The Isle of Skye is the focus of many a trip to Scotland but with literally hundreds of islands there is so much more to explore. See our top picks for any tour of the Scottish Islands.
I mean, yes, the Isle of Skye is beautiful. Yes, it’s full of wildlife, dramatic coastline and intriguing history. But, it is only one out of hundreds of incredible Scottish Islands – 790 to be exact – each one more spectacularly beautiful than the last.
So here are 8 alternative Scottish Islands to visit if you want to escape the crowds this summer and experience the wild and unspoilt beauty of the Scottish Isles.
8 Alternative Scottish Islands
The ‘Queen of the Hebrides’ is probably best known for its whisky production. Despite its size, at just 600 square kilometers, this tiny island is home to eight working distilleries – it’s certainly the Whisky Capital of the Hebrides.
Visit if: You never say ‘no’ to a dram or two.
Don’t miss: Bowmore, the oldest distillery on Islay, founded over two centuries ago in 1779.
This island is famed for being where George Orwell retreated to write 1984 and literary buffs can still make a pilgrimage to the remote croft house where he lived. Orwell wanted to get away from it all and you can see why he chose wild, untamed Jura where wild deer outnumber people more than 10 to one.
Visit if: You’re a novelist having an existential crisis.
Don’t miss: The Corryvrecken Whirpool, one of the largest permanent whirlpools on earth and one of the most dangerous stretches of water around the British Isles.
You might be surprised to learn that most visitors travel to this Outer Hebridian Island for its beaches. The dazzling white sands and turquoise waters surrounding the largest island in the Outer Hebrides are reminiscent of the Caribbean. With dozens of beaches to pick from, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
Visit if: You’re a bit of a beach bum.
Don’t miss: The volcanic islands of St Kilda, the most remote Islands in the British Isles.
Actually Orkney consists of around 70 Islands but I’ll ignore that. I’m going to leave it to the poet and storyteller George Mackay Brown, who lived on Orkney at Stromness, to sell you his island home. He wrote ‘The essence of Orkney’s magic is silence, loneliness, and the deep marvelous rhythms of sea and land, darkness and light.’
Visit if: There is a hint of whimsy in your soul.
Don’t miss: The Neolithic settlement of Skara Brae which is thought to be older than Stonehenge and the pyramids.
Iona is a mystical Island accessible only by foot-passenger ferry from Mull. The Island is infused with religious devotion and is known as ‘the cradle of Christianity’ in Scotland. Iona Abbey was founded by St Columba in 563 and continues to be an important site of worship and pilgrimage.
Visit if: You are in search of peace and restoration.
Don’t miss: The Fairy Hill or Hill of Angels which has been the site of pagan and Christian rituals for centuries and has been strongly associated with the world of the supernatural.
One of the most accessible islands, you can drive to Arran from Glasgow in a couple of hours. Despite being so close to the hustle and bustle of the mainland you will still be able to experience the relaxed, whimsical atmosphere of island life as well as the dramatic scenery and eclectic wildlife of the Inner Hebrides.
Visit if: You’re looking for a taste of the Islands of Scotland.
Don’t miss: The spectacular Glenahdale Falls, accessed by walking through an Iron Age fort and Neolithic burial mounds known as The Giant's Graves.
Beautiful Barra is the most southerly of the inhabited islands in the Outer Hebrides. it was the strong hold of the Clan MacNeil and you can visit their ancient seat, the ‘Castle in the Sea’, sitting on a rock islet in Castle Bay.
Visit if: Your name is MacNeil
Don’t miss: The island’s unique airstrip on Traigh Mor Beach.
The third largest of the Scottish Isles and one of the most accessible as it is served by three ferries. This island boasts a huge variety of flora and fauna including Golden and White-tailed Eagles, Otters, Whales, Dolphins and Basking Sharks.
Visit if: You are a birder or a twitcher.
Don’t miss: The brightly painted waterfront houses of Tobermory.
If you’re tempted by any of these alternative Islands why not visit them with adeo Travel. You can visit by car on our Scottish Islands Self-Drive tour or a small group tour such as Orkney and the Far North or Iona, Mull and the Isle of Skye.