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Scotland has always beckoned travellers with its rugged coastlines, mystical castles, and rich history. And nestled around the mainland lies a collection of jewels, waiting to be explored – the best Scottish islands.

From the windswept cliffs of the Shetlands to the tranquil turquoise waters of the Isle of Harris, Scotland’s islands offer a stunning array of natural wonders that will leave you in awe.

So, pack your bags, lace up your walking boots, and prepare to be captivated by the islands of Scotland.

Find the best Scottish islands to visit below…

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Scottish Islands FAQs
Best Scottish Islands to Visit
Map of Islands of Scotland

Scottish Islands FAQs

How many islands are in Scotland?

Scotland has over 790 offshore islands, each with its own unique characteristics. However, the exact number of islands can vary depending on the definition of an “island” and the criteria used to classify them. Of these islands, there are around 130 that are inhabited.

What is Scotland’s biggest island?

The largest island in Scotland is the Isle of Lewis and Harris, which is part of the Outer Hebrides. Despite its name, the Isle of Lewis and Harris is actually a single landmass. With an area of approximately 2,179 square kilometres (841 square miles), it is the largest island in Scotland.

What is the most interesting Scotland Island? 

Scotland has many fascinating islands, each with its own unique charm and attractions. I personally think that the most interesting Scottish island is the Isle of Iona. Dubbed as a spiritual retreat, visitors can explore the ancient abbey, soak in the serene beauty, and embrace the island’s historical significance.

Can you stay on Scotland islands? 

Yes, it is possible to stay on many of the islands in Scotland. On some of the more popular and larger islands like the Isle of Skye, you will find a range of accommodation choices to suit different budgets and preferences.

Best Scottish Islands to Visit

1. Isle of Skye

portree harbour, isle of skye, scotland

With its rugged mountains, cascading waterfalls, and mythical charm, Skye has earned its well-deserved reputation as one of the most captivating Scottish islands.

As you set foot on this isle, you will be greeted by the famous Cuillin Mountains, which dominate the skyline. This is a hiker’s paradise, with a multitude of trails catering to all levels, promising a sense of accomplishment with every step.

But it’s not just the mountains that captivate visitors; Skye also boasts an impressive coastline. Clifftop walks provide panoramic views of turquoise waters, dramatic sea stacks, and incredible Isle of Skye beaches.

Find plenty of other things to do on the Isle of Syke, including the magical Fairy Pools. This is a series of crystal-clear waterfalls and shimmering pools, that beckon you to dip your toes into wild swimming in Scotland.

Planning on visiting this Scottish island? Take a look at our Isle of Syke travel guide!

2. Isle of Arran

isle of arran

Nestled in the Firth of Clyde, between the Scottish mainland and the Kintyre Peninsula, lies a hidden gem known as the Isle of Arran.

Despite its modest size, this Scottish island is brimming with natural beauty, rich history, and a warm sense of community that welcomes visitors with open arms.

For those with a passion for history, Arran is a treasure trove waiting to be explored. The ancient standing stones of Machrie Moor whisper tales of a bygone era, whilst the imposing Brodick Castle stands as a proud testament to centuries of Scottish heritage. Nature lovers will revel in the abundance of Scottish wildlife, including red deer, seals, and a myriad of bird species that call the island home.

Enjoy the tapestry of landscapes when you visit the Scottish island of Arran.

3. Orkney Islands

Orkney Islands

Located off the northeastern coast of Scotland, lies a mystical archipelago that is steeped in ancient history and dotted with awe-inspiring landmarks—the Orkney Islands.

The jewel in the Orkney Islands’ crown is its Neolithic treasures, which date back over 5,000 years and stand as testaments to the ingenuity of our ancient ancestors. The UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Skara Brae, Maeshowe, and the Ring of Brodgar transport visitors back in time, offering a glimpse into the lives and rituals of our Neolithic forebears.

Wander among the well-preserved stone structures, marvel at the intricate carvings, and let your imagination roam as you contemplate the mysteries of these ancient sites.

Beyond its archaeological wonders, Orkney boasts breath-taking natural beauty. Coastal cliffs, such as those at Yesnaby and Marwick Head, offer panoramic views of the wild North Sea and are home to an abundance of seabirds.

Explore the rugged coastline, stroll along pristine beaches, and discover hidden coves that seem untouched by time.

4. Shetland Islands


Next on our guide to Scottish islands to visit is nestled at the northernmost tip of Scotland, where the North Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean.

The Shetland Islands boast windswept landscapes, rugged coastlines, and a vibrant cultural heritage. They promise a unique and unforgettable experience for those who venture to their shores; especially as it is one of the best places to see the Northern Lights in Scotland!

Seabird colonies thrive on the dramatic cliffs, while seals, otters, and even orcas can be spotted in the surrounding waters. For a truly awe-inspiring sight, visit during the summer months when the night skies come alive with the magical dance of the Northern Lights.

But the Shetland Islands are not just about their natural wonders. With a history deeply rooted in Norse and Scottish traditions, the islands have a rich cultural heritage that is proudly celebrated.

Immerse yourself in the lively Shetland folk music and dance, showcased during the annual Shetland Folk Festival, where the spirit of the islands truly comes alive!

5. Isle of Lewis and Harris

Isle of Harris

When it comes to finding the best Scottish islands to visit, the Isle of Lewis and Harris is a must. The island earns renown for its rich archaeological heritage, with the enigmatic standing stones of Callanish being the most notable attraction.

Dating back over 5,000 years, these megalithic structures form a majestic circle that has fascinated visitors for centuries.

Beyond its ancient wonders, the Scottish island boasts a coastline of unparalleled beauty. Luskentyre Beach in South Harris is one of the best beaches in Scotland and offers pure coastal bliss with its turquoise waters, golden sands, and stunning mountain backdrop.

Whilst the dramatic cliffs of the Butt of Lewis, the northernmost point of the island, offer a stunning vantage point to witness the raw power of the Atlantic Ocean.

Immerse yourself in the island’s Gaelic culture as you explore the charming villages and interact with the warm and welcoming locals.

Sample the local delicacies, from freshly caught seafood to hearty traditional dishes, and savour the flavours that are unique to this Scottish island.

6. Isle of Iona

Isle of Iona

Nestled off the western coast of Scotland, in the Inner Hebrides, lies a tiny island – The Isle of Iona. This Scottish island has been a sacred destination for pilgrims and seekers of tranquillity for centuries.

As you step onto this hallowed isle, you’ll be greeted by a sense of serenity that envelops you. Iona’s ancient abbey, founded in the 6th century, stands as a testament to its spiritual significance. Explore its weathered stone walls, intricate carvings, and peaceful cloisters, where echoes of the past whisper tales of devotion and enlightenment.

But Iona’s allure extends beyond its religious heritage. Its rugged landscapes, with sweeping white sand beaches and vibrant green hills, provide a stunning backdrop for relaxation.

Be sure to embark on a hike to the island’s highest point, Dun I. Here, you will be rewarded with breath-taking panoramic views that stretch out over the surrounding islands and turquoise waters.

7. Isle of Islay

Isle of Islay

The Isle of Islay, located on the west coast of Scotland, is a renowned Scottish island. This gem is home to stunning natural beauty and world-famous whisky, drawing visitors in from all over.

Whisky connoisseurs can visit the eight working distilleries, each producing its own distinct and peaty single malt whiskies.

These distilleries, including iconic names like Laphroaig, Lagavulin, and Ardbeg, attract whisky aficionados from around the globe who come to savour the smoky, peaty flavours that have become synonymous with Islay whiskies.

In addition to whiskey, the isle offers a wealth of stunning beaches. Must-visits include Machir Bay and Laggan Bay, where visitors can enjoy long walks, birdwatching, and spectacular sunsets.

Islay is also a birdwatcher’s paradise, with over 100 species of birds inhabiting the island. This includes the majestic white-tailed eagle and the elusive corncrake.

So whether you are a whisky enthusiast or a nature lover, the Isle of Islay offers a captivating blend of experiences that will leave a lasting impression.

8. Isle of Jura

Isle of Jura

The Isle of Jura is our next Scottish island that you must visit, offering an off-the-beaten-path experience for those seeking solace in nature.

Jura is renowned for its stunning scenery, characterised by soaring Scottish mountains, cascading Scottish waterfalls, and vast expanses of heather-covered moorland.

Wildlife thrives on Jura, and the island is known for its diverse animal population. Red deer roam freely across the landscape, while otters can be spotted along the shores. The coastal waters teem with seals, dolphins, and even the occasional basking shark.

Jura’s small population and quiet atmosphere create an idyllic retreat from the bustling modern world. It is a place where time seems to stand still, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the serenity of nature. Find peace in the simplicity of island life.

9. Isle of Mull 


Next on our guide to the best Scottish islands to visit is the captivating, Isle of Mull. Find a diverse range of landscapes, abundant wildlife, and a rich historical and cultural heritage here.

Mull, known as “Eagle Island,” attracts birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts with its thriving population of white-tailed eagles. There are also opportunities to spot puffins, otters, seals, and whales.

Visitors to the Isle of Mull should spend an afternoon in Tobermory, one of the best seaside towns in the UK. Discover brightly coloured houses and a busy harbourside. Here, you can hop on board boats and explore the stunning waters of the Isle of Mull.

10. Isle of Barra


Nestled in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland is our next Scottish island, the Isle of Barra. The pristine white-sand beaches and turquoise waters of the remote island offer a true escape into untouched natural beauty.

One of the island’s most remarkable features is its airport. The airport is located on Traigh Mhòr, a beach that doubles as the runway at low tide.

This unusual setup makes for a truly unforgettable arrival experience. Once on the island, visitors can explore the picturesque coastline. Find hidden coves and rocky cliffs, perfect for leisurely walks and breath-taking sunsets.

The Gaelic language and culture thrive on Barra, and visitors can immerse themselves in the island’s traditions through music, dance, and storytelling.

The Barra Heritage and Cultural Centre provides an insight into the island’s Gaelic roots, showcasing traditional crafts, artefacts, and exhibits that preserve the island’s heritage.

11. Isle of Rùm

Isle of Rum

Concluding our guide to the best Scottish Islands is the Isle of Rùm, situated in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. With its rugged landscapes, diverse wildlife, and fascinating history, Rùm offers a unique and immersive experience.

The island is home to the iconic Rum Cuillin, a range of dramatic mountains that provide challenging hiking opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts. The highest peak, Askival, rewards climbers with breath-taking panoramic views of the island and its surrounding seas.

History buffs will love spending an afternoon exploring Kinloch Castle. This magnificent Victorian mansion offers a glimpse into the island’s history and showcases the opulent lifestyle of its former owners. Explore its grand rooms, admire the architecture, and immerse yourself in a bygone era.

Map of Islands of Scotland

Have these Scottish islands inspired you to make a visit to Scotland? Take a look at these Scotland holiday cottages and book with us today! 

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