Arran, Barra, Fair Isle, Iona, Lewis and St Kilda – six of the wealth of islands Scotland has to explore. Each island has a distinct character; some have sizeable communities and easy transport links, others are largely deserted. Many of Scotland’s islands are rich in ancient monuments including brochs, cairns and standing stones.
Arran. Arran is Scotland’s southernmost isle. The Highland Boundary Fault runs through the island, giving it the distinction of belonging to both the Highlands and Lowlands; greenery in the south gives way to mountainous, less populated land in the north.
Barra. Walk eight miles and you have travelled the length of Barra, an island with spectacular views. Travel there by plane and experience a unique landing – on the island’s beach. Most residents live in Castlebay; the bay houses Kisimul Castle, built in the fifteenth century as a home for the Macneils who claimed Irish descent.
Fair Isle. This remote northern island sits between Orkney and Shetland. Fridarey, the original Norse name for the island, means the isle of peace. You may have heard of, seen or even worn traditional colourful, patterned Fair Isle jumpers. You may have heard Fair Isle mentioned as one of the landmarks for the Shipping Forecast. The island, which has less than 100 inhabitants, is owned by the National Trust for Scotland.
Iona. Iona, a small, largely flat island, lies close to Mull. St Columba, born in Ireland in the sixth century, was instrumental in bringing Christianity to the peoples of Scotland; Columba established a monastery on Iona after being exiled from his own land.
Lewis. Located in the Outer Hebrides, Lewis can be reached by boat or plane. The majority of inhabitants live in the main town, Stornaway. On Lewis you will find the Callanish stones, believed to be up to 4,000 years old. The Lewis Chessman, found on the Isle of Lewis in the nineteenth century, are made from walrus ivory and whales’ teeth; it is thought likely that they were made in Norway in the latter half of the twelth century.
St Kilda. A remote island to the far west of the Outer Hebrides, St Kilda supported a small, self-sufficient, isolated community until the imposition of the outside world led to their evacuation in the 1930s. The island, a haven for wildlife, is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland; it is a National Nature Reserve and World Heritage Site.