Top 10 Scottish Islands

| August 23, 2012

With over 800 islands it can be tricky to choose one to visit. Here we let you have the inside scoop on our favourite Top 10 Scottish islands:

1. Arran

Aptly dubbed ‘Scotland in Miniature’ Arran has it all, from valuting mountains to rolling hills and tranquil beaches. Throw in waterfalls, hiking trails and myriad adventure activities it really does have everything. Then there are a raft of family attractions, good restaurants and locally made crafts and produce. For wet weather days the Auchrannie Resort is on hand with its swimming pool, games hall and fantastic soft play centre.

2. Skye

The largest of the Inner Hebrides is now connected by a toll free bridge. With one of the UK’s finest restaurants (the Three Chimneys), a choice of Munros (mountains over 3,000ft), a whisky distillery and miles of spectacular coastal scenery Skye seldom disappoints. The capital of Portree is a good base with cosy pubs and cute wee harbour.

Loch Coruisk, Isle of Skye

Loch Coruisk, Isle of Skye (c) Robin McKelvie

3. Islay

Whisky lovers should make a beeline for Islay, a compact island that crams in no fewer than eight whisky distilleries. Mix in sweeping sandy beaches, some easy walking, stunning annual geese migrations and picturesque whitewashed villages and it is a compelling cocktail. Flights from Glasgow and ferries from the mainland.

4. Mull

Easily accessible (via a scenic 45 minute ferry crossing) Mull is home to the children’s TV series Balamory and if anything the real Tobermory is even more spectacular. Ben More, the only island Munro outside Skye, tempts as does first class seafood, a sprinkling of castles and country houses and the island’s famous Mull Cheddar.

Tobermory, Mull

Tobermory, Mull (c) Robin McKelvie

5. Iona

This spiritual isle has been a place of pilgrimage for centuries and swirls in the legends of St. Columba and the ancient Scottish kings that still lie buried here. The graceful abbey is the most alluring building on this self contained and fascinating isle. Iona is accessible by ferry from Mull and tour boats from Oban on the mainland.

6. St. Kilda

The only island with a dual listing on UNESCO’s World Heritage list this ultra remote island (or rather compact archipelago of small islands) is swathed in romance and is something of a Holy Grail for many Scots. A Utopian community lived on St. Kilda until the 1930s with no money or government and their legacy is intoxicating in the ruins of the only village while the rugged volcanic scenery is breathtaking. The birdlife is second to none, but it is the getting here that is the challenge.

7. Harris

Technically not an island as such (as it joined on to Lewis), but don’t mention that to the locals. Harris boasts some of the best beaches in Europe. Here epic stretches of pristine white sand fringed by Caribbean blue waters and rugged mountains, with often only seals and birds for company, await. The east coast is home to an ethereal volcanic landscape that could not be more different.

Scarista, Harris

Scarista, Harris (c) Robin McKelvie

8. Barra

The best of the Outer Hebrides crammed on to one riotously fun wee island. Barra is home to starched white sand beaches, surely the world’s most challenging golf course (ocean beaches for bunkers) and the welcoming little capital of Castlebay. The experience is completed by landing and taking off on the beach on the flights to and from Glasgow.

9. Papa Westray

Papa Westray is one of a string of islands that make up the deeply historic and culturally fascinating Orkney Isles. On this scenic isle the independent local community is blooming while prehistoric ruins, rambling old churches and bountiful birdlife tempt. The world’s shortest scheduled flight (shorter than the main runway at Heathrow) from Westray sets the tone.

10. Mousa

There are around 100 islands in the Shetland Isles and Mousa is one of the most enchanting. Come in summer when the ‘simmer dim’ sees the sun never actually set and thousands of storm petrels spectacularly swoop to nest at Mousa Broch. The fortified broch is the best preserved of its kind in Scotland and the island teems with birdlife. Travel here on the Mousa Boat.

Mousa Broch

Mousa Broch (c) Robin McKelvie


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