With over 800 to choose from – where will you start? Here are a few of our favourites
Whether you’ve only got a couple of days or a couple of weeks, explore a few Scottish islands and discover the unique characteristics of each.
The main island groups that are best suited for touring include the Inner and Outer Hebrides in the west of Scotland, and Orkney and Shetland in the north. There are also a few other far-flung gems, not to mention some uninhabited escapes which are well worth making the journey for.
Many of the islands have fostered generations of skill, ingenuity and craftsmanship as well as having an extremely rich heritage: come and see for yourself!
Scotland’s islands are accessible by car, train, ferry and sometimes even by bike. It could take you a while to see every single one – Scotland has almost 800 offshore isles, all varying in shapes and sizes, but here are a few suggestions to help you narrow it down:
Thirty miles off the north-west coast of Scotland, this idyllic chain of islands promises a wealth of exciting experiences, from the calm southerly isles of Barra, Vatersay and Benbecula to the mountainous Harris and the low-lying Lewis.
See all the best bits along the Hebridean Way Cycling Route, a long-distance route launched in March 2016. The route travels from south to north through 10 islands of an archipelago that extends to the tip of Lewis.
The finishing point overlooks the Butt of Lewis Lighthouse. The Hebrides are perhaps best known for their stunning beaches, with their dazzlingly clear waters and seashell-strewn sands.
Luskentyre Sands and Seilebost on the Isle of Harris are firm favourites among locals and travellers alike, but you’ll find beautiful beaches across the Outer Hebrides. You might even have an entire beach to yourself.
Witness the island’s creative spark at the Clo Mòr Festival of Harris Tweed, a festival showcasing the works of designers, producers and featuring talks and presentations about the famous fabric at An Lanntair in Stornoway.
ISLAY AND JURA
The whisky-loving Isle of Islay is home to eight working distilleries, each producing some of Scotland’s finest single malts, including Laphroaig, Bowmore and Ardbeg.
Let your tastebuds lead the way, with beautiful coastal walks, wildlife and watersports also on offer – Islay will treat you to much more than just a peaty dram.
Only five minutes away on the ferry from Islay, you’ll find Jura, where you can enjoy another dram at its own distillery. You might also find yourself admiring the Corryvrekan whirlpool, or watching wild deer. In fact, there are approximately 5,000 deer on the island compared to only 200 people!
Why not opt for a visual feast, and head to the Isle of Arran? The largest island in the Firth of Clyde has everything you need for a memorable island escape, with an ever-changing coastline, a dramatic mountain peak, sheltered beaches and its own brewery and distillery.
Whether you’re pulling on your hiking boots for a walk up Goat Fell, the island’s Corbett standing at 2,866 ft above sea level, or hopping on a bicycle to tackle the circular cycle route around the island, Arran promises to take your breath away.
OVER THE SEA TO SKYE
Skye is often defined by its incredible geology, with formations such as the Old Man of Storr, the Cuillin and the Quirang mountain ranges framing the mist-shrouded, jagged landscape.
A paradise for anyone with a sense of adventure, walkers, road-trippers and photographers all flock to the island for unforgettable experiences.
The scenery may be mind-blowing, but there’s also an incredible array of museums, cosy pubs, craft studios and castles to visit on your travels. Reward an energising day in the outdoors with a trip to the Talisker distillery or make a visit the oldest pub on the island, the Stein Inn.