Scotland’s Western Isles are an exceedingly scenic part of the world. From dramatic rocky bluffs dotted with ancient ruins, to grassy hillocks, craggy mountains and moody skies. This beauty is the backdrop for a rich world of wildlife, from the avian kind the likes gannets, fulmars, puffins and petrels, to the charming animals seen in the water—seals, otters, dolphins and whales.
Scotland comprises nearly 800 islands in four major groupings—Inner and Outer Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland—and less than 100 are inhabited. A fifth island cluster, the Firth of Clyde, begins from the mouth of the river that flows west from Glasgow.
To see these beautiful places, you must travel by boat, as few islands are connected to the mainland by bridge. Between May and October, a handful of local companies offer short and long cruises aboard charming little boats, carrying as few as 6 to 10 passengers, that are often chartered by families and friend groups to explore these breathtaking waterways, stopping along the way to visit colorful island villages.
Call on Tobermory on Mull to enjoy nature walks amongst flowers and plants or stop in to a lovely tearoom on the Isle of Muck or a stately ancestral home on Skye such as Dunvegan Castle, seat of Clan MacLeod, and open to the public as a museum of family history and island living.
Admire the standing stones and stone circles from Neolithic times such as Callanish on Harris as well as Neolithic sites and Viking fortifications on Orkney and Shetland. And of course, fawn over the lovable Shetland pony and sheepdogs. At Iona, marvel at the ancient early Christian site, dating to 563 AD.
To read more about exploring Scotland’s western isles click here or visit QuirkyCruise.com, a guide to small-scale and unusual travel. Recent QuirkyCruise.com coverage about Scotland includes: Cruising Scotland: Back Doon Tha Wattar and Cruising Scotland’s Western Isles: An Overview.
Travel Contributor Heidi is the brains behind QuirkyCruise.com, a site dedicated to her passion for off-beat small-ship cruising.