If you’re looking for stunning scenery, sleepy shores and mystical places to discover, the Scottish isles might be just the place you’re looking for. Bonnie Scotland, as it is known, certainly lives up to its name: picturesque landscapes, breathtaking cliffs and impressive mountains are but a few of the attractions the country will offer you on your trip to Scotland. That aside, one of the most amazing sights is the unique Scottish islands. Read the article to find out more about the 15 most beautiful islands of Scotland that you cannot miss.
The Isle of Islay is about 100 kilometres west of Glasgow and is the perfect place to enjoy a glass of peated whisky. Irish monks were stranded on the southernmost part of the Hebrides archipelago in the 14th century and introduced “whisky” to the locals – the common English name for the Gaelic phrase “water of life”. Today, the Isle of Islay is home to eight distilleries and a rock music festival, “the Islay Festival” also called “Féis Íle”, and should definitely be included on your Scotland itinerary.
Jura is another Scottish island famous for its whisky (there are a few of them!), but the island is also known for something quite different: its large population of deer. The name “Jura” comes from the Nordic name for “deer island” from a time when red deer outnumbered the island’s population by 30 to 1. It goes without saying that one of the main attractions of the Isle of Jura is its magnificent natural habitats, which are also perfect for long secluded walks with nobody else in sight. Plus there’s a little bonus for book lovers: George Orwell came to hide here in the 1940s to write his new novel “1984”.
The island of Iona is considered to be the “cradle of Christianity”, having sheltered a monastery founded here by the missionary Saint Columba in the year 563. To this day, the island of Iona is one of the most spiritual places in Scotland, with places of daily prayer, such as the Hill of Angels. There are other spiritual and religious places on the island of Iona that are interesting to visit, such as the Iona Abbey, the cemetery of Saint Oran and the ruins of an Augustinian convent.
4. Isle of Mull
The second largest island in the Hebrides, it is the ideal place for travellers looking for a holiday enjoying the beauty of nature. The Isle of Mull is home to a wide variety of wildlife and enthrals travellers with its picturesque coastline, fascinating geological structures and superb mountains, just waiting to be explored. After a long day in the wilderness, the Isle of Mull will enchant you once again with the best food you can taste in Scotland. Just visit the Ninth Wave or the Smithy House restaurants in Pennyghael.
5. Isle of Skye
When we think of the Scottish Isles, the first one that comes to mind is the Isle of Skye. The island is mainly famous for being the place where Prince Charles Edward Stuart fled after the defeat of his Jacobite army and there are reminders of the Prince all over the island. You’ll probably hear the song “Sky boat” if you stay here, a tune that tells the story of the Prince and which today is used as for the Outlander series. The Isle of Skye is uniquely beautiful and could lead to you leaving your heart among its hilly landscapes, romantic castles and rugged shores.
Are you a fan of traditional Scottish clothing? Then you’ve come to the right place. Harris Island is said to be the home of tweed, and indeed you can find some of the best varieties of this fabric here. But Harris has even more to offer. “Luskentyre Sands” is one of the most beautiful beaches in Scotland, and it is also here that you will find the Hebrides’ first gin distillery. Of course, Scotland not only produces whisky. On the Isle of Lewis, the twin to Harris (they are strictly speaking attached and should count as one island) is the megalithic site of the “Callanish Standing Stones” and is worth a visit.
Barra Island is home to some very interesting archaeological sites, such as Allt Chrisal, Dun Cuier, Kisimul Castle and the stone formation near Ben Rulibreck. Treat yourself to a chance to try your hand at cockle fishing at Traigh Mhor Beach, which also serves as an airstrip.
8. North Uist
North Uist is one of the Scottish islands that any birdwatcher would want to visit, as it is one of the best places to see the endangered corncrake species. In summer, you will also find the machair in full bloom; seaside meadows with about 200 species of wild flowers, an incredible sight.
9. Mainland, Shetlands
The main island of the Shetland archipelago is unsurprisingly called… Mainland. Despite its uninspiring name, the island itself is home to some absolutely unique and fascinating sites that every lover of Scotland should visit, such as Scalloway Castle, the archaeological site of Jarlshof or Ness of Burgi Fort. If you travel to Scotland in January, make sure you attend the island’s famous Viking fire festival, “Up Helly Aa”, and for budding literary enthusiasts and detectives follow the Ann Cleeves Literary Trail.
10. Mainland, Orkney
Are you a history buff? Then this island in the north of Scotland is for you. The Orkney Archipelago has an abundance of archaeological sites, over 2,000 in all, including the best preserved Neolithic village in northern Europe, Skara Brae, the megaliths of the Ring of Brodgar and the Maeshowe burial site. In addition to its reputation as one of the world’s most interesting archaeological sites, the Orkney Archipelago is also home to astounding cliffs, beautiful meadows and breathtaking beaches.