Isle of Arran © Paul Tomkins

Islands

The Ultimate Scottish Island Holiday

Set sail for the Scottish islands on a journey of adventure. Explore the variety, the culture and the beauty of Scotland's coast with this bumper itinerary.

Starting in Arran and finishing up in Shetland, you'll discover everything from ancient castles to whisky distilleries, set against some truly exquisite backdrops. Packed with tips on things to do, transport ideas and more, this is all your Scottish island holidays rolled into one!

A wee note. Attempting to visit all these fabulous islands in just 14 days might be a little tricky - but just about possible! Choose to see them all or just a selection - we'll leave that up to you.

Transport

Car Ferry Walk

Days

14

Miles

500

Route

An island hopping adventure exploring Scotland's coast.

Highlights

Islay, Skye, Orkney, Shetland, Mull, Colonsay, Arran, Bute and more!

Areas Covered

Isles of the west and north

Day 1

overview

Arran

Your journey begins on the incredible island of Arran. Take the ferry from the Ayrshire port of Ardrossan and spend today discovering the charms of this small, lively island. Arran is one of Scotland's most accessible islands and can be reached entirely by public transport. The ferry crossing takes just 55 minutes - see you there!
  • Miles

    12

  • Km

    19

  • Stops

    3

  • Transport

    Car Ferry Walk

Brodick Bay, Isle of Arran © Kenny Lam

Brodick Castle

First, head to Brodick Castle and Country Park, the only island country park in Britain. Traditionalists will love it; it's the quintessential Victorian Scottish estate. Explore the garden to see the famous collection of rhododendrons. As you follow one of the woodland trails, you might even spot rare red squirrels.

Arran Coastal Way

After visiting Brodick Castle, take a beautiful stroll on along Arran's Coastal Way. The section from Brodick to Sannox starts with a trip along Fisherman's Walk towards Cladach. You'll then have the choice to take the coastal route through Merkland Wood or alternatively climb to the summit of Goatfell. Whichever route you choose there will be plenty of wildlife to spot along the way.

Arran Brewery

What a lovely walk! You must be thirsty by now. Head back towards Brodick to visit the Arran Brewery. Here you'll see how the island's premium ales are brewed, followed, of course, by a complimentary tasting.

Day 2

overview

Bute

Head back to the mainland to catch the ferry from Wemyss Bay to Rothesay on the Isle of Bute, which takes 35 mins. Renowned for its glorious gardens and grand architecture, this peaceful island haven will be your home for the day.
  • Miles

    13

  • Km

    21

  • Stops

    3

  • Transport

    Car Ferry Walk

Rothesay, Isle of Bute © Paul Tomkins

Rothesay

Your first port of call is Rothesay - and there is plenty to explore. This smart seaside resort is very traditional and reminders of its Victorian heritage are everywhere on show. Take a look around the Isle of Bute Discovery Centre, a unique 1920's building that showcases the best of Bute. Before you leave Rothesay, don't miss Rothesay Castle. With its massive walls, dungeons and grand hall this is one for the castle-hunters.

Mount Stuart House

Stop in at one of Scotland's most impressive gothic mansions, Mount Stuart House. This flamboyant sandstone house has 300 acres of gardens and reflects the passions of the 3rd Marquess of Bute, one of the greatest architectural patrons of his day.

Ettrick Bay

To the north of Rothesay lies Ettrick Bay, Bute's most accessible beach. This long, sandy beach reaches about a mile along the west coast of the island and even has a tearoom serving cakes. At the south end of the beach there is a bird hide which is great for spotting waders and other sea birds.

Day 3

overview

Islay & Jura

It's back to the mainland and on to the port of Kennacraig where you'll hop on a ferry to Port Askaig on the Isle of Islay. This crossing takes around 2 hours - and what will you find when you arrive? Another lovely island where fine malt whisky, pretty villages and beautiful beaches await!
  • Miles

    16

  • Km

    26

  • Stops

    2

  • Transport

    Car Ferry Walk

Lagavulin Distillery, Isle of Islay © Paul Tomkins

Visit a Distillery or Two

No visit to Islay would be complete without a trip to a whisky distillery. Spend your morning finding out about the whisky making process at one of the island's many distilleries. Caol Ila, Ardnahoe and Bunnahabhain are all relatively close to Port Askaig, meaning you won't miss your next stop.

Jura

Back to Port Askaig and a quick ferry over to the peaceful island of Jura. This is the perfect place to go for a wilderness walk and get away from it all. Famously, George Orwell wrote his classic novel 1984 on Jura, so perhaps you'll find some creative inspiration here.

Day 4

overview

Colonsay

The jewel of the Hebrides, Colonsay has outstanding natural scenery as well as important archaeological sites. If you get your timings right, you'll be able to catch the ferry from Port Askaig to Scalasaig on Colonsay today (70 mins). But, as the crossing from Islay to Colonsay is only once a week, another option is to head back to the mainland and sail from Oban which takes 2 hours 20 minutes.
  • Miles

    2.9

  • Km

    4.6

  • Stops

    2

  • Transport

    Car Ferry Walk

Kiloran Bay, Isle of Colonsay © Paul Tomkins

Colonsay Brewery

It's been a fine journey so far, but we think it's high time you stopped for a beer. Colonsay Brewery is at the heart of the community and a great place to visit for beer aficionados. Learn about the brewing process as well as the unique challenges of brewing beer on an island.

Colonsay House Gardens

Colonsay House Gardens has one of the finest rhododendron collections in Scotland. It was planted in the 1930s and has a variety of trees and shrubs including some exotic species from the southern hemisphere.

Day 5

overview

Mull

You're really motoring now - so what's next? You're off to the Isle of Mull. First you'll have to get back to Oban and catch the ferry to Craignure (45 mins). The largest of the Inner Hebrides, Mull has become well known to those who watch the BBC programmes Springwatch and Coast. You'll find lots of attractions here and a peaceful way of life.
  • Miles

    27

  • Km

    44

  • Stops

    2

  • Transport

    Car Ferry Walk

Isle of Mull © Paul Tomkins

Duart Castle

Your first stop is Duart Castle, the ancient seat of Clan Maclean, which was built over 700 years ago. Tour the castle, explore the grounds and learn more about the history of Clan Maclean.

Tobermory

Next it's a trip to Tobermory, Mull's colourful capital. The harbourfront's distinctive houses are the perfect backdrop for some lovely photographs, and you'll also be able to sample fish and chips. Tobermory is home to Mull Museum, Tobermory Distillery and a fascinating Marine Visitor Centre if you still have time on your hands.

Day 6

overview

Rum & Canna

Hop back to the mainland and travel northwards to the busy port of Mallaig. From here you'll sail to Kinloch on the gorgeous island of Rum (80 mins). The island is an important natural heritage site and a great place for walkers and wildlife enthusiasts.
  • Miles

    26

  • Km

    42

  • Stops

    3

  • Transport

    Car Ferry Walk

Mallaig, Lochaber © Paul Tomkins

Kinloch Castle

If you like ambitious and eccentric architecture then you will love Kinloch Castle. This extravagant building was built at the end of the 19th century for the wealthy Bullough family and once you visit you will see that no expense was spared. Take a fascinating tour and immerse yourself in days gone by.

Wildlife Watching

Rum is home to extinct volcanoes, wilderness and beautiful wildlife. Take a walk along a nature trail or head for the Cuillin Peaks to experience one of Scotland's best mountain ridge walks. There is also a good chance you will see red deer on the island.

Canna

After exploring Rum, take the short ferry west to the peaceful island retreat of Canna. Here you'll find lovely walks as well as opportunities to spot wildlife - including whales! The island is also home to St Columba's Church and a fantastic archive of Gaelic history, songs and traditions.

Day 7

overview

Skye & Raasay

It's over the sea to Skye today on the next exciting leg of your island-hopping adventure. One of Scotland's most popular locations, the island is famous for its breath-taking scenery and landscapes. Neighbouring Raasay is also well worth a visit - it was named one of the 'Best Islands to Visit in 2020' by Condé Nast Traveler.
  • Miles

    33

  • Km

    54

  • Stops

    3

  • Transport

    Car Ferry Walk

The Storr, Isle of Skye © Kenny Lam

Armadale Castle Gardens

Visit Armadale Castle Gardens, a beautiful collection of mature gardens with a selection of walking routes and nature trails to follow. The castle is also home to the Museum of the Isles, which tells the story of the powerful Clan Donald. Enjoy a snack in the Stables Café, or have a go at outdoor activities, such as archery, axe throwing or air rifle shooting.

Broadford

Continue north through the island until you reach the town of Broadford. Aside from Portree, no other place in Skye can offer the variety of pubs, hotels, restaurants and takeaways that Broadford can. There are also many well maintained walks in the area and short boat trips are always on the cards.

Raasay

Speaking of short boat trips, you can catch a ferry to the Isle of Raasay from Sconser which will take around 20 minutes. Once there, Raasay House is the place for those who like outdoor adventures - with coasteering, kayaking, climbing and abseiling available. Otherwise, stop off at Raasay Distillery for a guided whisky tour.

Day 8

overview

North & South Uist

An early start and it's back to Mallaig to make the crossing to Lochboisdale on South Uist (3 hours and 30 mins). This part of the Western Isles has a magic all of its own. Less visited than other parts of the Hebrides, you'll find a place of tranquillity and escape. The journey is all part of the adventure.
  • Miles

    37

  • Km

    60

  • Stops

    2

  • Transport

    Car Ferry Walk

Isle of South Uist © Paul Tomkins

Uist Sculpture Trail

The Uist Sculpture Trail provides a way to explore the Uists through the eyes of an artist. Dotted throughout the islands, each sculpture involved the local community in its construction and they are all great places to stop and appreciate the sea, land and sky. 'The Listening Place' by artist Valerie Pragnell marks the boundary between South Lochboisdale and North Glendale and is a great place to start.

Barpa Langass

For an altogether more ancient rock sculpture, head for Barpa Langass on North Uist. This 5,000-year-old burial chamber is thought to be the resting place of a Neolithic Chieftain but it still retains an air of mystery. Nearby you'll find Pobull Fhinn, a stone circle regarded as the finest of its kind on North Uist.

Day 9

overview

Harris

Next up it's the home of the iconic Harris Tweed and plenty more besides. This time you won't have to travel back to the mainland to get to your next stop - instead catch the ferry from Berneray to Leverburgh (1 hour). Harris has wonderful scenery and famous beaches as well as friendly people.
  • Miles

    26

  • Km

    42

  • Stops

    2

  • Transport

    Car Ferry Walk

Luskentyre Sands, Isle of Harris © Richard Elliot

Luskentyre Sands

Named one of the UK's best beaches in the TripAdvisor Travellers' Choice Awards, Luskentyre Sands is one of the largest and most spectacular beaches on Harris. Take a walk, take some photos - enjoy being by the water in this truly beautiful place.

Harris Tweed Shop, Tarbert

It's time for some retail therapy. The Harris Tweed Shop is located in the heart of Tarbert, the main town on the Isle of Harris. This family run enterprise is famous the world over and has a long history. The perfect place to pick up a souvenir on your island-hopping adventure.

Day 10

overview

Lewis

The largest island of the Outer Hebrides, Lewis is a fascinating place to explore. With strong Gaelic traditions, you'll find that the island has a distinctive atmosphere and a rich history. From ancient history to wilderness, wildlife and the arts, Lewis is a place of inspiring contrasts. 
  • Miles

    56

  • Km

    90

  • Stops

    2

  • Transport

    Car Walk

Callanish Standing Stones, Isle of Lewis © Kenny Lam

Calanais Standing Stones

Walk among an extraordinary collection of standing stones that was erected some 5,000 years ago. Predating England's famous Stonehenge monument, the Calanais Standing Stones are a sight to behold. Their original purpose is lost to history, but experts think they might have been used in astrological rituals.

Lews Castle

Lews Castle is an impressive gothic revival style castle that overlooks Stornoway Harbour. It was built in the mid-19th century as a country house but these days it is an exciting museum. Learn about the history of the Outer Hebrides and view the famous Lewis Chessmen. Afterwards take a walk in the castle grounds, which include woodland, parkland and gardens.

Day 11

overview

Orkney Part 1

Moving away from the west coast today, your next stop is Orkney, north of the Scottish mainland. Orkney is a charming place and the landscapes, history and people of these islands are sure to leave you feeling inspired. There are several ferry routes to Orkney, running from Scrabster, Gill's Bay and John O' Groats - choose your point of departure and set off for an Orcadian adventure!
  • Miles

    25

  • Km

    40

  • Stops

    3

  • Transport

    Car Ferry Walk

Italian Chapel, Orkney © Colin Keldie

Stromness

Lively and cosmopolitan, the picturesque town of Stromness is a joy to explore. Old stone buildings and narrow winding streets combine to create a fairy tale atmosphere - and the town's maritime heritage is everywhere on show. Pop into an independent shop and bag yourself some crafts, jewellery or textiles, then why not explore the town's museum?

Ring of Brodgar

Your next stop is something really special. Orkney is brimming with Neolithic monuments with several sites part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site but the Ring of Brodgar is a standout. A hauntingly beautiful stone circle that is thought to have been built around 2500-2000 BC, The Ring of Brodgar is one of the largest circles of its kind in the British Isles. Guided walks are available.

Italian Chapel

A visit to Orkney isn't all about ancient history, the islands were strategically important during World War Two and stories from that time resound to this day. The Italian Chapel is a remarkable building - a Nissen hut painted to resemble a chapel by Italian prisoners of war during the conflict. This beautiful and intricate building is totally charming.

Day 12

overview

Orkney Part 2

Your second day on Orkney is as action-packed as the first, as you continue to explore the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site and venture into Kirkwall.
  • Miles

    19

  • Km

    30

  • Stops

    3

  • Transport

    Car Ferry Walk

Skara Brae, Orkney © Kenny Lam

Skara Brae

Uncovered in 1850 by a storm, Skara Brae is the best-preserved group of prehistoric houses in Europe. Times were very different in the Neolithic period, but you might spot some parallels between times gone by and today's modern living. You might not believe it, but this place is older than the Great Pyramids of Egypt.

Maeshowe

Your next stop is another masterpiece of ancient engineering, Maeshowe. A sophisticated burial chamber, Maeshowe comes alive on a guided tour. You'll witness the skill and craftmanship of Orkney's early builders and hear the story of the Norse invaders who broke into the tomb and left runic graffiti on the walls.

Kirkwall

Orkney's main town, Kirkwall, is a buzzing little centre with shops, cafes and restaurants to visit. The magnificent St Magnus Cathedral towers over the town and is well worth exploring. You won't believe its size and scale.

Day 13

overview

Day 13 Shetland Part 1

It's time for the final leg of your journey as you travel even further north to the remote islands of Shetland. It takes around 5 hours to reach Shetland from Orkney, you can catch the ferry from Kirkwall to Lerwick. Beautiful and rugged, this is a true escape from life on the mainland.
  • Miles

    6.7

  • Km

    11

  • Stops

    2

  • Transport

    Car Ferry Walk

Lerwick Harbour, Shetland © Kenny Lam

Lerwick

Lerwick is the UK's most northerly town, home to around 7,000 people. The central hub of the Shetland Isles, Lerwick has a busy cultural and social life. Explore the old and new towns, making sure to stop in at the outstanding Museum and Archives.

Scalloway Castle

It's castle time! Just ten minutes west of Lerwick you'll find Scalloway Castle, once the grand residence of Patrick Stewart, Earl of Orkney and Shetland during the 17th century. It is said that Stewart, or 'Black Patie' as he was known, was a cruel oppressor of the Shetland people. Explore the castle and find out more.

Day 14

overview

Shetland Part 2

It's your last day of island hopping and by golly you're going to make the most of it. It's time to finish strong with a trip to some of Shetland's best-preserved archaeological sites before rounding things off with an invigorating coastal walk. 
  • Miles

    3.4

  • Km

    5.5

  • Stops

    3

  • Transport

    Car Ferry Walk

Sumburgh Head, Shetland © Paul Tomkins

Old Scatness

Discovered as recently as 1975, during the construction of an airport access road, Old Scatness is a time capsule into another world. The site is thought to have been occupied for around 2,000 years, beginning in the early Iron Age, and is remarkably well preserved. You'll find this site at the southern tip of Shetland's mainland. 

Jarlshof

Not far from Old Scatness, you'll find Jarlshof, a site which has attracted the close attention of archaeologists since it was discovered at the end of the 19th century. The earliest remains on the site are late Neolithic houses, followed by bronze age houses and a Norse settlement. Travel back deep in time as you explore one of the best archaeological sites in the country.

Sumburgh Head

Wow - it's been a busy 14 days, so why not wind down with a classic Shetland walk. Beginning at Jarlshof, the route runs along the coastline before climbing up to Sumburgh Head and its lighthouse, the southernmost point in the islands. Look out for puffins in the summer!

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