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
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.
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
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Male otter resting on the shore Please #followme @richardshucksmith to keep up to date with my latest images. #shetlandotter #shetlandotters #otterguide #otters #shetlandotterphotography #shetlandphototours #otterfacts #nature #shetlandnature #shetlandwildlife #aboutscotland #photography @bbcearth @natgeowild @wildgeography #wildeyeview #ottersinshetland #wildlife_seekers #nature_perfection #earthcapture #instagood #photooftheday #planetearth #wildlifephotography #wildlifeaddict #yourshotphotographer #natgeoyourshot #natgeo100contest #inspiredbyshetland #wildlife #BBCWildlifePOTD
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.
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.
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
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Folks who’ve just completed @orkneyfolkfest – we wish you a speedy recovery 🤯🙊. . .This weekend marked our 5th anniversary thanks to @robert_gibbon taking a punt and giving us a slot at the festival in 2014. What a ride – considering it was only meant to be a one off! Here we are with founder member @lbichan (who’s just graduated from Berklee College of Music over in the States 😍) #FARAlive #FARAtour #5years #OrkneyFolkFestival
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!
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.
6. Get your Daily Dose of Art!
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There are new prints of my paper cuts in my GillyBDesigns Etsy shop. This is Shetland’s historic sailing vessel Swan passing Bressay light. #gillybdesigns #etsyshop #etsyuk #papercut #papercutartist #illustratedlife #illustratorsoninstagram #shetland #swanfromshetland #promoteshetland #historicsailingship #maritime #shetlandartsandcrafts2020 #sailing #northernisles
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!
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.
- Whisky: Sample a dram of Arran’s first legally distilled whisky from the Arran Distillery, get a taste of Scotland’s most northerly distillery at Highland Park in Orkney or enjoy the flavours of Talisker on Skye. Tune in to join the Virtual Féis Ìle at Lagavulin on Islay with (virtual) whisky tastings and a cocktail masterclass
- Gin: Try the tasty Wild Island Gin from Colonsay or Kirkjuvagr Orkney Gin from Orkney. Pour an Isle of Harris Gin and relax to the calls of oystercatchers on the Harris Pause or listen to their Harris Ceilidh collection. View our ginteractive map!
- Beer & Ale: Sample world-class beers from the islands: Scapa Special from the Swannay Brewery, Arran Red squirrel from the Arran Brewery or Pig’s Paradise Blonde from the Colonsay Brewery. View our craft beer map!
- Get cooking: Order delicious salmon at the Hebridean Smokehouse or famous Stornorway pudding straight from the Outer Hebrides. Cook fine Isle of Mull scallops or blueshell mussels from Yell. Or experiment with classic Shetland dishes or Arran recipes.
- Sweets: Indulge in Orkney fudge, Arran tablet or Shetland ‘Puffin Poo’. Try Stag Bakery seaweed shortbreads from Lewis and Island Bakery biscuits from Mull
8. Watch the Islands on Screen
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 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.
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 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.
10. Dream Now, Travel later
While the islands are closed just now, ferry companies are refusing all but essential travel. We ask you to avoid all holiday travel to our islands to help stop the spread of Covid-19. These are uncertain times. But when the time is right, we will welcome you again with open arms. 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:
- Start fantasising about your future ferry trip to Shetland and Orkney with the beautiful drone footage from NorthLink Ferries and watch their video with 12 ways to Travel safely.
- Celebrate the Scottish islands with Calmac Ferries in their Island Diaries Series
- Find out about travelling safely to Orkney with Pentland Ferries
- Follow the healthy flying steps from Loganair to make air travel safe once the islands reopen
Find more island hopping inspiration