rum

Kinloch Castle

So although Rum was and still is primarily a nature reserve, there is one really rather unique feature on the island that has nothing to do with nature at all.  Kinloch castle is unmissable as the ferry comes towards docking at Rum.  It’s imposing structure invites you to wonder more as you walk past it towards the village shop.  What is the story behind it?

Here’s just a snippet of the history, I’d never do the whole thing justice!  The castle was built in the late 1800’s from stone that came from the Isle of Arran and was in effect a holiday home for one of the richest men in the UK at that time – Sir George Bullough.  It took three years to build and if it was priced in todays money would have cost £15 million pounds!

You can do tours of the castle and they are highly recommended which helps to keep the heritage and history of the island, including the castle alive.

isle of rum landscape

Walks

No matter your hiking ability there should be something to suit you on Rum. As soon as you get off the ferry there is a nearby Otter Trail that is suitable for most people and there’s a small circular trail if you’re just on the island for a day trip.

More energetic people might like to walk to the other sides of the islands to where the beaches are – there’s Kilmory and Harris on offer.

Hill walkers have a lot of options too with many mountains and trails to attempt. If you do attempt some proper hill walks on Rum please be prepared – the weather can change in an instant and they aren’t really for beginners.

Nature watching

Rum is amazing for nature. On our visits we’ve seen deer, eagles, dolphins, seals and so much more. The fact that it’s so large and has so little people mean that there’s a lot to see.

There are a lot of Red deer on Rum and so if you decide to come in the Autumn you might also hear the call of the males as they head into rutting season.

Kinloch Village

The village of Kinloch, where most of the islanders live is worth exploring too. There are lots of craft shops and the one island shop is also normally open in time with ferry visitors. The village hall sometimes also has food options too.

Best time to visit Rum

Scotland is a wonderful place to visit at any time of the year but which is best for Rum?

Each season has its benefits but the summer season and late spring/early autumn is best for travellers because there’s more chance of ferries and day trip options. The accommodation is also more plentiful and craft shops are open on the island. The weather is much better then too.

It has to be noted that this is also high season for midges too, Scotland’s biting insects which are particularly bad on Rum.

Outside of that time you can still visit and we’ve actually visited in all seasons (although we stayed with friends so slightly different to tourists) – each one has something to offer. The snow on the peaks in winter is a sight to behold, especially looking over to Skye!

Winter and early spring/late autumn bring chances that ferries can be cancelled so it’s important to be aware of that. You can get stuck on the island if bad storms come in.

Isle of Rum Accommodation

If you want to stay overnight on Rum there’s a couple of different options. The community has been working on expanding these options each year – when we first visited there were hardly any options at all.

If you need to book you’ll need to do so direct with the owners – I’ve linked where possible to their sites.

You have the Ivy Cottage guest house, bunkhouse, camping cabins and campsite (check out the Bunkhouse for details) and of course, if you wanted to take a small tent off into the wilderness you could do that too.

island of rum
Rum in the background from a campsite we stayed in near Mallaig

How to get to the Isle of Rum

Ferry from Mallaig

The Isle of Rum is reached by Calmac passenger ferry from the port of Mallaig on the West coast of Scotland.  There are no cars allowed on Rum apart from the resident’s cars so it’s foot passengers only.  

The ferry goes round all of the Small Isles (Rum, Eigg, Muck and Canna) and normally departs in the morning. There is a different summer and winter timetable so be aware of that if you’re travelling in the shoulder season where it might change.

Check out Calmac’s site here for ferry details

Ferry from Arisaig

Another small village on the west coast that you’ll get to before arriving in Mallaig is Arisaig and you can also get a small boat to Rum from there too.

The Sheerwater boat can take you on a day trip to the island where you might also catch a glimpse of dolphins and other sea life on the way.

Check info about the Arisaig ferry here.

Accommodation before leaving the mainland

You’ll probably need to factor in some form of accommodation before getting to Rum whether you go on a day trip or stay overnight. You have a few options between Mallaig and Fort William.

My tip for you is to check your ferry time and allow yourself plenty of wiggle room for getting there and parking at Mallaig. Fort William is close by but still at least an hours drive to the ferry. Mallaig has less option and may be slightly more expensive but you have the luxury of having the ferry on your doorstep!

Check Booking.com for hotels and VRBO for vacation rentals in and around Mallaig.

Fort William might be worth thinking about staying in if you’re interested in the Harry Potter train.

You could base yourself there and take the train to Mallaig and go over the famous Glenfinnan viaduct. The train times (just the general train, the steam train can’t be used in conjunction with the ferries) normally correlate with the ferry times and arrive just in time to board. Check Trainline for info if this interests you.

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Kirsty Bartholomew

Kirsty has been getting lost around the world for over 30 years and writing about it for 10 of those. She loves to explore the UK and Europe and has a particular penchant for historical sites.

3 thoughts on “How to visit the Isle of Rum, one of the Scottish Small Isles”

  1. You need to add the tag “Scotland” to these posts as you will be one of my main source for tourism once i become a resident in your growing-up land 😉

    Maybe by the time we make it to the Island of Rum the new B&B is already running and we’ll be another couple of happy costumers!!

    Reply
  2. Sounds like you had a fabulous time and lovely photos 🙂 Our 2013 travel plans change on a weekly basis and we are hoping to visit Scotland and our friends on Rum 🙂

    Reply

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