11 Scottish Islands for Every Type of Traveller

11 Scottish Islands for Every Type of Traveller

We’ve hopped between Shetland, Orkney and the Inner and Outer Hebrides to find the Scottish island to suit you. Get a taste of Skye’s best restaurants, spot puffins on South Mainland or sip Islay’s peaty whisky. Plus, private islands for natural seclusion.

more than 900 offshore islands to discover, Scotland and
its jagged coat is hardly a well-kept secret among travellers.
Still, when you’re strolling along a beach at the height of summer
and there’s barely a soul in sight, it’s hard to feel like this
place wasn’t made just for you.

The four main island groups – Shetland,
and the Inner and Outer Hebrides – include uninhabited
craggy outcrops with sandy coves and thriving hubs of farming,
textiles and whisky-making. Whether your idea of fun is dining on
fresh hand-dived scallops, riding the Atlantic surf or togging up
for hearty outdoor pursuits, Scotland
has an island to suit. Here are some of the best.

Highland flings and secluded escapes: which Scottish island
should you visit?

Isle of Mull

Scotland, United Kingdom

Best for: adventurers

One of the largest Scottish islands, Mull is an outdoorsy
nirvana. Hire bikes in the main town of Tobermory or get involved
in an e-bike cycling tour. Kayaking, bouldering, wild swimming and
hiking are also popular pursuits, while others visit the island to
climb up majestic Ben More, the only island Munro (that’s Scottish
for a mountain that’s more than 3,000ft high) outside Skye. Mull is
also a twitcher’s paradise, home to the white-tailed eagle – the
UK’s largest bird of prey – as well as merlins, buzzards and hen

Stay: Camping is big on the island, and
Pennygown Holiday Park has the best views as well as a
small shop selling meat from their own farm. It’s a good
jumping-off point for adventures.


Scotland, United Kingdom

Best for: community spirits

One road. One pub. One distillery. And a very distinct, very
harsh microclimate that seems to have windswept the tiny island’s
tight-knit community together. Part of the Inner Hebrides, Jura is
one of the wildest corners of Scotland, with 200 inhabitants
outnumbered by 5,000 wild deer. As for its whisk, many believe it’s
the best in the world.

Stay: Black Tomato has launched its ultra-luxe
Blink glamping service for the first time on Jura’s
remote north coast. It’s a completely bespoke experience – they’ll
arrange RIB trips to the whirlpools of Corryvreckan, with a rare
chance to sight sea eagles, porpoises, dolphins and seals.


Scotland, United Kingdom

Best for: wildlife enthusiasts

The 300 or so Shetland islands are famous for puffins – tammie
norries, as they’re locally known. Take the ferry to the little
island of Bressay for walks across the heather and watch them in
their natural habitat. Elsewhere, the RSPB nature reserve at
Sumburgh Head on the southern tip of mainland Shetland is home to
tens of thousands of seabirds in the summer, including kittiwakes
and guillemots.

Stay: Beside the nature reserve on the South
Mainland, self-catered Sumburgh Lighthouse is ideal for a small group
getaway. The property has a double bedroom, twin room and single
bedroom inside the old Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage. Buffeted by the
elements, the lighthouse still has relics from its working days,
but an electric Aga and large dining table keep things snug.

Isle of Islay

Scotland, United Kingdom

Best for: whisky lovers

There are so many gin and whisky distilleries on this tiny
Hebridean island that you could spend a whole holiday getting to
know your Bruichladdich from your Lagavulin. Private tastings and

distillery tours
can be a fun way to learn about the peaty
single malts that comes from the island. Elsewhere, wildlife and
pristine beaches earn Islay the well-deserved title as “Queen of
the Hebrides”.

Stay: Machrie Hotel is surrounded by 11km of pristine
sand dunes, and is a jumping-off point for fishing trips, cycling
routes and birdwatching. Any golfers would be happy here too.


Scotland, United Kingdom

Best for: history buffs

Explore First World War shipwrecks, Viking villages and
prehistoric sites as you island-hop across the Orkney archipelago.
The islands’ diverse history includes a famous Italian chapel, a
Viking-founded cathedral of Kirkwall, the crumbling remains of
5,000-year-old Skara Brae, the neolithic stone circle at Brodgar,
and the Standing Stones of Stenness. Want to get a deeper
understanding of the Orkneys’ rich history? Book a guided tour with

Stay: On the outskirts of the historic town of
Stromness in the West Mainland, this single-storey barn conversion on Airbnb is open plan and
minimalist, letting views to the great outdoors take centre stage.
It has one large bedroom, underfloor heating and stunning vistas
across Hoy Sound.

Torsa Island

Scotland, United Kingdom

Best for: sweet seclusion

There’s just one home on this tiny island, and nothing but the
local wildlife for company. Run wild in the sheer open space of the
beaches and meadows. This rugged island is close to Oban and Seil
on Scotland’s west coast, where you’ll find pubs and provisions if
you need.

Stay: It’s not often that a self-catering stay
comes with its own private island. Check into the six-bed Torsa House for just that – and a cosy log
burner, well-equipped kitchen and everything you need to batten
down the hatches between enjoying nature. The house comes with its
own motorboat in case you fancy pootling over to the neighbouring
islands for a change of scene.


Scotland, United Kingdom

Best for: divine disconnection

There’s something peaceful about the white sands of Iona, an
island just south of Mull. Famed for the medieval chapel of St
Oran’s, it seems to have been possessed by a spiritual presence for
millenia. Small wonder that this is the alleged burial place of no
less than 48 Scottish kings – including Macbeth – as well as a
handful from Ireland and Norway. This is the spot where Irish monk
St Columba landed in the 6th century, built a Celtic church and set
about converting pagans to Christianity. The island is rich in
wildflowers and sea life, too, making it lovely for long walks and
a digital detox.

Stay: A warm Hebridean welcome awaits at the
Columba Hotel
, originally built as a clergy house. The hotel
makes its own gin, and food is gathered from the organic veg

Isle of Skye

United Kingdom

Best for: foodies

Skye’s beauty is no secret, but the island’s flourishing food
scene adds an extra dimension to this picturesque beauty spot.
Native oysters are some of the world’s finest, as are hand-dived
scallops and langoustines. Note also the historic bakeries and
venison. For a true taste of island life, book a table at the cult
The Three Chimneys restaurant. Dedicated to sustainability, rifle
through nature’s larder of foraged herbs, well-sourced fish and
local produce. Fuelled up, discover natural Skye’s wonders such as
the Old Man of Storr, Kilt Rock, the mountain pass of Quiraing and
Dunvegan Castle.

Stay: For a far-flung romantic getaway or solo
retreat, Supernova is unbeatable. The self-catered chapel
conversion overlooks Loch Harport and the mountains beyond, and
comes with underfloor heating and Scandi sheepskin rugs. Low-key

Lewis and Harris

Scotland, United Kingdom

Best for: beaches

Despite the name, this is actually one island, with long sandy
bays and crystal-clear waters perfect for dolphin spotting. This
part of the Outer Hebrides might as well be the Carribean. Check
out Viking relics at the Callanish standing stones or spend days on
the white sands of Luskentyre beach looking for native whales.

Stay: The Sound of Harris is broken into two
self-catered properties: The Big House and The Other House. Ask the
owners and they’ll source local scallops and langoustine, or have a
go at catching your own mackerel.

Eilean Shona


Best for: fairytale charm

Summers spent here in the 1920s inspired J. M. Barrie’s
rendering of Neverland in Peter Pan. Today, you’ll still find much
of that otherworldly charm on this private, car-free island. Only a
short boat ride over Loch Moidart from the mainland, its all
pristine moors, wild open hills and woodland. Red squirrels, curlew
and otters are at home here. Out to sea, you’ll spot dolphins,
minke whales and the odd basking shark.

Stay: Vanessa Branson has owned the island for
the past three decades, and recently renovated Eilean Shona House
for holiday rentals of up to 16 people. Think luxury hotel meets
family home. Elsewhere on the island are nine tucked-away boutique
holiday cottages.

Photo credit: J Bedford


Scotland, United Kingdom

Best for: surfing

The self-proclaimed “Hawaii of the North” might be a little
colder than its Pacific namesake, but when the light is right,
Tiree does indeed have azure waters to rival any tropical beach.
Being so far north, there are more daylight hours here summer
months than almost any other part of the British isles. Top surfing
conditions, too.

Stay: Reef is a luxury inn on the west coast,
with eight bedrooms and a laid-back surfer vibe. It stocks all
sorts of interesting Scottish spirits and craft beers – ideal
partners for its menus of seafood and homemade pizza.

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