If you're going to make the journey to Scotland, why not maximise your time there by doing a bit of island hopping? There are around 900 of them dotted around the shorelines, some uninhabited and others boasting amazing sites to visit, and there are a range of ways to travel around this magnificent part of the UK to ensure you see as much of what it has to offer as possible. With us here at Brightwater, you can explore over 30 of them and we have selected our favourites to highlight, which we hope might inspire your next Scottish itinerary!
A Guide To Island-Hopping In Scotland
17 March 2020
An island in the Outer Hebrides, Barra is home to a unique runway situated on a beach along with some truly stunning scenery. It is just 8 x 5 miles at its widest point and boasts a picturesque island castle (shown right) called Kisimul in addition to beaches that will leave you breathless.
If you'd like to explore Barra, we pay a visit to it as part of our Grand Tour of the Outer Hebrides holiday, which has multiple departures throughout the year and you can secure for a special low deposit of just £50pp. For full terms and conditions of our low deposit, click here.
A tiny island that is only 1.5 miles wide by 3 miles long, Iona is located off the coast of Mull in the glorious Inner Hebrides. This destination is known for its famous abbey, one of Western Europe's oldest Christian religious centres, and many people visit it as part of a pilgrimage trip.
To explore this fascinating, historic island, why not treat yourself to a place on our Mull, Staffa & Iona holiday, which has multiple departures throughout the year and a special low deposit of just £50pp (terms and conditions apply).
This unique Scottish island came into community ownership back in 1998 and is currently home to around only 90 people. Here, you'll find an amazing array of wildlife, ranging from Atlantic seals to dolphins, and from minke whales to seabirds. A visit here is truly mesmerising.
To visit Eigg, book a place on our Lord of the Highlands - Heart of the Highlands cruise holiday, which departs throughout the year.
With its diverse landscape of mountains, sea lochs, moorland and peat-bog, the Isle of Mull is home to a wide range of mammals and birds and has established itself as one of the UK’s top wildlife destinations. Mull is a paradise for birdwatchers and one of the best places in the country to see big raptors such as the Golden Eagle and White Tailed Sea Eagle. It is also home to Duart Castle (pictured left).
Situated on the whisky coast of Scotland, Islay (pronounced eye-lah) is home to a phenomenal nine working distilleries! So, if you're a fan of warming, golden drams – this is the place to be. Once the ancient home of the Lord of the Isles, who ruled the Hebrides from two islets on Loch Finlaggan, it has always been popular with archaeologists and historians. The island is also known for its sandy beaches and its diverse birdlife.
To the north-east of Islay is its neighbour, Jura – an untamed and rather mysterious island with just 200 human inhabitants, dominated by the “Paps of Jura”. The northern end of the island was once home to George Orwell, the location at which he wrote his masterpiece “1984”. Here, you'll encounter the fabulous Jura Distillery, which produces smoky yet subtle malts.
Perhaps one of Scotland's most popular islands, Skye is the Inner Hebrides' largest and it is also incredibly beautiful. Home to mountain ranges, enchanting fairy pools and the famous Old Man of Storr - a pinnacle of rock that juts high into the air.
To discover Skye and its impressive natural beauty, book a place on our Stornoway, Skye & the Summer Isles holiday. This trip departs on 9th July and then again on 17th September.
A wildlife reserve in Scotland's north, Handa sees almost 100,000 seabirds breed here each summer. There is a 6km circular path, which offers a chance to look out for seabirds such as guillemots, razorbills, great and arctic skuas to name but a few. In addition to the birdlife, there are also the archaeological remains of an old village which was inhabited until 1847 and a profusion of interesting wild flowers.
You can explore Handa as part of our Stornoway, Skye & the Summer Isles holiday, which includes a ferry crossing and three hours to wander the island's perimeter. Our Scotland's Northern Edge holiday also includes a visit to Handa.
Lewis and Harris
Despite its name, Lewis and Harris is an island in the magnificent Outer Hebrides. In Harris, you'll discover beaches that wouldn't look out of place on a tropical island – with clear blue waters and pristine white sands. Around the northern coastline of Lewis, you will find sheer cliffs. The landscapes are diverse, wild and breathtaking. Elsewhere, there are captivating historical and archaeological sites, which include the Standing Stones of Callanish and the Gerrannan Blackhouse Village.
Visit Lewis and Harris as part of our Stornoway, Skye & the Summer Isles holiday, which departs on 9th July and 17th September.
The little island of Staffa is home to Fingal's Cave, a stunning cave that was formed by volcanic eruptions over 50 million years ago and whose natural cathedral of basalt columns is one of the true wonders of the west coast. It's so spectacular that Felix Mendelssohn wrote an overture about it!
As part of our Grand Tour of Scotland holiday, there will be a 45-minute boat ride to the Isle of Staffa, during which you can spot whales, dolphins, basking sharks and sea eagles.
Orkney is an archipelago of 70 islands, each with their own distinctive charm, history and natural beauty. Green and fertile, this island is home to an array of amazing historic and archaeological sites, which include the Italian Chapel, the Tomb of the Eagles, Maeshowe with its chambered tomb, Skara Brae and Skaill House. In 1999, Orkney's neolithic monuments were recognised by UNESCO and every year they attract curious visitors, eager to learn more.
If you want to get away from it all, Shetland is the place to be. As close to Norway as it is to Scotland, Shetland is rugged and remote, with a raw natural beauty, a unique culture and wonderful wildlife. There are over a hundred islands here, only 16 of which are inhabited, each with its own individual character.
We have a selection of Shetland-based tours on offer, the first of which is Up Helly Aa, which is the island's winter fire festival – a cultural event not to be missed! Then, we have Shetland & its Outer Isles, Knitting in Shetland and the Highlights of Orkney & Shetland trip.
Uninhabited since the 19th century, this tiny island is home to the Broch of Mousa – an Iron Age round tower (pictured right) that stands 13 metres high and can be climbed via a winding staircase. This is the tallest of Scotland's 500 or so remaining brochs and anyone fascinated by archaeology would appreciate a visit to this structure.
To visit the little island of Mousa, join our Shetland & its Outer Isles holiday, which departs twice in June and once in August.
An idyllic isle, Lunga is the largest of the Treshnish Isles. Surrounded by wildflowers and stunning scenery, the main attraction that can be seen close up here is the large puffin colony nesting in burrows in the grassy hillside. These comical birds are incredibly inquisitive and will come within a few metres of you. Lunga is also a popular habitat to an ever increasing number of Guillemot, Razorbill, Kittiwake, Fulmar, Shag, Great Skua and a Seal colony.
Coll is a small Hebridean island that boasts a selection of unspoiled beaches. From wildlife to clear skies, and from its stunning coastline to its friendly residents, this is one of the gems of the Scottish islands. There is also an RSPB reserve on the island, which was established to help protect the Corncrake, a bird that comes to Coll to breed from April to August.
To visit Coll, join our Coll & Tiree holiday, which departs in June, July, August and September.
Home to a mild climate and impressive white-sand beaches, the isle of Tiree is 3 miles wide and 12 miles long. Described as "the land below the waves" due to its mostly flat landmass, Tiree has also been confirmed as one of the UK's sunniest places!
Visit Tiree as part of our Coll & Tiree holiday, which departs in June, July, August and September.
The Isle of Arran is often described as "Scotland in Miniature" with its blend of Highland and Island scenery with granite peaks and deep glens to the north of the island that contrast with its rolling and lush farmlands to the south. Only 56 miles around its coastline, the small villages are compared to ‘jewels on a necklace’ strung out like pearls around the island.