Visiting lighthouses on the mainland may be easy enough, but things get a little tricky when it comes to the island or rock lighthouses. Since I set out on my endeavour I have encountered numerous boat companies willing to go out to lighthouses. I felt this was valuable information to share with others.
This list includes boats available for private charters as well as those that offer regular tourist sailings to or around lighthouses. It does not include scheduled ferries. Chartering boats is expensive and is often best shared with friends, both financially and for the company. If you lack friends who share your enjoyment of lighthouses, you may wish to join the Association of Lighthouse Keepers to meet other likeminded people.
The regions listed here tie in with those in my book, The British Lighthouse Trail: A Regional Guide which was released in 2019.
It should be noted that some companies will be able to land you on the islands, while others are better suited to sailing close to the lighthouses. A number of the more remote lighthouses no longer have maintained landing areas by boat and using old landing areas or rocks to land on is done so at your own risk.
Of course this list is likely to change and I will aim to keep it as up-to-date as possible. If you become aware of any new operators or those listed who no longer run then do please contact me to let me know.
To skip quickly to a certain section use the following links:
Region 1: Shetland
Compass Rose – Based in Cullivoe on Yell, Compass Rose is a fishing vessel and can take 12 passengers. Covers areas around Yell and Unst including Muckle Flugga. Private charter only. Willing to land on islands.
Simmer Dim Charters – Based at Aith Marina on Shetland Mainland, the Orysia is a small fishing boat that can take up to 6 passengers. Covers areas along the west coast of Mainland. Private charter only.
Shetland Sea Adventures – Operating out of Hamnavoe, Burra Isle on the west coast of Mainland Shetland, this fishing boat covers the west coast of Mainland. Specialises in trips to Foula. Private charter only.
Seabirds and Seals – Operating out of Lerwick, this catamaran can take 12 passengers. Runs a regular tourist trip during the summer season, but also available for private charter.
Region 2: Orkney
Northerly Marine Services – Based in Kirkwall, Northerly Marine Services offer a larger and smaller boat and cover almost any area in Orkney, including down to Pentland Skerries and up to the islands in the north. Charters to Fair Isle also considered. Private charter only. Willing to land on islands.
Orkney Marine Charters – (link takes you to Facebook – for non-Facebook users email firstname.lastname@example.org. Based in St Margaret’s Hope and can take up to 6 passengers. Perfect location for Scapa Flow. Private charter only. Willing to land on islands.
Caithness Seacoast – Offer daily sailings from Wick harbour in Caithness. Their Charter Route will take you around the Pentland Skerries, but will not land you on the lighthouse island. Operates tourist trips and private charters.
Region 3: Northern Scotland
Cape Wrath Ferry – (link is for Facebook, call 07719 544207) – Offers regular, daily trips (weather permitting) during the summer season from Keoldale pier near Durness as part of the journey to Cape Wrath lighthouse.
Scoraig boats – To visit both the old and new Cailleach Head lighthouses without the long walk, more details of how to reach the village can be found by clicking the link.
Region 4: Western Isles
Sea Harris – Operates covered RIBs out of Leverburgh or Tarbert on Harris, for up to 12 passengers. Covers all areas around Lewis and Harris and will (weather permitting) go to Flannan Islands and Monach Isles. Private charter only for lighthouse trips. Willing to land on islands.
SeaTrek – Runs from Miavaig pier on Lewis. Operates open RIBs for smaller groups and a larger covered boat for up to 12 passengers. Private charter only. Will go up to North Rona and Sula Sgeir. Willing to land on islands.
Kilda Cruises – Operates out of Leverburgh, Harris. Runs two boats, including a catamaran, which can take up to 12 passengers. Private charter only. Willing to land on islands.
Stornaway Seafari – Operates an open RIB for up to 12 passengers from Stornoway. Due to the open boat, this would be better suited to visiting the lights along the east coast of Lewis. Private charter only.
Uist Sea Tours – Operates covered RIB from Lochboisdale harbour. Well located for lights in Lochboisdale harbour and those on the east coast of the Uists, including Ushenish. Private charter only. May offer trips to the Monach Isles from 2021. Willing to land on islands.
Barra Fishing Charters – Operates the Boy James fishing boat out of Castlebay on Barra. Run Neighbouring Island trips on request from May to September which take in Barra Head, but can also be chartered for a private trip. Will to land on islands.
Region 5: Inner Hebrides
Coastal Connection – Operate two covered RIBs out of Oban, both can take up to 12 passengers. Their standard day rate for private charter is based on 80 nautical miles, but will go further afield for an extra cost. Willing to attempt landings on islands when safe to do so. Private charter only.
Calum’s Seal Trips – Regular wildlife trips operate out of Plockton during the summer months and give a good opportunity to sail close to Eilean a’Chait lighthouse.
Wild Spirit – Operates out of Kyleakin on Skye on an open RIB which can take up to 12 passengers. A good option for visiting Rona. Also run (weather permitting) a tour around the whole coast of Skye. Private charter only.
Sea Skye – Runs open RIBs from Dunvegan on Skye. Well located for trips to Hyskeir and Eileen Trodday lighthouses. Private charter only.
Minch Adventures – Runs from Mallaig and specialises in trips to areas including Eigg, Canna, Skye and has previously run a trip to Dubh Artach lighthouse. Can take up to 12 passengers. Private charter only.
Region 6: North East Scotland
Aberdeen Harbour Tours – Run 1-hour trips around Aberdeen Harbour for a closer view of the harbour lights here from the sea. Pre-booking recommended.
Arbroath Angling – Runs trips on board a fishing vessel to see Bell Rock lighthouse from Arbroath.
Inchcape Marine Services – Operates a fishing vessel out of Arbroath and can be booked for trips to see Bell Rock lighthouse. Private charter only.
Region 7: Mull to Islay
Coastal Connection – Operate two covered RIBs out of Oban, both can take up to 12 passengers. Their standard day rate for private charter is based on 80 nautical miles, but will go further afield for an extra cost. Willing to go out to Dubh Artach and attempt landings on islands when safe to do so. Private charter only.
Tiree Sea Tours – Operate an open RIB and larger vessel out of Scarinish and can take up to 12 passengers. During the summer months (weather permitting) they run non-landing trips out to Skerryvore lighthouse with pre-booking essential. A private charter is required if you wish to attempt a landing on the rock.
Fairsain Cruises – Offers trips from Craobh Haven to the Garvellachs and Fladda with landings. Can take up to 12 passengers. Pre-booking essential.
Craignish Cruises – Running from Ardfern, their boat can take up to 12 passengers. Offer 5-hour cruises taking in the Garvellachs and landing on the lighthouse island. The tour can also involve a sail past Fladda lighthouse. Willing to undertaken other private charters to lighthouse in the area. Pre-booking essential.
Venture West – Operating out of Crinan Harbour, their covered RIBs can take up to 12 passengers. They run organised trips to the Garvellachs during the summer season, landing on the lighthouse island of conditions allow. They are also available for private charter. Pre-booking essential.
Seafari – Operate open RIBs covered vessels for up to 12 passengers. They are willing to offer trips from Easdale, Oban or from any point throughout Argyll. Pre-booking essential.
Islay Sea Adventures – Have a range of vessels available for up to 12 passengers. Tours run from Port Ellen on Islay and can take in any of the lighthouses around Islay and Jura. Private charter only.
Region 8: Kintyre and Firth of Clyde
Sea Clyde – Operates out of Largs using a covered RIB licensed for up to 9 passengers. Run regular trips to Little Cumbrae, but willing to go further afield including as far as Pladda, Ailsa Craig and Sanda. Pre-booking essential for Little Cumbrae, otherwise a private charter is required.
C&C Marine Services – Run an open RIB / dive boat out of Fairlie for up to 10 passengers. They can offer visits to Little Cumbrae and Lady Isle (with landings) in particular. Private charter only.
Fyne Sea Tours – Run charter trips from Portvadie for up to 12 passengers. They are perfectly located for exploring the smaller lights of Lochs Fyne and Long, but are able to travel up to 60 miles offshore which gives plenty of opportunity for more lighthouses.
Ailsa Craig Trips – Run daily sailings (weather permitting) from Girvan to Ailsa Craig, including landing on the island. Can take up to 12 passengers. Pre-booking essential.
Seaforce – Operating an open RIB from the small pier next to the Riverside Museum in Glasgow. Well located for seeing some of the Clyde lights from the river and getting a closer look at Dumbuck lighthouse. Pre-booking essential.
Holy Isle Ferry – Operates regular trips from Lamlash, weather permitting. Pre-booking essential.
Region 9: South East Scotland
Anstruther Pleasure Cruises – Running from Anstruther to the Isle of May regularly from June to September on boat a small covered ferry with both indoor and outdoor seating. Allows 2-3 hours on the island. Pre-booking recommended.
Osprey Anstruther – Operating out of Anstruther using an open RIB. Run regular trips to the Isle of May, with 2-3 hours on the island, from June to September. Pre-booking recommended.
Braveheart Boat Trips – Operating out of North Berwick on board a fishing vessel which is licensed for up to 10 people. Willing to land on Bass Rock (with winter landings including access to the whole island) and Fidra. Also sail to Isle of May. Boat is hired on an hourly rate and advance booking is essential.
Forth Sea Safaris – Run an open RIB and catamaran out of North Queensferry for private charters only. Both boats can take up to 12 passengers to islands in the Firth of Forth, including Inchkeith and Oxcars lighthouse. Willing to land on islands.
Scottish Seabird Centre – Run regular trips from North Berwick to both the Isle of May (with at least 2.5 hours on the island) and Bass Rock (including landing). The Isle of May boat trip sails you past Bass Rock. Trips run from Easter to Autumn. Pre-booking essential. Private charters also available.
Edinburgh Boat Charters – Departing from Port Edgar, run regular catamaran trips including a Bridges & Islands Full Day which sails past Inchkeith and you will also see Oxcars lighthouse. Their Ultimate Day Sail takes in (with no landings) the above as well as Fidra, Bass Rock and the Isle of May. Pre-booking essential. Private charter also available.
Seafari – Runs open RIB boat trips from North Berwick to the Isle of May, passing Bass Rock on the way. Also run trips sailing around Bass Rock (no landing) daily during the summer months. Pre-booking for these trips is essential. Private charter for the 12-seater RIB is also available.
BlueWild – Runs regular boat trips from Dunbar to the Isle of May for up to 10 passengers, with up to 3 hours on the island. Pre-booking essential. Private charter also available for sailings in the Firth of Forth, up to 20 miles offshore.
Region 10: South West Scotland
Please do contact me if you are aware of any boat operators in this area.
Region 11: Northern Ireland
Aquaholics – Operate two boats with indoor and outdoor seating for up to 12 passengers from Portstewart, Coleraine, Portrush or Ballycastle. Specialises in the north coast of Northern Ireland including River Foyle, but will sail as far afield as the Scottish islands of Islay, Jura and Sanda. Private charter only for lighthouse islands.
Abhainn Cruises – Running from Ballycastle using either an open or covered RIB. Specialise in the north coast of Northern Ireland. Run trips to Inishtrahull island, with landing, and its lighthouse in the Republic of Ireland. Private charter only for lighthouse islands.
North Irish Diver – Operates a covered RIB out of Islandmagee and will sail close to the Maidens lighthouse for up to 12 passengers. Private charter only for lighthouses.
Region 12: Isle of Man
Shona Boat Trips – Operate out of Port Erin and run trips to and around the Calf of Man from May to September. Pre-booking essential. Will take a maximum of 12 passengers and no less than 6 passengers.
Vagabond Charter – Operating an 8-passenger open RIB out of either Port St Mary or Port Erin. Run trips to and around the Calf of Man. Private charter only.
Port St Mary Boat Excursions – Running daily (weather permitting) to the Calf of Man from Port St Mary, this vessel can carry up to 12 passengers, and no less than 4. Includes time on the island. Pre-booking essential.
Region 13: North Wales
RibRide – Operate out of Menai Bridge, their high speed open RIB can accommodate up to 12 passengers. Will run out to the Skerries and willing to land. A private charter is required for lighthouse trips.
Bardsey Island Boat Trips – Running from Porth Meudwy when conditions are suitable. Pre-booking highly recommended. It should be noted that this trip is very often cancelled due to poor sea conditions, so it is worth allowing some contingency days if you are keen to visit Bardsey Island.
Region 14: South Wales
Venture Jet – Departs from St Justinian using an open RIB. Their Offshore Adventure takes in both The Smalls and South Bishop lighthouses. Also available for private charters and willing to land on islands where conditions allow.
The Wildlife Trust – Day visitors are not permitted on Skokholm. The only way to visit the island is to book a 3, 4 or 7 night stay with The Wildlife Trust on the island. The boat will be arranged as part of this booking.
Pembrokeshire Islands – Operate a range of vessels out of Haverfordwest. Run trips around Skokholm (no landing) during the summer months.
Caldey Island boat trips – From May to September (not Sundays) boats run regularly from Tenby to Caldey Island. Trips also run, albeit less frequently, throughout April and October.
Bay Island Voyages – Run out of Cardiff Bay using one of two 12-seater RIBs. Landing visits available for Flatholm island – pre-booking essential. Private charter also available.
Region 15: North West England
Please do contact me if you are aware of any boat operators in this area.
Region 16: Northumberland and Durham
Golden Gate Boat Trips – Running from Seahouses, this is the only boat able to land at Longstone lighthouse with tours of the lighthouse. Also run landing trips to Inner Farne and Staple Island during the summer months.
Billy Shiel’s Boat Trips – Operates from Seahouses Pier regularly during the summer months landing on Inner Farne and Staple Island.
Serenity Farne Island Boat Tours – Operates from Seahouses Pier regularly during the summer months landing on Inner Farne and Staple Island.
Dave Gray’s Puffin Cruises – Run regular boat trips from Amble sailing around Coquet Island (no landings) during the summer months. Pre-booking recommended.
Region 17: Yorkshire and Lincolnshire
No boats required.
Region 18: East Anglia
Sophie Lea Charters – Available for private charter on board their catamaran to sail close to Gunfleet lighthouse.
Region 19: Bristol Channel and North Devon
Bristol Packet Boat Trips – Their 3.5 hour Avon Gorge Cruise sails past some smaller lights on the way to Avonmouth.
MS Oldenburg – Departs for Lundy Island from Ilfracombe or Bideford from the end of March to the end of October.
Region 20: Thames Estuary and Kent
Whitstable Boat Tours – Run a 30-minute trip out to see the remains of the old Herne Bay Pier and lighthouse from Whitstable Harbour. Their RIB can take up to 7 passengers. Pre-booking essential.
Region 21: Cornwall
The following boat companies, all based in St Ives, offer trips out to sail around Godrevy island and lighthouse (landings on the island are not permitted):
- Prime Time St Ives
- St Ives Boat Charters
- St Ives Boat Rides
- St Ives Boats
- St Ives Boat Services
- St Ives Boat Trips
Celtic Fox – Their fishing vessel is available for private charters from Penzance and willing to sail out to both Longships and Wolf Rock lighthouses. The boat can take up to 12 passengers and pre-booking is essential.
Region 22: Isles of Scilly
St Mary’s Boatmen’s Association – Run trips to and around both Bishop Rock lighthouse and Round Island when conditions allow during the summer months. The boats can also be chartered privately.
Falcon Boating – Offer private charters around the islands on board their covered RIB. The boat can take up to 12 passengers. Pre-booking essential.
Isles of Scilly Boat Hire – Offer skippered trips for small groups from Bryher. Pre-booking essential.
Region 23: South Devon and Dorset
Patricia Rose – Will run private charter trips out to see Eddystone lighthouse from Plymouth, seeing the Plymouth Breakwater light on the way. The boat will take up to 12 passengers and pre-booking is essential.
Typhoon Fishing Trips – Operating out of Looe, this fishing vessel will run trips out to see Eddystone lighthouse. Licenced to carry up to 11 passengers.
Region 24: Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Sussex
Hurst Castle ferries – Ferries to Hurst run from Keyhaven daily from late March to late October/early November. No pre-booking.
Needles Pleasure Cruises – Run both a leisurely trip on board the Ramblin Rose or Yarmouth Rose, or faster trips on board their RIBs Summer Rose or Wild Rose. Trips run throughout the summer season. Pre-booking not required.
Rebel Marine – Offer trips to see the forts in the Solent, including Spitbank Fort, from the Isle of Wight. Can take up to 12 passengers on their open RIB and pre-booking is essential.
Solent RIB Charters – Operating their open RIBs out of Lymington, their area of coverage is the Solent. Private charter only.
Excalibur Charters – Operating out of Eastbourne’s Sovereign Harbour, are willing to sail out to both Royal Sovereign and Beachy Head lighthouses. Their catamaran can take up to 12 passengers. Private charter only.
Region 25: Channel Islands
Jersey Seafaris – One of three open RIBs (one x 9 seater and two x 12 seaters) available for charter from either St Catherine’s Breakwater or St Helier. Ideal for getting a closer view of Demie de Pas lighthouse or Noirmont Point and/or Corbiere. Private charter only.
Island RIB Voyages – Operates a Hanois Lighthouse Adventure trip out of St Peter Port on board their open RIB. Dates of forthcoming trips can be found on their website. Trips are all weather permitting. Pre-booking essential.
Avante Boat Trips – Operating out of Alderney and willing to run charter trips around Casquets (no landing). Can take up to 12 passengers. Private charter only.