Last updated: 7th Feb 2014
Hundreds of islands surround the north and west coast of Scotland, many of which like the Orkneys and Shetland are rich in ancient sites and heritage, evident across the wealth of archaeological sites and standing stones across the islands. It’s easy to Island Hop too with great Hopscotch ferry service tickets available from main western island ferry company Caledonian MacBrayne.
Most of the larger Scottish Islands including Shetland, Orkney, Outer Hebridean island Lewis, Islay and even little Colonsay have airports or airstrips, making it easy to hop across from the mainland (some flights to the islands are available from both Edinburgh and Glasgow Airports). Ferry services are extensive to these popular islands which attract many visitors particularly across peak season from April to October.
Some of the most popular ferry routes include the Ullapool to Stornoway route and a huge choice of Oban ferries to Mull, Coll, Tiree, Lochboisdale on South Uist, Castlebay on Outer Hebrides Island Barra and to the Shetland Islands. Other popular ferry services include the regular route from Aberdeen to Lerwick, the Isle of Skye ferry service from Mallaig and trips across to Arran from Ardrossan. Main ferry companies include Northlink Ferries to Orkney and Shetland, and Caledonian MacBrayne for all your western Isle, Firth of Clyde and Hebridean routes.
Rich in wildlife, the Scottish Islands are a haven for birdwatchers and wildlife watching holidays. Head to the Shetland Islands and the Orkneys, a magical wildlife sanctuaries facing the full on force of the Atlantic and serving as important stopping off points for thousands of breeding birds nesting on craggy cliffs from puffins and kittiwakes to migratory geese and waders.
From the great sweeping sandy beach bays of Harris to the mountainous interior and great coastal rock formations of the Misty Isle of Skye, the landscapes of the Scottish Islands are a scene to be experienced. Like mini Highland experiences in themselves, you’ll often find huge landscape variation on the Islands, with mountainous northern areas contrasting with low-lying loch rich southern areas.
Scottish Islands outdoor pursuits are varied and extensive, featuring everything from great surfing on exposed island beaches to island lochs popular for trout fishing and a fantastic choice of golf courses on the Isle of Arran. Many of the islands are a gateway to hundreds of smaller unpopulated islands famed for their seabird colonies and seal/whale spotting. Coastal walking, birdwatching and wildlife spotting are popular across all the islands from best birdwatching at South Shetland’s Sumburgh Head RSPB to whale and dolphin watching boat trips from Sleat on the Isle of Skye.
The ancient standing stones and archaeological sites of the Scottish Islands represent some of the world’s oldest sites of settlement, all in a breathtaking location which adds to the drama. Highlights include the great archaeological site of Jarishof on mainland Shetland and the west mainland of Orkney famed for its many ancient sites including the most visited Neolithic village of Skara Brae.
Whether you’re planning to island hop or explore one Scottish Island, prepare yourself for the ultimate memorable holiday experience. The larger islands all boast a choice of main town B&Bs and small hotels in the larger settlements or more remote crofting cottages if you want to get away from it all. Expect to sample some of Scotland’s finest seafood whilst on the Isle and a range of fine local food and drink. Find your perfect island holiday now – book Scottish Islands accommodation online.