The Scottish Slow Travel Challenge

Picture above: Destination Ardrossan - and we need to be there by Sunday 1 May (photo © Pierouge /


Take part in the Scottish Slow Travel Challenge and win a subscription to hidden europe magazine. Devise a route from Skye to Ardrossan relying entirely on scheduled ferry and boat services. Read more about the specific travel conditions that apply.

Update (13 March): Have a look at an optimal solution to this challenge.

We love travelling by ferry and shipping services. They are the epitome of slow travel. Many parts of Europe have a good network of inshore shipping services, but they are often difficult to find out about. So here’s a challenge for dedicated travel planners.

We want to travel from Skye, an island just off the west coast of Scotland, to Ardrossan on the Ayrshire coast. We need to be in Ardrossan by lunchtime on May Day — Sunday 1 May. But we are fussy about the mode of travel. We want to make the entire journey by scheduled boat services. No buses, trains, planes, no hitching a ride with cars (or even passing boats), and no long hikes.

Of course we want to see something along the way, apart from lots of seascapes. So we want to stop in every port-of-call along the way for at least one night. If the boat schedules determine that more than one night must be spent in any particular port, so be it. We are in no great rush. Those overnight stops need to be of sufficient length to allow a decent rest and take a look around — let’s say at least 14 hours.

After each stop, the onward itinerary must pick up in the port where you arrive. No back-tracking is allowed. And no port may be visited twice.

Our question. What is the latest date on which we can leave Skye in order to reach Ardrossan by noon on Sunday 1 May?

Tell us the exact itinerary you propose, naming the ports where we shall need to make those night stops and detailing the times of the ferries which you suggest we should take.

For the purposes of the Scottish Slow Travel Challenge, let’s assume that the sun will shine every day, that there will be no storms, and there will thus be no weather-related disruptions to ferry services. Assume, too, that there will be no mechanical breakdowns and every boat will run perfectly to time!

We’ll offer a free one-year subscription to hidden europe magazine to the person submitting the most creative solution to this travel challenge received by Friday 11 March 2016. If you already have a sub, then we’ll extend it by a year.

If we get a great flood of solutions, all equally creative, then we’ll draw the winner out of a hat. Trust us! A recent issue of our Letter from Europe has little snippets of information which may well help in finding the solution.

Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries
(editors, hidden europe magazine)

Related blog post

A new phase of hidden europe

Over almost 20 years, we developed a huge corpus of wonderful writing and images that was published in hidden europe magazine. In order to share what's been dear to us over so many years, we have decided to now make more of this material available here on the hidden europe website. This marks a new phase of hidden europe.