Top ten alternative British boating bases

Look beyond the typical South coast boating bases and there are plenty of welcoming harbours that offer some delightful experiences

Orkney Kirkwall Marina

Astonishingly, Orkney remains largely a boating secret, an enticing archipelago off Scotland’s far tip, just across the Pentland Firth.

Its 70 islands string out for 45 miles in a tantalising trail of linked sounds with beautiful anchorages and white sandy beaches.

07-Orkney-Mill-Bay-beachUnlike Shetland further north, much of Orkney is quite low with lush, gently rolling landscapes. Hoy is the exception, a high craggy island with sheer cliffs and dramatic stacks around its north end.

Orkney’s largest island is called Mainland and the capital town Kirkwall is tucked into its north side. Kirkwall is a bustling ferry, fishing and cargo port with a snug marina near the town centre.

Visitors are warmly welcomed and you can leave a boat here safely all year round. Larger motor boats are particularly suitable for Orkney cruising, able to use slack water and calm conditions to make fast passages through the island channels.

07-Orkney-Kirkwall-marina-02Keeping a boat at Kirkwall for a while, you can shuttle to and fro by air. Don’t miss cruising anti-clockwise around Mainland to Stromness Marina on its south-west side, from where you can explore the grand roadstead of Scapa Flow.

Or meander north through the archipelago to Westray and its tiny marina. There are dramatic coastal walks out to the west tip of the island.

Berthing: Kirkwall Marina

Getting there: Take the overnight Ro-Ro ferry to Kirkwall from Aberdeen, or the fast Ro-Ro ferry to South Ronaldsay from John O’Groats. Regular flights serve Kirkwall via Aberdeen.

Pilot book: The Cruising Almanac 2016

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