Dalmore Beach
Dalmore Beach

Scotland's Most Popular Islands Revealed

In December 2020, Which? Travel conducted a survey among over 1,000 users to determine the islands in Scotland most popular with tourists and the results are in. 

While there are around 900 or so off-shore islands in our wonderful country, the undiscovered nature of many of them meant that only 14 received enough visitors to be ranked in the poll. 10 out of the 14, however, received scores of 80% or more, showing just how coveted these little islands really are to travellers. 

So, which island took the top spot? Well, let us show you – and, the best part is, we can take you there!

1) Orkney

Orkney, which is made up of around 70 islands (of which maybe 20 are inhabited), took the No.1 position in the poll, receiving an impressive customer score of 88%. Survey participants gave Orkney's attractions – namely the Italian Chapel, Skara Brae, the Ring of Brodgar and Maeshowe – a full five stars and also felt particularly strongly about the beauty of the area's beaches.

If you've always wanted to visit, we have four holidays that can take you – each with a unique theme and visiting an array of the island's most important and stunning sites. Find them all here. 

2) Shetland

It may come as no surprise to learn that Shetland came in second place with a customer score of 86%. This amazing destination was rated highly because of its beaches, awe-inspiring scenery and general peace and quiet. Shetland is also home to some fascinating prehistoric sites, which include the Prehistoric and Norse Settlement of Jarlshof and Mousa Broch, both of which we can take you to. 

If you're looking to explore the myriad wonders of Shetland, you'll find our range of dedicated holidays here. 

3) Harris

In third place (hold on, there are three joint third-place winners!) is the Isle of Harris, perhaps best-known for its unrivalled white-sand beach of Luskentyre. With a customer score of 85%, survey participants particularly loved its aforementioned beaches, the phenomenal scenery and the sense of escapism felt there. 

We have a selection of holidays that visit Harris, which include our best-selling Grand Tour of the Outer Hebrides, our brand new Grand Tour of the Western and Northern Isles, our archaeological Ancient Stones of the Outer Hebrides holiday, and also our Walking in the Outer Hebrides tour. 

3) Islay

An unsurprising addition to the top 10 is Islay, which also finished in third place with a customer score of 85%. One of our favourites, this little gem is home to the Bowmore Distillery – the oldest distillery on the island, which has has stood on the shores of Loch Indaal since 1779 – and the interesting Museum of Islay Life. Survey participants also enjoyed what it has to offer, rating Islay's calming atmosphere, its food and drink, beautiful scenery and fine beaches highly. 

We can take you to Islay if you want to visit, just take a look at our Islay & Jura itinerary or our Grand Tour of the Inner Hebrides holiday to find out more.

3) Mull

Another Inner Hebrides gem follows – the Isle of Mull, which came in joint third place with a customer score of 85%. People were most impressed with the island's scenery, which comes as no surprise due to the landscapes it boasts (that are often dotted with charming examples of local wildlife), as well as its coastal areas. 

The Brightwater team are especially fond of Mull and we can take you as part of our dedicated Mull, Staffa and Iona tour. Additionally, our Grand Tour of the Inner Hebrides holiday also visits Mull.

4) Arran

Another of our favourites is the Isle of Arran, which happened to finish in fourth place with a fantastic customer score of 83%. What did people most like about Arran? Well, its fine beaches, local food and drink, glorious scenery and general peace and quiet helped it to rate so highly in this survey. 

We have two dedicated Arran tours to offer you, our four-day Autumn Tints of Arran holiday (which just so happens to be one of our most affordable trips) and our Arran - Scotland in Miniature itinerary. 

4) Barra

Another joint winner, this time coming in fourth place along with Arran – that's right, it's Barra. Proof that good things really do come in small packages, Barra is 8 miles x 5 miles at its widest point and is home to a truly unique airport, whose runway is on the shores of a beach. Survey participants were in love with Barra's beautiful beaches, the sense of peace and quiet it offers, and its amazing scenery. 

Tempted by Barra? Join our Grand Tour of the Outer Hebrides holiday or our Grand Tour of the Western and Northern Isles trip and you'll pay it a memorable visit. 

5) Lewis

This island in the Outer Hebrides received a customer score of 82%, putting it in fifth place on the recent Which? Travel survey. Steeped in history and culture, this destination is a magical one and it is home to the 5,000-year-old Standing Stones of Callanish and the historic Gearrannan Black House Village. Survey participants rated the island's beaches and wide-open spaces highly. 

We have a selection of holidays that include visits to Lewis, namely our Grand Tour of the Outer Hebrides, the Ancient Stones of the Outer Hebrides trip, and our Stornoway, Skye & the Summer Isles holiday.

5) Skye

Ah yes, Skye. We were waiting to see this island in the Top 10 – and here it so rightly is in joint fifth place with Lewis above. Skye earned a customer score of 82% with participants praising its beaches, unrivalled scenery and tourist attractions as what they liked most. At 50 miles long, Skye is the largest of the Inner Hebrides. Highlights here range from its rugged landscapes to its picturesque villages, and from its impressive geological features to its amazing whisky distilleries (namely Talisker and Torabhaig).

Fancy a trip to Skye? You'll want either our Stornoway, Skye & the Summer Isles holiday or our Highland Explorer: Skye & the Far North tour. 

6) Iona

With a customer score of 80%, the isle of Iona finished in sixth place. We are very fond of this wonderful destination, which attracts people to visit due to its beautiful coast and historic abbey. Participants enjoyed the island's tourist attractions and its clean beaches. 

We have a few tours that explore Iona. The first, Mull, Staffa and Iona, includes an opportunity to visit the abbey and wander around the island. The second, our Grand Tour of the Inner Hebrides, features a similar excursion. 

The rest of the results...

Coming in at joint No.7 are North Uist and South Uist – both in the Outer Hebrides – with customer scores of 76%. Bute followed just behind with 73% and the final inclusion in the survey's results is Benbecula, which earned a customer score of 67%. 


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Scotland's Most Popular Islands Revealed was published on 1 June 2021

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