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My favourite Scottish Islands

ellisoconnorellisoconnor VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭
edited October 2016 in Scotland's Islands
Hello all! 

Three years ago I made a pact with myself to try and visit all of the Scottish Islands and explore as much of this country as I possibly could. As I am a visual artist and photographer whose work is directly influenced by the more remote areas of Scotland and the stunning mountain ranges we have it wasn't going to be much of a hard challenge for me to start exploring! 

And so to date I've nearly reached my goal!

I'm a massive fan of the wonderful and varied Islands we have here in Scotland and so I'm going to share with you my personal top 5 for my first discussion post. 

1: Isle of Eigg: One of Scotland's small Isles that lies off the West Coast near Mallaig and looks over to the Isle of Skye. A lot less documented but so wild and a very special place because of the people (the community famously bought out the Island in 1997) and the rich culture, heritage and amazing unspoilt hiking to the Sgurr, Laig Beach, Grulin, Kildonans Cave and many more! 

2: Isle of Colonsay: A jewel in the ocean. The Isle of Colonsay is one of Scotland's Inner Hebrides located north of Islay and South of Mull. Famous for it's beaches and incredible unspoilt rich landscapes. Must see's are Kiloran Bay, the long but worthwhile hike to Balnahard Bay at the North of the Island, the rich geology, wildlife and so much more!

3: The Archipleago of St Kilda: Unbelievable. These Islands are located 40 miles off the Western Isles of Scotland and are famously difficult to get out to. I was very lucky and after 2 failed attempts at trying to reach St Kilda I finally ventured out there the summer of last year with Sea Harris. Nothing prepares you for the atmosphere or rich history that is so deeply felt there. We spent the whole day on the Island and then the evening circling the infamous stacs of Stac Lee and Stac An Armin (the tallest sea stacs in the UK) St Kilda is world renowned and you have to see it to believe it, if you get a chance to go you definitely should! 

4: The Isle of Jura: The Isle of Jura is also one of Scotland's Inner Hebrides and is a remarkably mountainous remote Island. The 200 locals are immeasurably outnumbered by deer and it's almost inevitable you will run into one on the Island. I spent a few days there hiking in the wilderness, tasting the infamous Jura Malt Whisky, staying in Craighouse and ambling over the Paps Of Jura, the stunning mountain range! 

5: Shetland: I have so much to say about Shetland as I've spent a lot of time on the mainland of Shetland and around all of it's stunning unique Islands. I spent the summer of 2014 circling the Shetland Islands on a boat which was an incredible experience in itself. My favourite places to visit are the Islands of Papa Stour, Fetlar, Foula and on the mainland; Sumburgh Head, Eshaness Cliffs and Silwick. I cannot wait to go back up to visit Fair Isle! It's a land very much connected to it's Viking past and rich Scandinavian ties, I would recommend a couple of weeks there to see the Islands too!

I could ramble on for days about my experiences on these Islands but thought I'd tell you my favourite spots to see so you can get a sense of some of the incredible locations these Islands offer. 

All of my photos from my trips to these specific Islands and more are on my;



And Website:

What are all of your favourite Islands and why? Would love to hear about your adventures!

Ellis :) 



  • These recommendations are fab Ellis! 

    I have yet to visit any Scottish Islands, but I'd love to visit Skye and the Isle of Colonsay also sounds amazing! 

    Where's next on your list?

  • I'm a big fan of Coll, but I'm also biased as I had a friend who lived there for a long time, which meant I got to party with the locals when I visited. 

    But it's a beautiful island with the great little village of Arinagour at one end. You can get an amazing Sunday roast at the Island Cafe (it used to be called the First Port of Coll, not sure if it still is) which is a very obvious blue door on the main road into the village.

    Make sure and pack a hat though; like most of the Hebrides it can get a trifle windy!
  • mustseescotlandmustseescotland VisitScotland Contributor ✭✭✭
    We are big fans of Harris. I (Johanna) first went there in 1991 - by CityLink bus from Glasgow can you believe it! The beaches on the west are magical. The pure white shell sand makes the sea sparkle. Gilbert and I have been back many times - our last trip in May 2014 was from Barra all the way up to the Butt of Lewis - in 2.5 weeks - and it never rained once and we got some amazing images. The machair meadow flowers were especially beautiful on that trip too. Check out more about our trip to the Outer Hebrides.

    The independent online guide to Scotland, written by Gilbert and Johanna Summers - lifetime Scottish tourism experts, so you get the best vacation.

  • mustseescotlandmustseescotland VisitScotland Contributor ✭✭✭
    I'm a big fan of Coll, but I'm also biased as I had a friend who lived there for a long time, which meant I got to party with the locals when I visited. 

    But it's a beautiful island with the great little village of Arinagour at one end. You can get an amazing Sunday roast at the Island Cafe (it used to be called the First Port of Coll, not sure if it still is) which is a very obvious blue door on the main road into the village.

    Make sure and pack a hat though; like most of the Hebrides it can get a trifle windy!
    TripAdvisor has a great review for an Island cafe at Arinagour - from 2 days ago - so it looks like there is still a great place to eat there. I must go there!
    The independent online guide to Scotland, written by Gilbert and Johanna Summers - lifetime Scottish tourism experts, so you get the best vacation.

  • EwanEwan Member ✭✭✭

    Like @ellisoconnor I'm also working my around Scotland's islands - but with 790 of them it may take some time ... :)

    Harris, Skye and Arran are all great places to visit, with lots to see and do, but my favourites have to be St Kilda, Colonsay and Rum.

    St Kilda's the only site with dual World Heritage Status in the UK and its human story and wildlife are unforgettable.  It does take a little time and effort to get there but it's definitely worth it !  My top tip would be to leave an extra day after your scheduled boat trip from Harris or Skye just in case the sea's too rough to land.  (And @janehunter I'm also prone to sea sickness and was dreadfully sick both ways ... but despite this it's certainly worth making the effort).

    Colonsay is a real gem, with Kiloran Bay in the north and the walk over the sands at low tide to the neighbouring island of Oransay the highlights for me.

    Now, Rum is a hillwalker's paradise (and in damp weather, also a midgie's paradise!).  The views from the Rum Cuillin mountains on a clear day are stunning, as is the gorgeous beach at Kilmory Bay in the north of the island (see the pic below).

    Here's my take on Scotland's Top 10 must-visit islands.

    Exploring Scotland's wild places by foot, bike and camper van

    WildaboutScotland blog | Twitter

  • janehunterjanehunter Member ✭✭
    Ah thanks @Ewan I know for sure St Kilda would be worth the sickness.

    I've been waiting to see if I can make a new friend who has a helicopter! If I don't find one soon though I will consider the boat. 
    Scottish Textile Artist
    Twitter | Facebook | Instagram
  • ellisoconnorellisoconnor VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭
    Thanks! @VisitScotlandAmy <span>:smile:</span>

    Yes, Skye and Colonsay are amazing! So much to see and do there!

    I'm really interested in some of the harder to reach Islands like the Shiant Isles, not many people know much about these Islands so I'm desperate to see them and also spend a bit more time on the Islands around Orkney!

  • ellisoconnorellisoconnor VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭
    Thanks @VisitScotlandDave, I love Coll too!

    That's great you know the locals there, it's always a better experience when you do as they tell you all the hidden gems.

    When I'm back there, (I'm going to try and get back in the summer amidst all the other Islands on my list) I'll definitely check out the cafe and other ones you recommended. 

    Cheers again! 

    Ellis :)
  • ellisoconnorellisoconnor VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭
    Hello @mustseescotland thanks for the link to your blog and what a lovely photo of the famous Harris! 

    It's such a magical place, I completely agree with you, it's so secluded and I always feel so peaceful after spending a few days there. 

    Barra too is amazing! I'm going to spend a couple of weeks on Barra this June living in one of the croft houses so if you have any recommendations for me there I would really appreciate it! 
    I've been before but only for a flying visit! 


    Ellis :) 

  • ellisoconnorellisoconnor VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭
    Hello @janehunter!

    Thanks for the kind words, I love your work. After reading your comment I went and found your website. You can tell we have very similar influences and passions, it's interesting to see how our outlets for showing our inspirations are very different though. I love the textiles!

    Anyway, thanks for reaching out and letting me know about your favourite Islands, Arran is actually one of the only Islands I've not been too yet, I have a friend visiting Scotland next month so I'm think we are going to venture there so I can see it with new eyes too. :) 

    Are you going on any other Scottish adventures this summer? 

    I'll look out for your instagram too!

    I've just recently came back from a quick hiking trip up in Glen Coe and have posted a few new ones on the app.

    Ellis :) 
  • ellisoconnorellisoconnor VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭
    Hello @Ewan Thanks for letting me know your favourite Islands!

    It's good to chat to a fellow traveller who has managed to get out to St Kilda! 

    I've never been prone to sea sickness having spent a lot of time on the ferries around Scotland and a month on a boat around Shetland however the St Kilda crossing is another league of its own! haha!

    I have to say I was quite sick going over including a few others on the wee boat, however it's so worth it when you get out there, you immediately forget about the queasy feeling when you are faced with the immensity of the stacks! We even got a sunny day, I actually got a bit sun burnt, which I'm sure is unheard of out there! :) 

    Thanks for the tips on Rum too, that's one of the Islands I've not been to yet, I'm going to be spending 6 weeks on Eigg this summer so will definitely be planning a few trips over to Rum, it looks incredible!

  • ScotlandAdventuresScotlandAdventures Member ✭✭✭
    Hi @ellisoconnor,

    If I remember correctly from our conversation you still have to visit the Isle of Bute?  I know how much you love wild landscapes so hopefully these will entice you (and anyone else reading!)  ;) 

    Scottish Travel Blogger at Adventures Around Scotland

    Follow me on Social Media at Twitter Facebook Instagram Pinterest

  • ellisoconnorellisoconnor VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭
    Woweee @ScotlandAdventures these photos are beautiful!

    Yes Bute is now one of the few Islands I've still not ventured to, don't worry about this though I have a wee plan up my sleeve! 

    I have a bit more of time in May so going to try and head over that way then! 

    I'll give you a shout when I know I'm coming over as it would be great to meet up with you!

    Have a great day! 

  • ellisoconnorellisoconnor VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭
    Hello! @TheChaoticScot

    These photos are lovely, it's so nice to hear you talk so passionately about them, I too feel the same way about these wee jewels of islands we have here in Scotland.

    Amazing to know you had a great time on Eigg! It has to be my favourite Island and it's where I have spent the most of my time. I stayed in Cleadale bothy for a few days on my own last January, can't say I had the same weather as you though! It was gale force winds, but I loved every second, such an epic view and Sue and Neil are lovely! This was from the one day of nice weather we had there, I took advantage and climbed up to this lookout!

    Also agree with you about Iona and Barra, just so special and unspoilt! 

    Happy Island Hopping to you too, hopefully we will finish out target and see them all, maybe I'll catch you on one them one day! 

    Ellis :) 
  • EdinBrawGaryEdinBrawGary VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭
    We've only ever beer to Barra, the beaches were so beautiful. This discussion has inspired us to explore more of the Islands, the photos are all so stunning. 
    Gary Wood - Blogger at EdinBraw - The Best of Edinburgh
    Passionate about Edinburgh's food and festival scene and slowly starting to explore Scotland. 
    Find me on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook
  • VisitScotlandHeatherVisitScotlandHeather Member ✭✭✭
    @TheChaoticScot - that beach landing on Barra looks amazing!
  • mustseescotlandmustseescotland VisitScotland Contributor ✭✭✭
    edited May 2016
    Eriskay (linked to South Uist by a causeway) is amazing too. You can hear the rare corncrake here and see the ancient breed of pony (Eriskay pony).

    The independent online guide to Scotland, written by Gilbert and Johanna Summers - lifetime Scottish tourism experts, so you get the best vacation.

  • ScotlandAdventuresScotlandAdventures Member ✭✭✭
    Fab @ellisoconnor hopefully you make it over and of course let me know if you do :-)

    Scottish Travel Blogger at Adventures Around Scotland

    Follow me on Social Media at Twitter Facebook Instagram Pinterest

  • VisitScotlandRuaridhVisitScotlandRuaridh Member, Moderator, VisitScotland Staff
    edited May 2016
    It's absolutely fantastic. When the plane lands on the Barra beach too, it makes it look extra special!
  • VisitScotlandSheenaVisitScotlandSheena Member, VisitScotland Staff
    I visited Rum a few years back and enjoyed five days of glorious sunshine while the rest of the UK was under a rain cloud (yes, I was very smug on my return!) It's rugged and wild but a place where you really can escape and switch off.

    Completely agree @Ewan  - it is a hillwalker's paradise, and while we didn't quite make it to the Rum Cuillin (Askival - on the list for the next visit) we still enjoyed the stunning walk between Kinloch village and Harris on the west of the island. Look out for the impressive Bullough’s mausoleum.

    Although the island is known for its population of red deer, we did stumble upon a few wild ponies on our way towards Harris.
    I'd return in a heartbeat and hope to get back there sometime soon. Check out the ferry timetables from Mallaig with Calmac.
  • Hi @ellisoconnor

    What a great post with plenty of inspiration - thank you for sharing. I follow your Instragram too and just love your style of photography and how you capture light. I live in Orkney and love this part of the Scottish Isles but I would love to see more and you are definitely helping inspire me. I was over in Skye last year and just loved it and how different the landscape was to Orkney - I had never thought about how flat Orkney was until I went to Skye. I was in Mull many years ago with my parents but I would really like to go back and see more of it. I'm hoping to plan a trip to the Outer Hebrides soon as they look beautiful and, again, so different from Orkney. Do you have an all time favourite island that you have visited? 

    Natalie :smile:
  • shetlanddebbieshetlanddebbie Member ✭✭
    I may be biased, but my favourite island is definitely Shetland! It's made up of over 100 different islands but only 15 are inhabited.  The coast is so beautiful and the beaches are amazing.  I also love the feeling of community there is here as everybody seems to know everybody!
  • ShetlandRachelShetlandRachel Member ✭✭
    @shetlanddebbie It is a magical place, especially when the sun shines.
    The Isle Of Tiree has a very special place in heart ......................
    Not only is it one of the most beautiful places with the best beaches ( and I have been to the Maldives )
    but the folk are v friendly . My wee Gramps family hale from here and he grew up here ..... so much so that when his family moved to the main land for work reasons he ran away back to the family farm and ended up staying until he was fully grown lol. We go over and I had many a holiday here growing up ....sadly he passed away suddenly last year ......... but we have taken him home to the beaches of Tiree X
  • JoolshornetJoolshornet Member ✭✭
    edited July 2016
    I have to mention Iona too. I was only there for the day, but it's just the most peaceful and serene place I've ever been to. I really want to go back and stay there for a few nights.
    Iona is my favourite - usually spend a few days there over the summer.  I love the fact that you can't take a vehicle over (unless you're a resident) and you walk everywhere to get where you're going.  Always refreshes the batteries visiting Iona - love it!
  • DMWScotlandDMWScotland VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭
    Beautiful photos @VisitScotlandAmyR! I'd love to go back there and visit Staffa. When I visited Iona about 10 years ago it was a dull rainy day and I didn't get to see it at this best. You really got close to the puffins! Great experience :)
    I blog about places I've explored in Scotland on Love Exploring Scotland  <3
    Follow me on FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube :)
  • GawenniesGawennies Member
    Without any question of doubt .... having travelled to St Kilda four times and arrived there three times, dived through the arch at Sgarbhstac.  Dived on Spanish guns west of Sandray, and thrilled at the peace and solitude of Mingulay.  Wondered in awe at the hexagonal pencils of basalt on the sea bed at Heisker, and flew through the screaming current of Kyle Rhea ....  to me
    the most beautiful island is Canna.  Having been there five times the weather is always glorious, the sea a beautiful millpond, and the fifty metre dive off the lighthouse at Sanday is heavenly.  Every visit to Canna has been been outstanding ... the main reason .... no one will take you there unless the weather forecast is outstanding.
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