HomeAway travel expert
Throughout the summer months, one naturally feels the urge to take off to sunnier climates - more often than not to the usual haunts like Spain or Turkey. It is of course perfectly natural; even our feathered friends instinctively head south each year in search of warmth. However, what such peripatetic wanderers miss out on is the raw natural beauty that our own country has to offer, not least the archipelago of islands that lie off the shore of Scotland. Now more accessible than ever, these isles are racked with scenery, folklore and a warm welcome the like of which is all too rarely seen.
All in all, there are almost 800 islands in the waters of Scotland, some scarcely populated, and HomeAway holds properties in the greatest of them. You’ll barely believe that such different cultures exist within the United Kingdom, but our guide to just some of these wonderful destinations should provide you with an idea of what to expect.
Top five Scottish island holiday destinations
Any history lover may well find their own little taste of paradise on the Orkney Isles, so rich is its heritage and list of significant attractions. The main town of Kirkwall is effectively a breathing testament to the area’s Viking ancestry, particularly the sculptured sandstone of St Magnus Cathedral. Elsewhere, the magnificently preserved Neolithic village of Skara Brae and the standing stones at the Ring of Brodgar will transport your mind and spirit back to a time thousands of years before records began.
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Not the Mull of Kintyre made famous by Paul McCartney and Wings, rather an island that lies a mere 45 minutes by ferry from the mainland port of Oban. Kids of a certain age - or tortured parents - will instantly recognise colourful capital Tobermory as the setting for children’s TV favourite “Balamory”, but the real beauty lies in the isle’s majestic coastline and secluded beaches. From the tiny village of Fionnphort, you can catch a ferry to the hauntingly serene isle of Iona, best known for its now ruined abbey and disdain for motor vehicles.
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There’s an old ditty about Islay that refers to it as a “westering home with a song in the air”; and you’ll certainly be singing your heart out after a few drams of the island’s most famous export. The whisky produced on the Queen of the Hebrides is among the most celebrated in the world, and the eight distilleries scattered across it are in themselves testament to this proud heritage. Of course, it’s not all about wetting your whistle – one should take time to explore Islay’s many beaches, golf courses and hiking trails.
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Isle of Skye
The largest of the Scottish Hebrides, Skye is the most popular among tourists and native Scots alike thanks to its astonishingly picturesque setting. The craggy Old Man of Storr is one of the island’s most famous sites, as is the mystery-steeped Dunvegan Castle. The enchanting Fairly Pools, the Kilt Rock cliff plus adjoining waterfall, and towering Cuillin mountain range are also worth taking the time to explore. Arm yourself with repellent, however – Skye in the summer is a veritable nerve centre for the country’s dreaded Highland midge!
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Undoubtedly one of the most fascinating Scottish islands - and certainly one of the most traditional - is Lewis. Located some 30 miles from the mainland, up until very recently the island’s strict Christian values prohibited even the ferry from operating on a Sunday. These rules have been relaxed somewhat now, but the rustic charm remains in the town of Stornoway and the restored Garenin Historic Village. If the weather allows it, book a trip to the abandoned island of St Kilda to experience the last word in solitude.
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Scottish Islands Summer Holiday Homes
Seaview is a lovely, detached cottage set next to the owners' home, 6.5 miles from Portree on the Isle of Skye. With three bedrooms, including two doubles (one on the ground floor) plus a twin, this cottage can sleep six people. There's also a gro...
Gardens Cottage is a pretty, stone cottage situated in the grounds and gardens of Dunvegan Castle beside Loch Dunvegan. The cottage has a double bedroom, two twin rooms, one of which is on the ground floor, and a family bathroom, and can sleep six...
Rose Valley Cottage is a delightful, detached and whitewashed stone cottage situated in the grounds of Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye. The cottage can sleep four people in a double room, a single room, and a family bathroom on the ground floo...
Clifton is a bright and airy holiday apartment cottage, set over the first and second floors, in Gairloch, on the west coast of Scotland. This cottage offers a double bedroom on the first floor and a further double room and a single room on the se...
Cooinda Flat is a first floor apartment, above the owner's home in the village of Morar, three miles from the fishing village of Mallaig on the west coast of Scotland. The apartment sleeps five people in three bedrooms, consisting of two doubles a...