Why we love the Scottish Islands
Jaw-dropping landscapes, big open skies, friendly communities all wrapped in lashings of legend – the wilds of the Scottish Islands will stay with you forever. Whether its cycling miles of beauty, wild swimming its lakes, star gazing its dark nights, puffin-watching or munching on a local delicacy, the islands are packed with opportunities. From the rugged Outer Hebrides where you’ll find the ancient wonders to white sands and some of the oldest rocks to the Inner Hebrides including Skye with inky lochs and black volcanic hills to Islay for its perfect whiskey. Check out nearby Staffa for one of the greatest geolocial landmarks on earth. The Isle of Arran boasts knife-ridged scenery carved by ancient glaciers, while those looking for a far-flung adventure should head to the Orkneys, complete with a Neolithic town that predates Stonehenge.
Discover the incredible Fingal’s Cave
Discover this dream-like island complete with the incredible Fingal’s Cave. Explore the amazing coastline, see whales and dolphins and basking sharks and eagles. Kayak or snorkel around this uninhabited island – and see its hexagonal columns made from subterranean volcanic eruptions.
Hike the Old Man of Storr
Explore one of Scotland’s most iconic landmarks – high up at more that 700 metres high is the ‘Old Man’ who sits looking out across the stunning landscapes of Loch Leathan and the Sound of Raasay. Created by massive ancient landslide it’s now one of the most photographed landscapes in the world.
Discover the whiskey of Islay
Whet your appetite for a wee dram of whiskey you’ve come to the right place. Explore the island of Islay which at only 25 miles long it boasts no fewer than eight distilleries – with two more on the horizon. Its peaty soils give it that special taste that makes it among the best whiskey in the world. Why not visit them all!
Things to do in the Scottish Islands
Featured things to do
Climb the Old Man of Storr
Climb to one of the most photographed landscapes in the world. The dramatic pinnacle of rock stands out and can be seen for miles around. Reward your climb up here with miles of incredible views.Learn more about the Old Man of Storr
A day trip to see the puffins
A day trip and hop on a ferry from Isle of Harris to Dual World Heritage site, St Kildas offers the delights of puffin watching and an avian community that has been here for more than 4,000 years.Learn more about St Kilda’s puffins
Explore Arran by 4x4
Explore this glacier-carved island by luxury 4x4. Check out its forests and rugged coastline. Discover its beaches warmed by the gulf stream, take a dip in its cooling corrie lakes and find out about its ecology.Learn more about the Isle of Arran
Standing Stones of Stenness
During the Winter Solstice join the spiritual celebrations at the Neolithic Standing Stones of Stenness. While here check out Skara Brae, a well-preserved 5,000-year-old Neolithic village.Learn more about the Standing Stones of Stenness
Places to stay in the Scottish Islands
With so many parts of rugged beauty, close communities and abandoned islands, wildlife havens of whales to eagles, windsurf to walking unspoilt beaches, see ancient monuments and some of the most dramatic landscapes you can image… So where on earth are you supposed to stay?
Whether you wake to the ocean or stay in a secluded cottage or rent a huge designer house, you’ll find it here. From Lewis and Harris in the north to the southern islands of Barra and Uist.
Includes Skye (the only island connected to the mainland by a bridge) and nearby relaxed neighbour Raasay (and others) - where you can stay at a distillery, and the largest of the islands, Mull where you can choose scenic Tobermory for special coastal views or the south if you want to get away from it all.
The Isle of Arran
A majority of the villages are on the east coast, near Brodick and Lamlash and these have the most amenities. In the south you’ll find Whiting Bay and fantastic seafood and Brodick Corrie is one of the prettiest of its villages with stone cottages and a harbour.
Getting to the Scottish Islands
There are daily flights to Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Aberdeen, and three ferry points of entry too travelling from the mainland. Several daily flights also run from Edinburgh and Glasgow to Shetland, as well as ferries between Aberdeen and the main town of Lerwick every day, year-round. You can also fly to Orkney from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Shetland.
Ferries travel from the western mainland (around a three-hour drive from Edinburgh or Glasgow) out to the Argyll & The Isles on a frequent basis. Tow ferry services run to Arran from Ardrossan on the mainland to Brodick on the island. Ardrossan is a 45-minute drive from Glasgow.
Getting around the Scottish Islands
The North of Scotland
Orkney and Shetland are connected to the mainland and each other by NorthLink Ferries. In Shetland, inter-island ferry travel is operated by the council, while Orkney Ferries connect the archipelago’s 13 island destinations.
Scottish island hopping by plane
In some instances, it’s possible to go by plane. Some islands have a local airport where chartered flights are operated from mainland Scotland and beyond. There’re also inter-island flights in:
- Outer Hebrides - flights connect Benbecula with Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis.
- Orkney - flights connect Kirkwall with North Ronaldsay and Papa Westray, and Eday, Stronsay, Sanday and Westray.
- Shetland - from Shetland Mainland, flights go to Fair Isle, Foula, Papa Stour and Skerries.
Want to know more?
Check out Visit Scotland for top insider tips and travelling inspiration.