Hugging Scotland's west coast, this scattered archipelago is easily reached from Mallaig or Oban but inter-island links are limited. It’s best to choose one or two island groups (e.g. Skye and the Small Isles), allowing 3-4 days for each. Having your own car is recommended if you want to explore the islands’ farthest flung corners.
Islands of the Inner Hebrides
The Isle of Skye hardly needs an introduction: its spectacular landscape of jagged peaks, sparkling lochs and picturesque harbours is renowned the world over. From the formidable Cuillin Hills, rocky peninsulas radiate out to a convoluted coastline of sea cliffs and bays. Visit pretty Portree with its pastel-coloured cottages. Explore the bizarre rock formations of Trotternish. Delve into the past at Dunvegan Castle, and watch the sunset from Neist Point while you plan your return trip – because you will definitely want to come back.
The Small Isles
South of Skye and north of Mull, these 4 tiny basalt islands are worthy of their name. The largest, Rum, is like a small version of Skye, with its volcanic ridge, brooding Kinloch Castle and resident sea eagles. Eigg has a vibrant off-grid community and wonderful views from An Sgurr peak (1292ft). Low-lying Muck is green and fertile, with sandy coves and a population of just 38. Farthest west is Canna, whose basalt sea cliffs support 20,000 nesting birds including puffins, razorbills and guillemots.
Mull & Iona
Mull is one of the Hebrides’ most accessible isles – and also one of its most varied. From the majestic heights of Ben More and silver sand of Calgary Bay, to the lava flows of Burg and pink granite of the Ross, the island is a haven for wildlife with eagles, otters and basking sharks all regularly sighted. Don't miss the famed harbour of Tobermory or the castle dungeons of Duart, and allow time for a trip across to Iona’s sacred abbey.
Coll & Tiree
Thanks to their position on the edge of the Gulf Stream, Coll and Tiree are amongst Scotland’s sunniest places. Similar in size, the islands are often banded as ‘Atlantic twins’ but they have quite different characters. Coll is wild and rugged with hidden beaches in rocky coves, while flat, fertile Tiree is fringed with fine sandy bays popular with windsurfers. Both are dotted with ancient cairns and Iron Age remains, but their main appeal is that there really isn’t much to do.
Islay, Jura & Colonsay
Despite their big skies, rugged hills and dramatic coastlines, this Hebridean island group is most famous for one thing: whisky. Islay has no less than 9 working distilleries, producing distinctive single malts from the peat-brown rivers that run across the island. Intrepid hillwalkers will want to explore the distinctive Paps of Jura, while Kiloran Bay on Colonsay is one of the Hebrides most picture-perfect sandy bays. Large herds of red deer and thousands of overwintering geese are a thrilling sight for nature lovers.
Map of the Inner Hebrides
Getting There & Getting Around
How to get to the Inner Hebrides
To reach Skye, drive to the port of Mallaig to take a ferry to the island. Alternatively, driving further north to Kyle of Lochalsh takes you over the Skye Bridge from the mainland. Two main ports service the other larger islands: Oban and Kennacraig. Easily reached by car, Oban is a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Glasgow and famous for its impressive seafood, coastal scenery and convenient ferry links. Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) operates routes to Skye, Mull, Islay, Colonsay, Tiree and Coll, from which smaller ferries will take you to the more remote islands. Whatever you decide, we can pre-book all your ferries and car hire.
Inter-island links are more limited in the Inner Hebrides, so hiring a car for your visit will give you the best flexibility to explore the remote corners of this scattered archipelago. Most of the islands allow cars, except a few which are accessed via passenger-only ferries such as the Small Isles of Rum, Muck and Eigg. These isolated islands are perfect for exploring on foot, whilst the flatter terrains of Tiree make for perfect cycling adventures. Calmac offers a “Hopscotch” ferry ticket which covers a variety of routes, helping you make the most of the experiences these spectacular islands have to offer.
Experiences on the Inner Hebrides
Walk the Quiraing on Skye
Explore the otherworldly landscape of the Quiraing on foot to experience spectacular views across the Trotternish ridge. The Quiraing walk is a loop covering 6.8km. Look out for the many unique sites including a rock structure known as the Prison, the large rock column named the 'Needle' and the stunning landscape of the ‘Table’; a flat glassy plateau surrounded by rock formations and cliff faces.
Stargaze on Coll
The Isle of Coll is an official Dark Sky Park - one of three in Scotland. With no street lights giving off light pollution, the island is illuminated at night by a spectacular array of stars and planets; the perfect remote getaway to escape from it all.
Day Trip to Oronsay
Oronsay, a small island south of Colonsay, can be reached on foot or bike every low tide via a tidal causeway across the Strand. Spend a few hours exploring this remote wilderness by visiting the ruins of Oronsay Priory and enjoying the beautiful beach. Later, head towards the eastern side of the island to Seal Cottage for seal watching.
Walk to Traigh Ghael Beach
Traigh Ghael beach, on the Isle of Mull, is nothing less than a slice of natural heaven awaiting those prepared to make the 2-3 hour walk to get there. To reach this hidden oasis, hike through the Tireragan Nature Reserve in boggy and rough terrain; a regenerating habitat of native woodland alive with butterflies, dragonflies and birds.
Climb Ben More on Mull
As one of the only two mountains off the Scottish mainland high enough to qualify as a Munro, Ben More on Mull is an incredible vantage point. The steep ascents and loose rocky slopes make scrambling necessary, so this is definitely one for advanced hikers. Alternatively, take the more straightforward route leading up Ben More from Dhiseig.
Visit Iona's Sacred Abbey
Take the passenger ferry to the peaceful Isle of Iona and step off onto one of Scotland's most sacred and historic sites. Perched on the eastern coast of the small island, visiting the abbey is a perfect day trip to learn about the rich local Scottish history whilst enjoying beautiful views over the water and beyond.
Take a Boat Trip to Staffa
Explore spectacular, uninhabited islands on a trip with Staffa Tours. There are a range of itineraries available, such as the Treshinish Isles Wildlife Tour which includes two landings on the Isle of Lunga and Staffa; home to the famous cathedral-like Fingal’s Cave. An excellent chance to also spot the local puffin colonies.
Cycle the Isle of Tiree
Tiree is the perfect size to explore in a day. Cycling around the flat but beautiful island gives you the chance to explore the beaches and pick up hand-made local ceramics. Perhaps stay a little longer to enjoy the perfect conditions for wind surfing.
Visit Duart Castle
Proudly guarding the sea cliffs of the Isle of Mull, Duart Castle sits on the island's west coast, offering spectacular views over the bay. Discover the rich 800 year history of one of Scotland’s oldest Clans, The Macleans.
Highlights of the Inner Hebrides
Hiking the Inner Hebrides
With its jagged Black Cuillin, Skye takes the prize for the most dramatic climbs but it's not just for serious mountaineers. There are equally stunning, low-level walks around Glenbrittle, the Old Man of Storr and the remarkable Qiraing escarpment. Ben More, the highest point on Mull takes about 4 hours from sea loch to summit, while Jura's triple cones are a challenging full-day hike. All of the islands boast magnificent coastal paths and the chance to discover your own secret beach.
Wildlife on the Inner Hebrides
The wild, empty landscapes of the Inner Hebrides make an excellent habitat for wildlife. The ‘Big Five’ to look out for are red deer, common seals, otters, eagles (both golden and white-tailed) and pods of harbour porpoise. Neist Point on Skye is regarded as one of the best places to see basking sharks and whales from the shore, while boat trips around Mull offer some close encounters with nesting seabirds like puffins, as well as occasional lucky sightings of minke whales, fin whales and orcas.
To make sure you experience the very best the Inner Hebrides has to offer, before you travel we'll send you a list of recommendations including natural wonders, suggested activities, local attractions and places to eat
Wild swimming on the Inner Hebrides
It might not be warm, but it’s certainly an invigorating experience to plunge yourself into icy water surrounded by epic scenery. Head to Loch Cruisk on Skye for a dip beneath the towering Cuillin mountains, or bathe beneath the arch in the crystal-clear Fairy Pools. Dive off the basalt columns into the mouth of Staffa's famous grotto or swim across to Erraid from Mull to picnic on a hidden cove. Always stay within your limits and be aware of the conditions.
Boat trips around the Inner Hebrides
Whether it’s by kayak, chartered RIB or on a guided wildlife cruise, the sheltered coves, sea lochs and rocky inlets of these islands are ideal for exploring by boat. Tours will take you for a close-up view of Jura's Corryvreckan Whirlpool (most dramatic during spring tides), or on a memorable trip to Staffa whose curious hexagonal pillars and cathedral-like Fingal's Cave inspired Mendelssohn's famous overture. Even the CalMac ferries from the mainland offer magnificent views and are worthwhile journeys in themselves.