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Experience the Scottish Islands from Home – Virtual Tours and Experiences

Scotland is home to over 790 islands, from Arran to Shetland. Discover what makes each of them unique with some great virtual experiences to be had from the comfort of your home. Uncover spectacular landscapes and soothing seascapes, from Islay’s whisky paradise and the Outer Hebrides’ golden sands, to Bute’s neo-gothic jewels and Orkney Neolithic treasures.

The islands are calling and one day you will go too. Until then, grab a cup of tea, put your feet up and watch, listen, browse and plan your next island adventure. So dream now and travel later!

1. Enjoy Nature Paradise

Bay of Laig on the Isle of Eigg with views towards the Isle of Rum

Bay of Laig on the Isle of Eigg with views towards the Isle of Rum

Dream about your ultimate island escape. Transport yourself to the Outer Hebrides (virtually!) and watch the tide rise and fall on the Berneray webcam. Imagine the colourful wild flowers bursting on the Hebridean machair or take a virtual tour of the Outer Hebrides by air.

Close your eyes and relax to the soothing sounds of the sea on the Isle of Eigg with Hope Blamire. Or listen to the gentle waves on the sand in Orkney with Papay Ranger virtual tours.

Explore the spectacular Shetland coast with incredible video and drone footage. Discover the UK’s most northerly point on this 360° view of Muckle Flugga or go beneath the waves with diver and photographer @lona_brak. Marvel at the Northern Lights or witness the Shetland simmer dim.

Sail west to the Isle of Canna, part of the beautiful Small Isles, step inside Fingal’s Cave on the Isle of Staffa, or discover the magic of the Isle of Skye with  the Sail Scotland 360° Virtual Series. Or dream about the wild Isle of Jura with photographer Konrad Borkowski.

2. Witness Island Wildlife from your Sofa

Connect with nature from your home. Meet puffins up close in Shetland on the Sumburgh Head webcams, enjoy extraordinary otters and seals footage with wildlife expert Richard Shucksmith or watch Sea Eagle Stories on North Uist.

Witness the incredible spectacle of orcas hunting seals, whales and other sea creatures with stunning drone videos on The Shetland I See. There’s plenty more Shetland wildlife to view on the YouTube channel of  Nick McCaffrey and Helen Perry Wildlife.

Learn about the wonderful sea creatures on the Hebridean Whale Trail, from basking sharks around Canna to dolphins around Mull. Browse the Whale Track Map from the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust to look for sightings or find out what’s been seen during lockdown.

For sheer cuteness, follow the unique Eriskay ponies online on Uist or watch adorable Shetland lambs in action at Barkland Croft on Fair Isle or Garth’s Croft  on Bressay.

3. Go Virtual Adventuring!

Now is the best time to get fit and start training before your future active island adventure!

Open your map and start planning. You could explore the turquoise waters around the Small Isles by kayak or go island hopping along the Argyll Sea Kayak Trail. Look forward to the sheer freedom of sailing in the Inner Hebrides or feel the adrenaline of windsurfing with surfer Chris Hau on Tiree, officially the sunniest island in the UK.

Make a virtual splash and experience the Isle of Skye’s best wild swims  as if you were there, or plan your 2021 wild Swim Beach Retreat in the Outer Hebrides with Immerse Hebrides.

Take to the treadmill and run the Virtual Tiree Marathon or get cycling fit with Marc Beaumont on the Hebridean Way. For adrenaline seekers, practice your mountain biking moves with Danny Macaskill’s breathtaking The Ridge video, where he takes a dizzying ride on Skye.

4. Tap your feet to traditional music

Music is a great way to heal the soul and the lockdown has unlocked some great creativity among artists. Listen to award-winning Orcadian songwriter Kris Drever on his Isolation Days Series or immerse yourself in the magical singing of Julie Fowlis from North Uist.

Discover Scotland’s Gaelic Islands. Join the virtual Hebridean Ceilidh Sessions or the Skye Music nights. Bounce along to the foot-stomping music of Peat and Diesel from Lewis or Skerryvore from Tiree – download the charity single Every day heroes in aid of NHS staff.

Now is a great time to pick up a musical skill. Learn the fiddle from acclaimed Shetland musicians Kevin Henderson or Ross Couper, try Gaelic singing with Hebridean singer Jodie Duncan (or join her song session), learn the bagpipes with Peter Morrison from Skye, and many more instruments with Wrigley and the Reel in Orkney.

Get into the festival vibe! Join the virtual fun of Fèis Ìle on Islay, re-live the Orkney Folk Festival via their big lockdown special, and get ready for the 40th anniversary of the Shetland Folk Festival in 2021. And when it is safe to visit, the islanders will welcome you at the Shetland Unlocked Festival or the Islay Sessions Festival.

5. Step Back in Time – Island Time!

Castle Staker, Argyll and the Isles

Castle Staker, Argyll and the Isles

Did you know that Skara Brae is Europe’s best preserved Neolithic village? Watch fantastic footage of Orkney Unesco World Heritage sites or explore Maeshowe Tomb on this 3D App.

In Shetland, explore Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse settlements or the fascinating Mousa Broch on Historic Environment Scotland’s virtual 360° captures. Join the Adventure Shetland Virtual Tour of the Clickimin Broch or follow in Viking footsteps in the Norse capital of Lerwick.

Re-live history at the edge of the world with a Virtual Tour of St Kilda in the 1890s and explore the landscape, history, songs and stories on this island located 39 miles west of  the Outer Hebrides.

Closer to the mainland, go on a virtual tour and poke around the nooks and crannies of the iconic Castle Stalker, made famous by the 1975 movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Wish you were a true islander? Search for your island ancestors, from the Isle of Islay to the Isle of Skye,or trace your Hebridean roots on the Hebrides Genealogical Database.

6. Get your Daily Dose of Art!

Take the superb 360º virtual tour of Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum & Arts Centre on North Uist, see art exhibitions online at The Pier Arts Centre in Orkney or at the Shetland Arts Insta-bitions. And why not make art yourself with Shetland artist Gilly Briddle?

So much time at home is the perfect opportunity to learn to knit and master the famous Fair Isle pattern. Get started with Shetland knitting tutorials from knitter Terri Malcolmson or join her virtual classes. Don’t miss Shetland Wool (virtual) Week in September and get your free knitting pattern to knit your own Shetland hat in time!

Of course you can buy the finished product direct! Support local businesses and indulge in some retail therapy. Get a stylish Shetland jumper from Ninian Shetland , buy handwoven Harris Tweed direct from the island or unique woolen products from the Isle of Mull Weavers.

Treat your loved ones to gorgeous Orcadian jewellery from Ortak, which converted its shop into a greengrocer during lockdown to help the community. Share the island love with a Shetland Love token from Glansin Glass or a Harris Heart from the Hebridean Design Company.

You can shop from the comfort of your sofa at isle20 for that precious reminder of the islands.

7. Get a Taste of the Islands from your own Kitchen

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A crowded beach is rarely an issue here in Harris, which helps makes social distancing a bit of a breeze. • But, our beautiful west coast sands are even quieter than usual without the annual arrival of visitors from all over the world. • It won't have been easy, but thank you to everyone who has had to change their plans this year to help keep our community safe. • Rest assured, we'll be ready and waiting to give you all a warm Harris welcome when the time is finally right. • Meantime, we're happy to send our island to you, captured in a bottle, whenever you need a taste of our Outer Hebridean home… • Orders taken at: www.harrisdistillery.com • PS for our local friends, orders can now be click & collected from AD Munro's in Tarbert!

A post shared by Isle Of Harris Distillers Ltd. (@isleofharrisdistillers) on

Indulge in the flavours of the islands! Local producers are working hard in these challenging times, making the finest food and drink produce; all available for you to order online.

Buy local and shop online to support islands’ food and drink producers on Orkney Shop Online, Taste of Shetland, Eat Drink Hebrides. or Taste of Arran.

8. Watch the Islands on Screen

The Calanais Standing Stones, Outer Hebrides

The Calanais Standing Stones, Outer Hebrides

With jaw-dropping cinematic landscapes, the Scottish islands have made many appearances on screen. Enjoy the classic movie masterpieces of Michael Powell with The Edge of the World (1937) filmed on the spectacular island of Foula, or I Know Where I’m Going! (1945), which features the iconic Moy Castle on the Isle of Mull.

From whisky to ceilidhs, discover the Hebridean way of life in Whisky Gallore (1949) shot on Isle of Barra or watch the Ring of Bright Water (1969), about a Scottish naturalist smitten by an otter on the Isle of Seil. If you like history or are a fan of Shakespeare, watch the film adaptation of Macbeth (2015), featuring the iconic Quiraing mountains on the Isle of Skye.

For TV addicts, follow Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez in BBC’s award-winning series Shetland, or watch Call the Midwife‘ Christmas Special, featuring the Outer Hebrides.

For the little ones, follow princess Merida in Brave (2012) Disney•Pixar’s animated adventure. The Calanais Standing Stones on Lewis were one of the inspirations for this mythical tale.

More cinematic places in Scotland

9. Read about Old and New Island Tales

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Katie Morag Delivers the Mail features possibly my most favourite endpapers, depicting the Isle of Struay – Katie Morag's home isle, (have a peek at those inviting, rural watercolours!) In this Katie tale, Katie is helping out Mr and Mrs McColl by delivering five parcels for them, but after trying to cool down in the water on her way, she gets in a bit of a pickle with the post… all of the labels are smudged! Unfortunately, 4 of the 5 packages end up at the wrong house. Who might she ask for some assistance? Can Katie Morag's resourcefulness help her solve the problem? Keep your fingers crossed! This story by Mairi Hedderwick was published by Red Fox Picture Books, an imprint of @penguinrandomhouse #BooksThatWorkWonders #mairihedderwick #katiemorag

A post shared by The Picture Book Box (@thepicturebookbox) on

A must-read for all islands enthusiasts is The Scottish Islands: The Bestselling Guide to Every Scottish Island by Hamish Haswell-Smith, often described as the island-hopping bible.

Fans of crime thrillers will love Ann Cleeves‘ award-winning Shetland mystery series set on the UK’s most northerly islands. Another popular read is Peter May’s Lewis Trilogy detective stories, inspired by the dramatic Outer Hebridean landscapes. There are many more great books set in Shetland and the Outer Hebrides to discover.

Uncover the moving and extraordinary story of a vanished island community in Tom Steel’s acclaimed book, The Life and Death of St. Kilda, giving an insight on the life of islanders cut from the world for centuries on the most westerly island in the UK.

If you prefer fiction, you might enjoy reading Kidnapped, the great adventure novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, with the Isle of Erraid, off Mull, one of the locations featured.

The little ones will love Katie Morag island stories by Mairi Hedderwick inspired by the idyllic Isle of Coll, or The Tobermory Cat by Debi Gliori, set on Mull’s most colourful waterfront.

10. Dream Now, Travel later

NorthLink Ferry off the Old Man of Hoy, Orkney © NorthLink Ferries

NorthLink Ferry off the Old Man of Hoy, Orkney © NorthLink Ferries

Travel to the islands has returned to some degree of normality, with the necessary precautions in place. You can travel to the islands once again, but please remember to plan in advance and be aware that group bookings might not be possible at this time. Keep informed in coming weeks on our Covid-19 travel advice page.

In the meantime, get dreaming and plan your island adventure, with great tips, inspiration and information on what to expect and how to travel safely by ferry of plane:

 Find more island hopping inspiration

 

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