Scotland has almost 800 islands, 97 of which are inhabited by a population of 100,000. The islands offer a peaceful less hurried lifestyle. Sources of local income are fishing, agriculture, and tourism. They are in a location for unpredictable weather and possibly cold and wet summers. However, they can be some of the most beautiful places in the world if the weather is warm and pleasant.
Clyde Estuary: Arran-“Scotland in miniature”
This island is near Glasgow, making it a popular destination for holidays of inhabitants of Glasgow. The landscape on this small 30x16 kilometer island ranges from mountainous to agricultural. The highest mountain is Goat Fell, from which you can see Ireland and Brodick castle just north of Brodick, Arran’s capital.
Inner Hebrides: Islay - “Whiskey island”
Islay is the southernmost Inner Hebride. It is famous for its many distilleries and brands of whisky, as well as for its birdlife consisting of chough and goose invasions. Mull - “Coastline and castles”
Mull is an island full of lochs, mountains, and cliffs. The largest settlement is Tobermury. In the waters surrounding the island, you can observe dolphins, minke whales, and porpoises whereas in the air you can see golden eagles and sea eagles. As for history, you can visit Duart Castle or Torosay Castle. Iona - “The cradle of christianity in Scotland”
Iona was the home of St. Columba, exiled from Ireland in 563 A.D. He built a monastery there, which later became the Benedictine Abbey and is now a destination for pilgrimages. The island is also a burial place for Scottish kings and a place to admire stone crosses. Staffa - “A mysterious cave”
Cliffs made up of hexagonal volcanic rock columns dominate this island. A common destination to see this is Fingal’s Cave accessible by boat. Isle of Skye - “The Winged Isle”
This island is known as the Winged Isle because of its shape. It is the largest Inner Hebride. In 1994, a bridge to the mainland was built, before which you can see Eilean Doran castle. It is a destination for outdoor activities, such as challenging climbing in the mountain chain of Cuillin Hills. You can also visit craft centers and museums such as the Skye Museum of Island Life. On Trotternish peninsula, you can see mysterious and bizarre rocks and cliffs.
Outer Hebrides: Isle of Lewis - A journey through the centuries”
This island is on the edge of Europe, a 6.5 hour ferry ride from the mainland. It is a place of foreign influence as we can see in the Norse place names due to the fact that it was controlled by Norway in the Middle Ages. There are attractions such as the Callanish Stones, “Scottish Stonehenge”, and a fortress over 2,000 years old called Dun Carloway Broch. An example of a traditional dwelling common in the Hebrides and the Highlands is the Black House in Arnol. It consists of stone walls, a thatched roof, and no chimney. Thus the smoke escaped the roof from a peat fire.
Orkney and Shetland
These islands are closer to Norway and full of Scandinavian influence as can also be seen in the dialect. Due to their geographical locations, they have short days in the winter, and almost no night in the summer. They became a part of Scotland in the 14th century.
Scotch whiskey is made of malted barley which is heated over a peat fire. This process, along with the quality of the barley and the purity of the water is what makes Scotch whiskey special. The word “whisky” has a Celtic origin, coming from Scottish and Irish Gaelic adapted from the Latin aqua vitae meaning “water of life”.
Life on the islands was tough due to their remoteness, harsh climate, and difficulty of cultivating land. Thousands of islanders even emigrated to other English-speaking countries in the 18th and 19th centuries. Many islanders were later evicted by landowners to make way for animals because grazing sheep was seen as more profitable than crofting. This exodus became known as the Highland Clearances.