Here, at Brightwater, we have visited a total of 35 Scottish islands and our holidays can take you to a whopping 33 of them. We have rounded up seven of our top picks, which feature on a selection of our itineraries. From the country's northernmost point, to the lower parts such as Glasgow and Arran, let us take you on an adventure to remember in this remarkable part of the world.
A Guide To Our Favourite Scottish Islands
The most magical of places...
Where else in the United Kingdom can you travel the length of a sparsely populated island chain, where standing stones, blindingly white beaches and mountains of granite that sparkle in the sunlight can be seen? Our "Grand Tour" takes in all the beauty and diversity of this very special environment with nine or ten different islands (depending on departure) and four ferry trips included. Two comfortable hotels ensure that this holiday is as relaxing as possible while at the same time offering great variety and the sense of a true journey of discovery which will live long in the memoryWe have both a 6-day and a 5-day version of this tour, both of which are incredibly popular.
The islands of Orkney and Shetland are inextricably linked, yet are quite different in character. Orkney is low, green and fertile, while Shetland is rugged, brown and mountainous. Both, however, share a highly visible history and heritage that is distinct from the rest of Scotland. Shetland has been declared one of Scotland's top destinations by Lonely Planet and Scotland as a country is quite regularly featuring on acclaimed 'best-of' lists, most recently for its gastronomy.
Many people have landed there before you - some as early as 3000 BC. Most famous of all were the Vikings, but they were not alone and all around you will find historical treasures. Both islands, but particularly Shetland, in summer have virtually no darkness and the beauty of this ‘Simmer Dim’, as it is called locally, has to be seen to be realised.
The Isle of Skye is currently one of Scotland's most popular destinations and it's easy to see why. Regularly celebrated for its food and awe-inspiring landscapes, this is one place that everyone should make a beeline for. Calming coastlines, ancient megaliths, brilliant black mountains and romantic boat rides are all there for you to enjoy first-hand, creating extraordinary experiences and memories to last a lifetime. Take, for example, a sunlit morning cruise aboard the fittingly regal ‘Summer Queen’, with the chance of spying a shy grey seal at the surface. Enjoy a circular tour of Lewis, taking in archaeological sites from the Stone Age as well as Iron Age brochs, Viking settlements and thatched cottages that were common just a couple of generations ago.
If it's sunshine you're after, forget the Caribbean or the Canaries, the little island of Tiree has hours and hours of it to offer its visitors. Along with its neighbour Coll, these Hebridean gems tempt you in with the promise of escape from the noise and bustle of the modern world, with unspoilt beaches and flower-strewn meadows to boot. Steeped in the romantic legends and tangled history of the western isles, these islands abound with natural wonders, abundant wildlife and ancient remains. Offering peace and tranquility, they can also be wildly invigorating as the machair comes alive during the summer months with myriad varieties of wild flowers creating a colourful carpet along the shoreline.
In the 45 minutes that it takes to sail from Oban to Craignure on the Isle of Mull, you'll already feel yourself start to relax. From the evocative site of Fingal's Cave to the dramatic Duart Castle, these islands will leave any visitor with lasting memories. From our base at the Isle of Mull Hotel & Spa, located close to the ferry terminal with superb views of the Sound of Mull, the Morvern hills and the Firth of Lorne, we will explore some of the highlights of the island. The multi-coloured buildings that line the waterfront of the island’s principal town, Tobermory, will be familiar to many. From here, sail on a new wildlife cruise that takes us to the Treshnish Isles – home to seabirds including puffins – and on the little island of Staffa, whose natural cathedral of basalt columns is one of the wonders of the west coast.
The isle of Arran truly encapsulates the essence of the country, with lush farmland and one end, soaring mountains at the other, and sparkling coastline all around. Discover its fantastic whisky distillery, take a tour of its story-filled castle and let its glorious landscape enchant you. As you board the ferry at Ardrossan, you see the distinctive silhouette of Goat Fell rising dramatically from the clear waters of the Firth of Clyde, giving a foretaste of your destination whose unique magic never disappoints. Often described as "Scotland in Miniature", Arran has a blend of Highland and Island scenery with granite peaks and deep glens to the north of the island, contrasting with its rolling and lush farmlands to the south.
Hanging off the end of the Hebrides, Islay has a unique atmosphere – not least because you're never far from the tantalising aroma of fermenting malt and barley from one of its nine distilleries. Then, there's mysterious Jura, dominated by three enormous mountains, where the sheep and deer outnumber the people. Completing our island visits, this tour offers an optional excursion to Colonsay, with its glorious beaches and a superb woodland garden, famous for its outstanding collection of rhododendrons. This holiday is based at the comfortable Port Askaig Hotel, which has a superb location overlooking the harbour. Locally sourced seafood and meat features on the delicious menu and the cosy bar stocks a full range of Islay malts.