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Travel: Islands special… In the isles of the beholder – Scots best trips

© Shutterstock / EyesTravellingNorth Uist’s white sands.
North Uist’s white sands.

Whether an enthusiastic outdoor adventurer or an avid island hopper looking for the next spur-of-the-moment weekend away, Scotland’s plethora of almost 800 isles provide a wealth of rugged and sandy coastlines to choose from for the perfect spring getaway.

VisitScotland gives us its top recommendations of islands to make memories that will last a lifetime…


Stop off at the Scapa Flow Museum. With the newly restored and extended attraction home to more than 250 fascinating artefacts, it’s a great way to discover the story of Scapa Flow and Orkney’s role during two world wars.

Orkney’s forthcoming Folk Festival (May 25-28) is a wonderful way to experience the buzz of the local community. The line-up includes acts from across the UK, Scandinavia and North America.


The reward for travelling this far north is an incredible combination of wildlife, breathtaking scenery, isolation and tranquillity.

The longer days mean it’s even easier to become one with nature, marvel at the wildflowers beginning to bloom or take to the water with The Mousa Boat, Shetland Seabird Tours or Sea Birds and Seals for an awe-inspiring wildlife experience; from watching gannets diving up-close to spotting otters and whales.

Explore the seaside and enjoy miles of beautiful coastline, fringed by towering clifftops, pristine beaches and crystal-clear blue shores.

Intrepid adventurers can visit the Scalloway Museum and the world-class Sumburgh Head Lighthouse, Visitor Centre and Nature Reserve, discovering the history and natural heritage of Sumburgh Head from early geological beginnings and Iron Age settlers to lighthouse keepers, whales, puffins and much more.

June brings the Shetland Noir Festival, a four-day programme packed full of writer events, workshops, panel discussions and outings. Headline guests at the event include Val McDermid, Elly Griffiths, Martin Edwards and Richard Osman.

© Shutterstock
Atlantic Puffin, Shetlands.


Endless white beaches, grassland bustling with bird life and freely roaming ponies – the six islands that make up Uist in the Outer Hebrides (Berneray, North Uist, Grimsay, Benbecula, South Uist and Eriskay) offer visitors a slice of paradise.

One of the best ways to explore is by walking or cycling the Hebridean Way. From taking a croft tour in South Uist, enjoying the fine sands of Prince’s Beach on Eriskay – where Bonnie Prince Charlie is said to have first stepped foot on Scottish soil – to ending the day with a sip of Downpour Gin, made with blossoms of wild Hebridean heather – there is plenty of savour on these islands.


How about a city break and island adventure all in one? Visitors can enjoy fantastic museums, a spot of retail therapy and a night out in Scotland’s Unesco City of Music, Glasgow – then jump on a train to Largs (under one hour) the next morning and hop over to Cumbrae on an eight-minute ferry ride.

Cycle hire is available from the main town of Millport, and the island will not fail to delight with its miles of stunning coastline. The 10-mile circular loop on the main road, which is suitable for families, offers views of the North Ayrshire coast and the Isle of Bute.


Its Gaelic name Lios Mòr means The Great Garden. Thanks to its fertile soil, the island puts on a colourful display of wildflowers in spring and summer.

Lismore is rich in historical sites – including an Iron Age broch. And stop by the red phone box at the ferry point – known as The Dutch Bakery – and taste the scrumptious homemade cakes.

© Shutterstock / Allan Napier
Isle of Arran.


The Isle of Arran is said to be “Scotland in miniature”, thanks to the Highland Boundary Fault that runs through its heart, dividing a mountainous, dramatic landscape on one side from lush, green lowland countryside on the other.

Visitors can walk around Brodick Castle Garden and Country Park. Or journey to the north of the island and explore the castle ruins at Lochranza or taste the wonderful fresh produce the island has to offer, from cheese to chocolate.