Most people have heard of the Isle of Skye… or Mull… or Arran. But have you heard of Belnahua or Berneray, Coll or Colonsay, Grimsay or Graemsay, Papa Stour or Papa Westray? If you haven’t, you’re missing out on some of the most scenic and stunning locations in the UK.
The rewards for travelling a bit further afield, or visiting an island that is not easy to get to, can be awe-inspiring and in some cases, life-changing. Some islands are not even that far away, they just need a bit of planning to get there – although you would need some dedication to match the total of 168 Scottish Islands that adventurer Andy Strangeway, has visited and slept on!
The most accessible of these islands are those which support a permanent population. Coll and Tiree have regular ferry services from Oban and offer remoteness, windswept beaches, golf, cycling and bird watching. The windy beaches of Tiree in particular, attract wind and kite surfers from all over the world.
Moving north the collection of Islands in the Inner Hebrides known as the Small Isles features Rum, Muck, Eigg and Canna and are reached by ferry from Mallaig. Here you can climb the Rhum Cuillin, and visit the remarkably ornate sandstone structure of Kinloch Castle, which came second in the BBC television series Restoration.
Day trips, tours or charters may be necessary to visit the attractions on some of the lesser known islands. These are just a small selection of some of our favourite, out of the way places.
Fingal’s Cave on Staffa, recently voted as one of the greatest natural wonders in Britain, can be combined with a trip to see Black House remains and puffins on Lunga.
St Kilda, located 44 miles west of the Outer Hebrides and evacuated in 1930, is one of the few places in the world with dual World Heritage Status, for both its natural and cultural significance.
The Shiant Isles off the coast of Lewis once belonged to the writer Compton Mackenzie and were the subject of the 2002 book “The Sea Room”, an evocative memoir of a stone bothy, half a million puffins, hermits, witchcraft and catastrophe.
The Summer Isles, the last place in Britain to print its own stamps, are a popular cruise from Ullapool and offer excellent wildlife spotting opportunities, whilst Handa Island, further up the coast, is owned by the Scottish Wildlife Trust and is an internationally important sea-bird colony.
Most islands have their own website, but Love Scottish Islands covers many of the most popular destinations and includes useful information, pictures and video to give you a flavour of what to expect when you arrive.
So, what are you waiting for? Go and fetch that dog-eared map, your walking boots and make a vow to visit some of the ‘other islands’ that Scotland has to offer. Just don’t tell anyone. It can be our secret…