The 15 most beautiful Scottish islands to visit – goodhousekeeping.com

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Here at Good Housekeeping, we love relaxing on gorgeous beaches, soaking up the beauty of the worlds best natural landscapes and learning about different cultures.

But you dont always have to travel long distances for exciting experiences as weve got a wealth of stunning beaches, amazing landscapes and interesting traditions right here in the UK.

Cornwall, the Isle of Wight, the Jurassic Coast and the Isles of Scilly are home to some of our favourite British beaches, but for really remote landscapes, bracing dog walks along the shore, unique food and drink tastings and fascinating heritage, there is nowhere quite like the Scottish islands.

There are over 900 offshore isles to explore, grouped into four main clusters: the northernmost Shetland Islands, the Neolithic Orkneys and the Inner and Outer Hebrides - famous for their white-sand beaches and brilliant outdoor activities.

Visitors will also find islands in Scotland's inlets and firths and on its iconic freshwater lochs (just watch out for mythical monsters!). Yet somehow, Scotland's beautiful islands are still one of Britains best-kept secrets.

To make things easier, weve narrowed down our 15 favourite Scottish islands and all of their best bits, with how you can visit, whether you love a spot of island hopping, travelling in luxury or you're after an eco-friendly escape.

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1Mull

Located in western Scotlands Inner Hebrides, the Isle of Mull is the fourth-largest Scottish island, known for its white-tailed sea eagles, a favourite on the BBCs Coast and Springwatch, the 700-year-old Duart Castle and the colourful houses that line the waterfront of Tobermory.

This town, which is the largest on Mull and the inspiration for CBeebies Balamory, is sprinkled with pubs, eateries, specialist shops and nature trails.

You can visit on a luxury private yacht with fellow Good Housekeeping readers.

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2Islay

Islay - also known as the Queen of the Hebrides - is Scotland's whisky isle, where you can sip single malts in one of nine working distilleries.

Its also the perfect spot for bird watchers, who will be keen to see the beautiful hen harriers up on Loch Gruinart Nature Reserve and the large flocks of wild geese who visit the isle every winter on their long journey to Canada.

Top tip: its pronounced 'eye-lah'.

You can visit Islay with Good Housekeeping this summer.

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3Eigg

Although tiny Eigg is only home to 90 people, its community is also made up of marine animals and birdlife, including gorgeous Atlantic seals, minke whales, dolphins, porpoises and a variety of seabirds.

On Eigg you can climb Britains largest pitchstone ridge, watch eagles fly over dreamy white sand beaches and learn about the worlds first renewably powered electricity grid, plus its just a short sail to the town of Inverie in Loch Nevis, where you can have a drink at the most remote pub in the British Isles.

Visit Eigg on a luxury cruise with Good Housekeeping.

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4Arran

One of Scotlands most popular islands, Arran packs in the culture. Time your visit to check out one of the many cultural festivals held on the island and make sure to taste the local cheese, beer and oatcakes.

You can also while away the hours admiring artworks inspired by the island scenery at Arran Art Gallery, or taking in the magnificent period furniture, waterfall and woodlands of Brodick Castle.

Other fun activities on Arran include seeing the early Christian carvings in Kings Caves, or a walk from Arran Brewery to Glen Rosa, where you can enjoy spectacular views of the Goatfell ranges scraggy peaks.

5Lewis and Harris

Lewis and Harris are two real Scottish heritage islands. Youll still hear Gaelic spoken on the streets of Stornoway, the islands main town, and you can browse hand-woven Harris tweed clothing in the shops - perhaps what the area is most famous for.

Archaeology buffs will love the mysterious Neolithic landing stones at Callanish, which are even older than Stonehenge, and at the ancient blackhouse villages you can experience the unique Gaelic farming system of crofting.

You can visit Lewis during a cruise along the west coast of Scotland.

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6Jura

Jura gets its name from the ancient Norse word for 'deer', so its no surprise this narrow Southern Hebridean island is one of the wildest places in Scotland, where the 200-odd inhabitants are outnumbered by the local deer.

Jura is a walkers paradise and the west of the island is especially unspoilt - featuring wealth of wildlife, stunning views and a sense of total peace. Its probably why George Orwell chose Jura as the place to finish writing his bestselling novel 1984.

7Fair Isle

One of the craftiest of the Shetland Islands, Fair Isles past is interwoven with a rich history of wool, textiles and the inimitable Fair Isle technique. Fair Isle knits, with their classic geometric patterns, were made famous by the royal family back in the 20s and are still popular today.

You can learn all about the process of knitting with our sister magazine Prima. From seeing Uradale sheep on a local farm, to watching the dying process and even trying your hand at knitting in a workshop alongside experts Hazel Tindall and Kathleen Anderson, this is the perfect short break for everyone from beginners to knitting pros.

Visit the Shetlands with Prima.

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8Orkney

Weve all heard of Orkney crab. Well, theres nowhere you can have it fresher than here, in a restaurant on the craggy cliffs of Orkneys wild Atlantic Coast. But theres plenty more to do on Orkey.

Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site to see the Standing Stones of Stenness, the Ring of Brodgar and the 5000-year-old village of Skara Brae - where remarkable dwellings appeared from beneath the sand dunes in a storm just 150 years ago. Interestingly, Gaelic was never spoken in Orkney, and locals - who speak a distinctive dialect of the Scots language - are called Orcadians.

9Skye

The Isle of Skye is on everyones bucket list, and with less foreign travel on the cards this year, we think nows the perfect time to make the trip. Skye offers spectacular sunsets over the mountains and into the sea, delicious seafood with a French twist in the Michelin-starred Loch Bay and magical hikes around the otherworldly Fairy Glen.

Portree, the isles capital, has a lovely harbour fringed by dramatic cliffs which is great to stroll around - a walk up to the Apothecarys Tower offers a view thats simply not to be missed.

Visit Skye and Scotlands West Coast gems with Good Housekeeping in July or on an East to West sailing from Edinburgh to Glasgow, both on the square-rigged sailing ship, Golden Horizon. For something more intimate, visit in autumn on a luxury yacht.

10Eriska

To arrive at this private tidal island on Scotlands West Coast you have to cross a rattling wooden-decked bridge at low tide. But its worth it. The views across Loch Linnhe and its maze of small islands are spectacular, and the blue-green hills of Appin to the North and Morvern to the South stand proud in the distance.

There are also 300 acres of private gardens on Eriska, a gorgeous coastline, wildlife including deer, otters and badgers, and a Victorian mansion which was renovated into a luxury hotel and spa. Stay for pampering, sports and leisure, and walks through the secluded grounds.

Read Good Housekeeping's review and book a stay.

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11Gigha

Tiny Gigha (pronounced 'Gee'a') is the 'Good Isle' of the Hebrides, and is owned by the islanders themselves. The community here has been growing since the island was bought by its inhabitants back in 2002.

With a warm microclimate, Gigha is perfect for holidays taking in the sandy beaches and clear turquoise seas. Achamore House, set in over 50 acres of woodland gardens, has a renowned Rhododendron and Camellia Collection and exotic plants that are beautiful year-round.

Experience island hopping in the Hebrides with Good Housekeeping.

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12Inchmurrin

Inchmurrin in Loch Lomond is the largest freshwater island in the British Isles. Now covered in woodland, it used to be a deer park owned by the Dukes of Montrose and features the atmospheric ruins of a castle.

Stay in self-catering accommodation on Inchmurrin to enjoy swims from one of its many pretty beaches and visits to the highly rated Inchmurrin bar and restaurant.

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13Hirta

Although Hirta is a UNESCO double World Heritage Site and the 'jewel in the crown' of the National Trust for Scotland, a visit to the remote St Kilda archipelago is totally dependent on the weather - which is what makes it feel all the more dramatic.

The islands are the stunning remains of a volcanic crater, where thousands of seabirds like to nest. Its also a spot known for sightings of minke whales. But its difficult to live on this exposed island. Although Hirta was inhabited for over 5,000 years, the remote island community all self-evacuated in 1930. Want to know more? Head to the tiny St Kilda museum.

Visit Hirta during Good Housekeeping's island hopping cruise in the Hebrides.

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14Inchconnachan

Another of Loch Lomonds islands, Inchconnachan is in the Trossachs National Park and has an especially unusual feature: its home to a population of wallabies - yes, those cute marsupials native to Australia and Papua New Guinea!

It turns out the eccentric Lady Arran was fond of exotic animals and introduced them to Loch Lomond, where she grew up. You can visit the island on a ferry from Luss and stay at the old coaching inn, The Winnock, which has been welcoming weary travellers passing through Loch Lomond and the Trossachs for centuries.

If youre feeling inspired to explore Scotland, browse the full list of Good Housekeeping Holidays Scottish breaks.

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The 15 most beautiful Scottish islands to visit - goodhousekeeping.com

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