Creative Content Writer & former Tour Guide at HAGGiS Adventures. Scottish travel blogger and adventure lover. Kay enjoys travelling Scotland solo, and has visited 42 Scottish Islands. She loves to live up to stereotypes by dying her hair ginger, and regularly consuming haggis and whisky. A Scottish history geek and all-around chatterbox, she can literally talk for Scotland.
Awesome Scottish Islands
Oh, how we love the Scottish Islands. When you set foot upon new island territory, you experience a change in the world around you: the pace is slower, noise is limited to that of the wind and the sea, and everything seems more beautiful.
These islands are all uniquely wild and sexy, with so many stories to tell. You’ll find Neolithic standing stones and settlements, whisky distilleries, epic mountains, idyllic beaches, Iron Age structures, castles, colourful towns, and Viking celebrations. The list goes on!
We want to take you there. Are ye in?
This magical island seems like a good place to start - after all, it is the one that everyone’s heard of! The Norse called the island ‘Skuy’, which translates as ‘misty isle’, and they weren’t wrong! Expect random rainbows, varying degrees of visibility, and all four seasons in one hour.
Skye is insanely popular – both on social media and in real-life – and for good reason. The enchanting scenery, otherworldly landscapes, and local folklore have captured the (tartan) hearts of many.
When you explore the Isle of Skye, you’re following in the footsteps of dinosaurs, giants, kings, clans, Vikings, Bonnie Prince Charlie, and Skye’s notorious ‘faeries’. From the Old Man of Storr and Kilt Rock, to the Cuillin Mountains and picturesque Portree harbour, seeing really is believing.
Lewis and Harris
This is the largest of Scotland’s Islands, which can only mean one thing: more stunning coastal scenery, more fascinating history, and more deep-rooted island culture to sweep ye off your feet. (Aye, that’s actually three but ye ken what we mean?).
The Outer Hebrides are the most westerly edge of the country, and you can really feel the remoteness: the way the waves crash against the cliffs at the Butt of Lewis and the fact you often have the tropical looking beaches on Harris all to yourself.
Lewis and Harris are often referred to as separate islands, but they are in fact an awesome one-island team; top is the top half and Harris is the south. Lewis has flat, rugged landscapes and beaches with long, sweeping stretches of sand.
Lewis is where you’ll find the ancient Callanish Standing stones, Gearrannan Blackhouse Village, the bustling wee town of Stornoway. We also visit the Iron Age broch at Dun Carloway and a wee island whisky distillery.
Harris, on the other hand, has epic mountains and some of the most beautiful beaches on the planet with the whitest of sand and the brightest of turquoise water. We’re not exaggerating when we tell you that this island is bonnie beyond belief!
Mull, Iona and Staffa
Mull is an absolute cracker of an island; from its volcanic, mountainous landscape and bonnie beaches, to the Insta-worthy colourful harbour in the main town of Tobermory. As you journey around the island, keep an eye out shore-side shipwrecks, waterfalls and hairy coos.
One of the best ways to see Mull is from the water, and we embark on an epic wildlife cruise through prime territory for spotting marine life.
Mull alone has so much to offer, and it’s also the perfect base for even more island-hopping adventures. You can visit the world-famous Isle of Staffa, which is known for the geological masterpiece that is Fingal’s Cave. During the summer months, the island is home-sweet-home to adorable puffins who set up home there for the summer.
Iona is just a wee hop across the water too, and this special island is a place of insane beauty and peacefulness.
Three islands in one trip. Who’s coming?
We visit Mull, Iona and Staffa on the following tour: 4 Day Puffin Island Hopper
If you’re a Scotch whisky lover, you need to visit Islay. If you’re not a Scotch whisky lover, you need to visit Islay. There are a whopping nine whisky distilleries on this epic island, so it’s super-easy to immerse yourself in the history of the industry and the production methods which are unique to each different distillery.
We love the distinctive peaty flavour of Islay whiskies, and the best way to discover your favourite, is to try them all!
Whisky is everywhere on Islay, but there’s much more to the island culture than just the ‘water of life’. Islay’s story goes way back, and you can learn all about it in the Museum of Islay Life.
For another blast from the past, there’s the awesomely well-preserved Kildalton Cross which has stood in exactly that spot for 1200 years!
Vitamin-sea is very easy to come by on Islay, and we know some scenic spots to soak it up; from the rugged cliffs at Mull of Oa and the sweeping sands of Machir Bay to the pebbly shores of Claggain Bay.
Stone skimming contest, anyone?
We visit Islay on the following tour: 4 Day The Islay Music and Whisky Festival
Quaint towns, endless coastline, and the freshest of air: these are just some of the classic qualities you’d expect from any Scottish island. Orkney has all this awesomeness and more, thanks to its crazy abundance of well-preserved Neolithic ruins.
Just to be clear, we’re talking about monuments and settlements from 5000 years ago. Just let that sink in.
We get stuck right into this insane history as we visit sites across ‘Heart of Neolithic Orkney’; from the famous seaside village of Skara Brae and the chambered cairn at Tomb of the Eagles, to the mysterious Ring of Brodgar and Stones of Stenness.
In more recent millennia, Orkney has seen its fair share of Viking activity, while the iconic Churchhill Barriers and shipwrecks at Scapa Flow are evidence of the significant role the islands played in World War I & II.
Even if you don’t consider yourself a history nerd, you will be when you leave these islands.
We visit Orkney on the following tour: 7 Day Coast to Coast
The Shetland Isles are the most rugged and remote of all the islands we visit on tour. Clustered at the most northerly point in Scotland, Shetland is closer to Scandinavia than is to our country’s mainland. The truth is, we actually pinched the islands from the Kingdom of Denmark in the 15th century as part of a marriage agreement between the Princess of Denmark and King James III.
The Shetlanders will never forget their Viking roots; in fact, they throw a wild party every winter to celebrate it… the unstoppable Up Helly Aa!
If you’re looking for an excuse to visit Shetland, a Viking fire festival is it. We take you right into the centre of the blaze, to witness the torchlight procession and the famous burning of the galley. Then, it’s time to get your dancing shoes on!
If you’d prefer a summer adventure, we return to Shetland for the ‘Simmer Dim’ at Summer Solstice. The midnight sun is best viewed from a clifftop lighthouse. Just saying.
Still not convinced? There will also be a famous beach at St Ninian’s Isle, prehistoric ruins at Jarlshof, insane cliffs at Eshaness, and live music in the local pubs.