INNER HEBRIDES

INNER HEBRIDES Scotland (skye)Scotland’s Inner Hebrides are set adrift west of the mainland’s coast, enjoying a mild oceanic climate that sits well with travelers who love the outdoors. The archipelago’s economy is centered on the tourism, fishing, crofting and well-loved whisky distilling industries.

Many significant prehistoric remains are nestled in the islands which were first settled by Picts in the north and Gaels in the south. The archipelago remained under Norse rule for more than 400 years before becoming a part of Scotland in 1266. The largest islands are Islay, Jura, Mull, Rùm and Skye – the largest island of the Inner Hebrides that is also the most populous.

The rugged Isle of Skye is skirted by stunning coastlines and dominated by the rocky Cuilin Hills, popular amongst travelers who like to trekking and hill walking. The wide Isle of Islay is well-known for its single malt whisky distilleries and is less crowded, being furthest away from the mainland. The picturesque mountains of Jura are well worth the visit, even though this island s probably the loneliest place in Scotland, especially for those who would enjoy a challenging climb up the Paps of Jura.

CalMac Ferry Services [Tel. +44 8705650000] will help you get around from island to island at varied times. Call ahead to book if you need car space especially in summer. CalMac also sells Island Hopscotch Tickets and Island Rover Tickets [prices vary] which offer various route options and 30 days of unlimited travel on each route if you are travelling around with a car. For information on bus services approach any of the islands’ tourist offices.














INNER HEBRIDES THE MISTY ISLEThe misty Isle of Skye (pop. 9,000) is the second largest in the Hebrides, best known for its Cuillin Hills which take up most of the island. Mountain scenery and natural landscapes make Skye a popular destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Wildlife is abundant on the Isle of Skye whose south nestles Sleat, pronounced ‘Slate’, the lush fertile garden of Skye.

Occupied since prehistoric times, Skye boasts a range monuments including burial cairns and standing stones, and an array of brochs and hill forts. Ruled by Vikings from the 9th century, the island slowly fell under the influence of the Kings of Scots following the Norwegian defeat at the Battle of Largs.

Skye Walking Holidays [Tel. +44 1470552213, www.skyewalks.co.uk] runs three-day walking-tour holidays including accommodation.

Whitewave Outdoor Centre [Tel. +44 1470542414, http://www.whiteact.demon.co.uk/Whitewave/index.htm] provides instruction and equipment for kayaking in the island’s lochs and coves.

Skye Riding Centre [Tel. +44 1470582419, www.skyewalks.co.uk] is a small stable under 10 kilometers west of Portree on the road to Dunvegan.

Skye Ferry [Tel. +44 1599522273, http://www.skyferry.com, prices vary] runs services to and from the island.

Stagecoach is the main bus-service operator on Skye, connecting most towns and villages; its Skye Roverbus ticket [one/three days £6/ £15] allows you unlimited travel.

West of Broadford on the Isle of Skye in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides are the rocky Cuillin Hills or Cuillins, one of Britain’s most intriguing mountain ranges. Sticking out like jagged knives, the hills are a popular challenge among climbers and walkers in Scotland, local and foreign alike.

INNER HEBRIDES Isle of Skye view to the Black CullinsTwo Cuillin ranges exist; The Red Cuillins – gentler in appearance and best accessed from Broadford and Sligachan, and The Black Cuillins – jagged and rough, dark peaks best accessed from Sligachan and Glen Brittle.

The highest peak, Sgurr Alasdair (993m) climbed by experienced mountaineers is off limits to most walkers due to its treacherous nature. More recommended is the steep but easier climb from the Glenbrittle campsite to the rock-climbing hotspot, Coire Lagan, a 3-hour round trip covering just over 9.5 kilometers.

Conveniently located just under the hills as a centre for exploring the Red and Black Cuillins, Sligachan is a small community that nestles the Sligachan Hotel [Tel. +44 1478650204, www.sligachan.co.uk], a base for most Cuillin visitors. The hotel’s bar offers its very own brewed beer and some walkers’ stories. Marked trails lead walkers and climbers south from here along the Sligachan River towards the Black Cuillins. The Glenbrittle campsite sits about halfway between Sligachan and the fishing village of Glenbrittle.
Recommended guides for trips to the Cuillins are;
•    Mike Lates, Skye Highs [3 Luib, Bradford, Tel. +44 1471822116]
•    Gerry Achroyd [Stac Lee, Glenbrittle, Tel. +44 1478640289]
•    Hugh Evans [4D Wentworth Street, Portree, Tel. +44 1478612682]

Skye Guides
[www.skyeguides.co.uk] also offers great guiding and tours.

2 buses a day (except Sundays) leave Portree for Glenbrittle in the summer only.

Sitting on the shores of a large loch, the town of Dunvegan is well-known for the Dunvegan Castle, a 13th- stronghold that served as the seat of the chief of the Clan MacLeod. The castle [Tel. +44 1470521206, www.dunvegancastle.com, ad/ch £9/ £4.50] still possesses the legendary the Fairy Flag, a silk Crusader relic hailing from the Middle East that was (and is) believed to guarantee victory to the clan it is held by. Be sure to visit the castle’s vast gardens.  Also in Dunvegan is the amusing Giant Angus MacAskill Museum [Tel. +44 1470521296] featuring a model of a true giant and how he lived. 

3-4 bus services leave Portree for Dunvegan from Monday to Saturday. The tourist office [2 Lochside, Tel. +44 1470 521581] will provide you with more information on transport and activities.

The quiet village of Kyleakin (pop. 400), is a backwater along the strait of Kyle Akin, facing the town of Kyle of Lochalsh on Scotland’s mainland – the two connected by the Skye Bridge. “Kyle Akin” or “Caol Àcain” (Scottish Gaelic) is derived from “Strait of Haakon”, named after King Haakon IV of Norway whose fleet anchored here before the Battle of Largs. Kyleakin’s main attraction is the ruined 15th-century Castle Moil near the harbour.

INNER HEBRIDES Portree, Isle of Skye Portree
(pop. 1,900) is the largest town on the Isle of Skye in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, a tourism and hospitality hub for visitors to the island. The Scottish Gaelic term “Port Rìgh” means “king’s harbour” supposedly referring to a visit by King James V of Scotland in 1540, although an older name exists; “Port Ruighe” meaning “slope harbour”. The town’s main attraction is Àros [Viewfield Road, Tel. +44 1478613649, www.aros.co.uk, prices vary], a centre for entertainment and activities for the whole family. Portree’s public transport is limited to bus services. The A855 road leads north from Portree through villages like Achachork and Staffin and past The Storr before reaching the Quiraing.

North of Portree, the scenic Trotternish Peninsula is more known for the Trotternish landslip – a massive landslide running almost the whole length of the peninsula. One of Scotland’s National Scenic Areas, Trotternish’s main highlights include The Storr and the Quiraing. The northernmost point of the peninsula, and that of Skye, is Rubha Hùinis whose name means “headland of the bear cub”.

The Storr is a rocky hill whose steep eastern side overlooks the Sound of Raasay, contrasted by gentler green slopes to its west. The expanse in front of the hill is known as the Sanctuary. It nestles oddly-shaped rock formations – remnants of an ancient landslip, the most famous being the Old Man of Storr. Although most visitors just wander around the Sanctuary admiring the views, many use the A855 just north of Loch Leathan to ascend the hill. An easier climb begins by skirting the base of the cliffs while heading north. Passing over a fence and climbing a short steep section of loose rock, the route heads northwest to Coire Scamadal before doubling back southwards towards The Storr’s summit. Resist the urge to take seemingly convenient short cuts as they are steep and can be unsafe.
The Quirang is a landslip on the eastern side of Meall na Suiramach, the only part of Trotternish that is still moving. Annual repairs to the road at its base, near the hamlet of Flodigarry, are necessary as such.

INNER HEBRIDES A little lamb above the clouds in Quirang

Sitting at the head of Uig Bay on the west coast of Trotternish, the village of Uig (pop. 300), pronounced “oo-ig”, surrounded by steep hills is the entry point of the River Rha from the north and the River Conon from the east into the bay. Hire bikes from the campsite in town near the ferry point for scenic rides or book ahead for a tour of the Isle of Skye Brewery [Tel. +441470542477, http://skyebrewery.co.uk, prices vary], for a taste of local ales.

Caledonian MacBrayne (Calmac) [Tel. +44 1680812343, www.calmac.co.uk] runs ferry services to and from Uig.

Near the southern end of Sleat, the hilly village of Armadale (pop. 120) rests on fertile ground looking out over the Sound of Sleat. The village nestles the ruined Armadale Castle and its pretty garden near the Museum of the Isles, all preserved by Clan Donald Skye [Tel. +44 1471844305, www.clandonald.com, prices vary]. The museum showcases Skye’s history and geography, with sections on the disintegration of Gaelic culture and mass emigration. Armadale’s environment makes the perfect setting for woodland strolls; there are open access walking routes from the road.

Like most of the Scottish islands, Armadale’s shores are a fairly popular hangout for otters and seals and surrounding waters are frequented by whales. Sea.fari [Armadale Pier, Tel. +44 1471833316, www.seafari.co.uk, £27] operates great 2-hour whale-spotting trips that are just as scenic if the creatures don’t show.
Caledonian MacBrayne (Calmac) [Tel. +44 1680812343, www.calmac.co.uk] runs ferry services to and from the village which sits at the southern end of the A851 road.

Getting its name from an Old Norse term meaning The Wide Bay, the village of Broadford (pop. 1,200) has little more to offer than good accommodation and key services for southern Skye. The town’s hub has a petrol station, 24-hour supermarket and a small hospital.  The B8083 side road from Broadford winds across a valley towards the south coast until it reaches Elgol. The drive is a good option for some scenic quiet time.

 


Isle of Raasay
INNER HEBRIDES Isle of Skye from RaasayRaasay (pop. 200) rests between Scotland’s mainland and the Isle of Skye, more appreciated for its less-touristy flair. The warmth of the Gulf Stream makes for fertile ground that sustains a variety of flora and fauna on Raasay, making it a popular destination for outdoor walks and wildlife watching. Separated from Skye by the Sound of Rassay, this isle which offers superb views of the Cuillins, especially from the top of Dun Caan, is literally a breath of fresh air.

As far as services go, Raasay is limited to one general store with no petrol, but with Skye just a 20-minute ferry ride away this is hardly a setback. Caledonian MacBrayne (Calmac) [Tel. +44 8000665000, http://www.calmac.co.uk] runs ferry services to and from the terminal at Raasay House.


Isle of Coll

Coll (pop. 190) in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides is often visited by sun-revelers for its sandy beaches and large dunes. The main attraction on Coll is Breachacha Castle, a 14- to 15th-century towered stronghold of Clan MacLean that overlooks Loch Breachacha.

With only two main roads, Coll’s main village is Arinagour, about 1.5 kilometers north of the Caledonian MacBrayne (Calmac) [Tel. +44 8000665000, www.calmac.co.uk] ferry terminal. The airport sits between Arileod and Uig.


Isle of Tiree
Tiree (pop. 800) is the westernmost island of the Inner Hebrides; a sunny retreat with a handful of attractions. Scarinish is the island’s main village where Caledonian MacBrayne (Calmac) ferries [Tel. +44 8000665000, www.calmac.co.uk] depart and arrive while the Tiree Airport rests nearby at Crossapol.

Nature lovers will also appreciate Tiree’s sandy white beaches and dunes, the largest being Gott Bay facing the isle of Mull. Bird watching is a common activity on the island, especially at Kenavara and Loch Bhasapoll. Archaeological remains on Tiree include a broch at Vaul Bay, about 10 metres in diameter with walls just over 3.5 metres thick, and the ruins of the Chapel of Saint Kenneth at Kilkenneth. Between Balephetrish and Vaul, stands a mysterious boulder known as “The Ringing Stone” that curiously makes a metallic sound when hit. Some 50 Bronze-Age cup markings can be found on the stone. Cultural attractions include the historical archives at An Iodhlann [Tel. +44 1879220793] in Scarinish and the Skerryvore Lighthouse Museum in Hynish at the Old Signal Tower.


Isle of Staffa
T
he tiny island of Staffa lies about 10 kilometers northeast of Iona in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides, too small to see on maps but intriguing enough to explore. The name “Staffa”, meaning “stave” or “pillar” in Old Norse, was given to the island by Vikings; the basalt columns reminded them of their houses which were built with vertical tree logs. The island gained significance in the late 18th century when Sir Joseph Banks stepped foot on its shores discovering its natural columnar basalt and the main sea cavern which he henceforth named “Fingal’s Cave”. The island, now a nature reserve does not have a natural harbour and its only man-made constructions are the landing stage amidst a sprinkling of rocks and a walkway leading to the cave.

Daily boat trips from Iona & Fionnphort give you an hour to explore Staffa. Book ahead with Ms Carol Kirkpatrick, Tigh-na-Traigh [Tel. +44 1681700358, iolaire@staffatrips.co.uk, ad/ch £25/ £10] in Iona.

 



The isle of Mull (pop. 2,600), is the third largest of the Hebrides and a friendly island that is much visited for its scenery; hills, sea caves, forests and waterfalls. Skirted with nearly 500 kilometers of coastline, Mull gets its name from the Gaelic term “maol” meaning “bare hill”. The isle is dominated by Ben More (3169m), formed by an extinct volcano that exploded some 60 million years ago.

Mull’s main village, Tobermory, is dotted along the harbour by brightly-coloured houses from the 18th century when the village was built as a herring port by the British Fisheries Society. These days leisure yachts anchor in the natural harbour, whose bottom nestles a vessel of the Spanish Armada which sank mysteriously together with its treasure, never to be recovered.  Between Tobermory and Craignure, the village of Salen perched on the east coast at Mull’s narrowest point is a common base for exploring the island. The little village of Craignure is a popular arrival point for visitors, with a row of houses along the waterfront and a few dining options.

Caledonian MacBrayne (Calmac) [Tel. +44 1680812343, http://www.calmac.co.uk] runs ferry services from Craignure, Tobermory and Fishnish. Local bus services serve the island; grab a free copy of the Mull Area Transport Guide at any tourist office. Most roads are single-track so cycling is a good way to get around; rent bikes [£8-10/day] from Brown’s Tobermory [21 Main Street, Tel. +44 1688 302020, www.brownstobermory.co.uk] or On Yer Bike in Salen [Tel. +44 1680300501] and Craignure [Tel. +44 1680812487].

Sights

INNER HEBRIDES View from the quayside in Tobermory Isle of MullTobermory

Main Street is the harbourfront where most guesthouses, hotels, restaurants, pubs and shops are found. Housed in an old bakery, the Mull Museum [Columbia Buildings, Main Street, Tel. +44 1688 301100, www.mullmuseum.org.uk, £1] is worth a visit, especially on rainy days which are plenty on the island. 

The Tobermory Distillery [Ledaig, Tel. +44 1688302647, www.tobermorymalt.com, ad/ch £2.50/free] offers guided tours, ending with single malt sampling.

An Tobar [Argyll Terrace, Tel. +44 1688302211, www.antobar.co.uk] at the top of Back Brae is an arts centre featuring various exhibitions and workshops. Views from An Tobar are quite a sight too.

Salen
The ruins of Aros Castle lie north, overlooking the bay. The 14th century monument was one of the strongholds of the Lords of the Isles. It is widely believed that the treasure of the Spanish galleon that sank in 1588 in Tobermory Bay was salvaged by the Macleans and is still buried under the castle’s remains. The Isle of Mull Wildlife and Birdwatch Safaris [Tel. +44 1680300441, www.mullwildlife.co.uk, prices vary] organizes full-day wildlife safaris from Aros, during which you’ll spot golden eagles, hen harriers, divers, falcons and seals.

About 6.5 kilometers southwest of Salen near Loch Ba and Gruline is the MacQuarie Mausoleum which shelters the remains of Major-general Lachlan MacQuarie; He took over as Governor-General of New South Wales from William Bligh and became known as “Father of Australia”.

Craignure
This small village caters more to hospitality needs than it does to intrigue, but just about 2.5 kilometers south is Torosay Castle, a former baronial home that is now closed to the public. Nevertheless, the grandiose house is an intriguing sight. Just over 3 kilometers east of Torosay is the 13th-century Duart Castle [Lochdon, Tel: +44 1680 812 309, www.duartcastle.com, prices vary], the former seat of the Clan Maclean. Offering lovely views over Loch Linnhe and the Sound of Mull, the castle’s main feature is its 14th-century tower house. Look out for displays of relics and artifacts before having tea and home-baked scones.

 


INNER HEBRIDES celtic cross and iona abbeyThe small island of Iona (pop. 300) is the popular destination for spiritual retreats and scenic getaways. Saint Columba visited Iona in 563 and founded a Christian monastery on the site of what is now known as Iona Abbey. A place of Christian worship for more than 1400 years, Iona is usually flocked by day-trippers, so a night’s stay would do justice to this peaceful island.

Caledonian MacBrayne (Calmac) [Tel. +44 1680812343, www.calmac.co.uk] runs ferry services from Mull to Iona. The island is easily combed on foot, but if you prefer cycling, hire a mountain bike at Finlay Ross [add, Tel. +44 1681700357, www.finlayrossiona.co.uk, from] in Baile Mór village.

Sights

Iona Abbey
The Abbey that rests here today dates back to the 12th century, rebuilt over time until its complete restoration in the 20th century. Saint Oran’s Chapel, the island’s oldest building, lies south of the abbey with its 11th-century door. According to tradition, the original chapel could only be completed through human sacrifice, and Oran, who had volunteered to be buried alive, was found alive then his grave was opened a few days later. Claiming to have seen hell and that it wasn’t that bad, Oran was reinterred for blasphemy.

Surrounding the chapel is Reilig Odhráin, Iona’s sacred burial ground which is believed to be the final resting place of sixty kings of Scotland, Norway, Ireland and France. The most significant early Christian gravestones have been moved to the Infirmary Museum behind the abbey, also containing original fragments of the Crosses of Saint John and Saint Matthew, and the alleged stone pillow used by Saint Columba.

From the ticket office, cross the exposed section of the Street of the Dead towards the 8th-century Saint Martin’s Cross, Iona’s most impressive Celtic high cross with figural scenes from the bible. Directly in front of the abbey is the base of Saint Matthew’s Cross with the 8th-century concrete cast of Saint John’s Cross next to it.

The village of Baile Mór nestles the ruins of the Augustinian nunnery with a pretty garden – a glimpse of what the present day abbey looked like before restoration. The Iona Heritage Centre [£2] across the road to the north has displays on the island’s social history over the last two centuries.

If you’re on Iona for more than a day’s visit, take a walk past the village and abbey towards the sandy beaches at the isle’s northern end.

 


Isle of Colonsay
INNER HEBRIDES Clouds over JuraIsolated Isle of Colonsay (pop.110) floats north of Islay and south of Mull in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides. Tradition suggests that Saint Columba’s first stop when he set out from Ireland in 563 was Colonsay, but upon climbing a hill he learned that the coast of Ireland could still be seen in the distance, so he moved further north until he reached Iona. The island was henceforth called “Colonsay” which means “Columba’s Isle”.

Colonsay Brewery [Tel. +44 1951200190, www.colonsaybrewery.co.uk, prices vary] at Scalasaig is a good place to experience the art of ale production and to try the Colonsay IPA.

Woodland Garden [Kiloran Colonsay House, Tel. +44 1951200211, admission free] about 2.5 kilometers north of Scalasaig is known for its collection of unusual trees and its walled garden has a terrace café.

Kevin & Christa Byrne [Tel. +44 1951200320, byrne@colonsay.org.uk, prices vary] organize customized guided tours of the island on foot or by minibus. On Saturdays in summer, a “Hidden Colonsay” walking tour takes place regularly by booking only. 

A 90-minute bus tour [£7.50] of the island departs the ferry point on weekdays at 10.30am.


Isle of Jura
Jura (pop. 180) is well known for the distinctive Paps of Jura – the three glacial-top breast-like mountains on its western side. Theory suggests that Jura’s name was derived from the Norse term “Dyrøy” meaning “deer island”, in view of its population of some 6000 deer, massively outnumbering its human inhabitants. Evidence of Mesolithic settlements was first unearthed by English Archaeologist, John Mercer, in the 1960s and evidence of Neolithic occupants is seen at Poll a’Cheo on the island’s southwest. Jura is a great destination for minimalist getaways or day trips, especially from Islay.

If you’re planning a thorough nature exploration of the island, complete with a climb up the Paps, you best be staying a night or two. Up the road from Feolin Ferry point is Jura House [£2]. Grab a booklet at the entrance to the grounds and take the path down to the shore, an ideal picnic spot. The walled garden sells some of its organic produce seasonally.

Jura’s main settlement is the somewhat sheltered village of Craighouse, about 13 kilometers up the road from Feolin Ferry. Besides the island’s hotel, a post office and a tearoom, the light malt whisky of the Isle of Jura distillery [Tel. +44 1496820240] is sure to make you feel welcomed.

The island is served by a minibus service [Tel. +44 1496820314], although it runs rather infrequently so it is best to phone for updated schedules and details. If you’re on Jura for a day trip, be prepared to stay the night as strong northerly or southerly winds usually mean a disruption of ferry services between Feolin Ferry and Port Askaig. 

 


INNER HEBRIDES Eilean Mor Loch FinlagganThe island of Islay (pop. 3,400), pronounced “eye-la”, is the southernmost of the Hebrides and one of the largest of the Scottish Islands.  Better known as “Queen of the Hebrides”, Islay’s varied landscape boasts sheltered woodland, mountainous moorland, farmland and high and scenic villages – creating an island that is rich in biodiversity.
The isle’s location and land fertility led to its inhabitation as early as the Mesolithic period. A flint arrowhead dating back to 10,800 BC was found on the island in 1993, making it the earliest evidence of human presence found in Scotland to date. By the Neolithic period, more permanent settlements on the island brought about the construction of several monuments. Settled by Horsemen from between 800 and 1156, many of the place names on Islay have remained from their occupation.

Most of the islanders live in the administrative capital, Bowmore and in Port Ellen. As with most of the Inner Hebrides, the Gaelic language it well-preserved and is spoken by about half of its population. Islay’s main economic industries include agriculture, fishing, whisky production and tourism – the latter centered on the isle’s Whisky Distilleries and wildlife reserves.

Layout
Islay’s airport [Glenegedale, Tel. +44 1496302361] is located near the island’s centre. Caledonian MacBrayne (Calmac) [Tel. +44 8000665000, www.calmac.co.uk] runs ferry services from terminals at Port Ellen [Tel. +44 01496302209] and Port Askaig. There is a bus service on the island operated by the local council. Most of the island’s roads are single-track with two main arteries connecting the larger villages. Transport information is available at the tourist office [Tel. +44 8707200617] in Bowmore.

Sights
The Museum of Islay Life [Daal Terrace, Port Charlotte, Tel. +44 1496850358, www.islaymuseum.org, prices vary] is the best place to experience the many aspects of Islay’s heritage, besides whisky production with which it is most often associated. Probably most intriguing is the museum’s collection of early carved stones found on the island. Look out for a stone carving of the crucifixion dating back to the 1500s. The museum displays them such that visitors are able to see both faces of many of these stones. At the foot of the churchyard, backing onto the main road, a shelter houses a further collection of carved stones which further exhibit the Islay’s early culture. Highlights include some fine carved crosses and cross shafts and a burial cist from 1974.

The Islay Natural History Trust [Main Street, Port Charlotte, Tel. +44 1496850288, www.islaynaturalhistory.org, prices vary] runs the Wildlife information Centre which displays the island’s geography and wildlife, keeping annual records and checklists of the different species thriving on the island. Marine and fresh water aquariums and a touch tank allow personal encounters with local sea species and a large laboratory for children of all ages encourages the scientist in each one to explore samples with microscopes, dissect owl pellets or make pictures from seaweed. Trust members and visitors are encouraged to leave record of their sightings of natural history on the island at the centre.

Bowmore Church [The Manse, Bowmore, Tel. +44 1496810271, http://theroundchurch.org.uk], also known as The Round Church, was built in 1767 for Daniel Campbell to serve the community of the Parish of Kilarrow. Folklore suggests that it was built as such so that there are no corners for the Devil to hide in. A gallery was added to the church in 1830 to increase its capacity to 500.

Loch Gruinart RSPB Reserve [Tel. +44 1496850505, www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/l/lochgruinart, prices vary] is well-known for the large numbers of white-fronted geese that spend winter days on the island. Easily seen from the road, the reserve’s visitor centre lets you take a look at feeding geese or waders with the aid of CCTV cameras.  The centre carries out guided walks on Thursday mornings from May to October. Call ahead to confirm details and wear study and waterproof footwear.

Amongst the most visited attractions on Islay are its white-washed single malt whisky distilleries, each set in picturesque surroundings. It is said that the introduction of whisky in Scotland began on Islay when Irish monks first introduced the art of whisky distillation in the 14th century, utilizing the island’s unlimited supply of peat and pure water. The first official distillery on Islay was in Bowmore, receiving its license in 1779. Today, 8 distilleries operate on Islay & Jura. The southern distilleries of Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Laphroaig produce strong, peaty whiskies while the whiskies of the northern distilleries of Bowmore, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila, Bruichladdich and Kilchoman are less peaty. Frisky Whisky Tours [Tel. +44 1499302361 / +44 7775691641, http://website.lineone.net/~kathycameron/islaytour.htm, prices vary] organizes customized tours of the island’s distilleries according to personal preferences, including visits to places of interests near these distilleries. Contact Kathy Cameron for more details.

Finlaggan [Tel. +44 1496850558] is a historic site on Eilean Mòr in Loch Finlaggan, about 2 kilometers west of Ballygrant on Islay. The seat of the Lords of the Isles and of Clan Donald, the site preserves the remains of the buildings from where the Lords ruled the Hebrides. The Finlaggan trust refurbished one of the ruined cottages, converting it into a museum containing several unearthed artifacts from the area.



The isle of Gigha (pop. 100), pronounced “Geeya,” is a fertile island  which has been occupied for some 5000 years. This ancestral home of Clan MacNeill fell under Norse control and the Lords of the Isles before it was officially incorporated into Scotland.

The ferry point is at Ardminish, Gigha’s only village where a charming island church rests. The island’s main attraction are the Achamore Gardens [donation requested] just under 2.5 kilometers south of the village. The ruins of the 13th-century Saint Catan’s Chapel lie southwest of the gardens, floored with medieval gravestones. Probably more appealing to the laid-back traveler are the sprinkles of sandy beaches, including one at Ardminish, that skirt the isle’s coast.