Pack up your car, charge up the sat nav and grab your camera.
It’s always something you’ve wanted to do but “just haven’t got round to it yet” – west coast island hopping in Scotland crops up in conversation with your mates but somehow the appeal of a wild weekend in Dublin is stronger. The islands are dotted around the west coast like a dot-to-dot puzzle but some can easily be reached from Glasgow or Edinburgh in under 1 hour by car or train.
For the unique stag or hen do what could be better than a short ferry ride to a picturesque island for a spa break, watersports, whisky tasting, mountain climbing or indulging in some local food and drink… see its not as bad as you think. Here’s a little guide to islands that should be on your bucket list:
Recently voted ‘4th best island in the world’ by National Geographic magazine (that’s pretty impressive), Skye is famous for its breathtaking scenery, castles, and as the largest island in the inner Hebrides its rugged coastlines. Take the ferry from Mallaig or drive around the Kyle of Lochalsh to drive over the Skye bridge. You’ll be welcomed by the locals in the main fishing town of Portree where you’ll find shops, bars, and amazing restaurants to sample the local delicacies. If your the type that loves some thrills and hair-raising purists Skye can offer a great fix for all outdoor enthusiasts – from mountain bike trekking on the iconic Cuilin mountains, kayaking, hillwalking and wildlife photography.
If you like a ‘wee dram’ you’ll love Islay. Home to nine malt whisky distilleries, the locals call it ‘uisge beatha’ – the water of life and it certainly is flowing well on Islay! Great for a lads (or girls) getaway, it just a 2 hour drive from Glasgow to the Ferry Terminal at Kennacraig. A short sail and you’ll land on the land of the ‘ileachs’. Book in a few whisky distillery tours, visit the towns of Bowmore and Port Ellen and if the weather’s nice you’ll spot the locals doing watersports. Bowmore offers great nightlife with ceilidhs and a designated whisky bar stocking over 200 blends. History geeks are well catered for here – the battles of the Lord of the Isles originated from the island and the ancient ruins from their homes can still be seen today.
You probably associate Harris with the famous tweed that is made there and showcased on catwalks in Milan and Paris, but Harris is its own institution in its own right. The ultimate getaway experience from urban life, Harris probably more suited for a caravan trip to manoeuvre around the single track island roads or laid back kind of break. Yes you can visit the Harris Tweed factory and the new gin distillery but you’ll quickly notice that the island is a hub of Gaelic culture and history due to the ruins of crofts and bilingual road signs (watch out for cows and sheep crossing the roads too). One must-do on the island is taking a disposable barbecue, some beers and snacks and lying out on Luskentyre beach (pictured). Voted in the top 10 beaches in the world for 2014 by TripAdvisor even on a gloomy day, the sparkling blue waters are stunning amongst the islands backdrop. Bliss.