Scotland is one of the world’s most spectacularly stunning places to visit, renowned for its breathtaking heather-covered mountains, postcard-perfect beaches and countless magnificent castles. But it’s also home to many amazing islands that should really not be missed. If you’re a lover of nature and outdoor adventure, visit one or more of these islands where you’ll be immersed in breathtaking scenery while taking part in everything from golfing and bird watching to hiking and sailing.
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Isle of Skye (Hotel Prices & Photos)
The Isle of Skye, linked by a road bridge to the west coast of mainland Scotland, offers some of the most dramatic mountain and coastal scenery in British Isles. The fantasy-like landscape appears as if it was painted into the sky, so jaw-dropping it’s hard to believe that it’s real. Enjoy picnicking along the banks of the fairy pools and taking a refreshing dip if you can stand the chill, best accomplished after hiking the majestic Quiraing. You can also look forward to touring Dunvegan Castle, sampling whiskey at Talisker Distillery and relaxing in a cozy cottage next to the warmth of a roaring fire at the end of an unforgettable day.
Isle of Islay (Hotel Prices & Photos)
The “Queen of The Hebrides” as it’s often called, is renowned for its fine whiskey and breathtaking scenery. The Isle of Islay hosts eight single malt distilleries and provides a serene, almost magical setting for enjoying the drink and all sorts of wildlife, including over 200 bird species, like puffins and golden eagles, as well as animals like grey seals, otter and red deer. Traveling females may want to join join Rachel MacNeill’s “Whisky for Girls” tour which includes visits to area distilleries as well as ancient relics and the most isle’s most scenic sights.
Isle of Iona (Hotel Prices & Photos)
The Isle of Iona located off the southwest coast of Mull, has an especially interesting history that leaves even the most cynical infused with spirituality. Scotland’s “cradle of Christianity,” is a popular spot for a pilgrimage, with tens of thousands visiting every year to enjoy a feeling of restoration and peace as the tiny island was once home to a coveted monastery during the Middle Ages.
Isle of Tiree (Hotel Prices & Photos)
The most westerly island of the Inner Hebrides, Tiree is sometimes referred to as the “Hawaii of the north,” thanks to its mild climate which includes some of the most sunshine recorded anywhere in the British Isles. It serves as a haven for fishing and crofting, with an abundance of beautify beaches and fertile land. The frequent winds and ocean waves attract many wind surfing enthusiasts.
St. Ninian's Isle (Hotel Prices & Photos)
One of the most sanctified spots in Scotland, St. Ninian’s Isle is connected to the Shetland Islands by a 1,640-foot-long bar of sand, or “ayre,” as the Scots call it, the largest of its kind in the United Kingdom. It permits people to cross only when the seas allow, during the summer, when visitors can enjoy the pristine beaches and explore a place that was the site of real-life buried treasure. St. Ninian’s Isle Treasure was considered to be one of the best finds of Pictish jewelery and other items. Perhaps something else is there just waiting to be found?
Isle of Staffa (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Staffa’s name is derived from the Old Norse meaning “Stave or Pillar Island.” Its majestic basalt columns and remarkable sea caverns such as Fingal’s Cave have drawn countless visitors, including Lord Tennyson, John Keats, Queen Victoria and Jules Verne, though it’s been uninhabited since 1800. The main reason to come is to see the 72-foot-high, 270-feet-deep Fingal’s Cave with its unique cathedral-like structure and hexagonal columns of basalt, shaped in neat six-sided pillars. Reportedly, famed composer Felix Mendelssohn was so enamored by the splendor of the cave, that he sent the opening phrase of an overture on a postcard to his sister with the note: “In order to make you understand how extraordinarily the Hebrides affected me, I send you the following, which came into my head there.”
Isle of Harris (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Isle of Harris has the distinction of being home to one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. Luskentyre Beach is renowned for its striking white sands that are framed stunning turquoise waters, looking as if it’s something you’d find in the Caribbean. This is an ideal island for solitude, relaxation and nature. Occasionally, wild ponies can be spotted grazing along the dunes, and there’s a good chance you’ll catch a glimpse of the otters, seals, dolphins, eagles and deer that all call this island home.
Isle of Hoy (Hotel Prices & Photos)
Just off Scotland’s north coast, the Orkney Islands offer miles and miles of rugged, wild coastline that’s packed with wildlife, including seal and puffin colonies, dolphins and giant Arctic seabirds. But what many come to see is its famous landmark, the Old Man of Hoy, a sea stack that rises nearly 450 feet out of the sea, carved from layer upon layer of Old Red Sandstone on the Isle of Hoy. It can be reached via a moderately difficult three-hour round-trip walk from Rackwick, following the clearly marked coastal path, and returning via the same route.
The St. Kilda Archipelago (Hotel Prices & Photos)
The tiny St Kilda archipelago lies in the Outer Hebrides. Towering sea cliffs stretch into the gannet-filled skies, while the remains of the only village, set upon the main island of Hirta, serves as a poignant reminder of a community that once etched out its living by growing oats and harvest fulmars. The last 36 residents evacuated in 1930 after life become too rough in these remote islands. With its sheer cliffs and monster tooth-like sea stacks, the group of islands have been described as a “lost world.” Hirta makes a great day trip from the Isle of Skye, or Harris.
Isle of Arran (Hotel Prices & Photos)
“Scotland in Miniature,” as the Isle of Arran is often referred to, is a mirror image of the landscape found on the mainland, complete with sandy beaches, lots of wildlife, soaring mountains, castles, fishing villages, outstanding golf and incredibly friendly locals. There are awe-inspiring views just about everywhere you look, and a wide range of birds can be spotted on any of the isle’s long beaches, including sea eagles often spotted along the coastline.