Imagine a string of serene, remote islands dotted with untouched coastlines, vibrant green expanses and a true sense of peace, calm and tranquillity. Then picture an area of breathtaking beauty, where time stands still and all you can hear is the crash of waves, the coo of birds and the crackle of evening wood-fires.
You’re thinking of one of Britain’s best-kept secrets. Located at the far north of Scotland at the Atlantic’s edge are hundreds of islands, home to unspoilt landscapes, Gaelic-speaking communities and quaint seaside villages – the Scottish Hebrides.
The stunning collection of islands is formed of two groups. The Inner Hebrides includes 35 inhabited islands and 44 uninhabited islands, including the Isle of Skye, Jura, Islay and Eigg, while the Outer Hebrides is home to Lewis and Harris, with a total of 15 inhabited islands and over 50 uninhabited islands.
It’s clear these faraway islands make for an unforgettable holiday destination. So if we haven’t managed to convince you yet, here’s why you should visit the Scottish Hebrides:
The islands are quite literally brimming with archaeological gems. From Neolithic stone structures to mummies, the archipelago has been a huge source of information when learning about Scotland throughout history. Though there are numerous historical sites to explore, but perhaps the most popular are the Callanish Stones on the Western Coast of Lewis. The stones were erected around 5000 years ago – that’s before the Egyptian Pyramids were built – and are made of Lewisian Gneiss, a metamorphic rock thought to be 3 billion years old.
Stunning beaches and varied coastlines
Scotland’s is famed for its natural beauty, but this mostly applies to its craggy mountains, lochs and mysterious forests. But the Hebrides also boasts magnificent sandy beaches, shallow lagoons and dunes. While they might not have the constant sun and high temperatures of the med, they more than make up for it in terms of peace and serenity. In fact, visit the Hebrides and you’ll find that you often have the whole beach to yourself. Make sure you visit East beach in Vatersay – it’s said to be the most beautiful of all the beaches on the island.
Exhilarating ferry and plane trips
No more boring journeys and wasted travel time – the journey to and from each of the Hebrides islands is an adventure in itself! The archipelago is connected by a ferry network, but our favourite is the miniature propellor plane journeys used to taxi people around the islands. Planes often take off from the beach and have less than 8 people on board. You can fly from Westray to Papa Westray in just 1 minute and 14 seconds – that’s the world’s shortest ever flight!
The Hebrides enjoy one of the most untouched natural landscapes in the whole of Europe, so it’s unsurprising that it boasts some of the finest wildlife in the world. There’s everything from white-tailed eagles soaring above the coastline to otters swimming in the lochs – and you might even be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a spectacular minke whale.
Endless beautiful scenery
It’s impossible to go to the Hebrides and not be blown away by the scenery. The landscape of Lewis is filled with rolling peat bogs and lochans, while Harris is loved for its wild mountains and unspoilt countryside. There are numerous nature reserves to explore, too. A favourite of ours is St Kilda in the Outer Hebrides, a national nature reserve and World Heritage Site rich in dramatic and genuinely awe-inspiring landscapes. It’s a true slice of paradise.
Whisky lover? Another reason to love the Hebrides – it’s home to some of the best single malt whisky in the world! The enchanting Isle of Islay is nicknamed ‘whisky island’. Despite having a population of around 3,000, it’s home to eight distilleries. And they even an annual whisky festival where you can tour the distilleries, sample whiskies and watch traditional music performances.
The happiest place in the UK
Last but not least, the Office for National Statistics revealed that the inhabitants of the Hebrides were the happiest people in the UK in 2017. So whether it’s the slow pace of life, the stunning landscapes or the fresh, pollution-free air, the Hebrides will clearly put a smile on your face. Let’s face it, who doesn’t want to visit the happiest place in the whole country?
If you’re interested in a convenient way to travel the wilds of Scotland, check out our three-day Edinburgh and Highlands tour.