Top tips for visiting scottish islands - Skara Brae

Top Tips for visiting Scottish Islands

Top Tips for visiting Scottish Islands


After travelling around the Scottish islands for years, I have some top tips to pass on when visiting these beautiful islands. Below are the first 5 (other installments will be available in the future):

1) When booking car spaces on Caledonian Macbrayne Ferries (to travel to the islands) in Summer or at busy times such as Easter or Bank Holiday weekends, make sure to book your vehicle and the driver/passengers in advance. These sailing can get full very quickly and if you arrive at the ferry without booking, you may be disappointed. This can obviously be a problem if you turn up for the last ferry of the day and you have booked accommodation for the night on another island and you cannot get there!

Top tips for visiting scottish islands - Calmac Ferry at Castlebay

Top tips for visiting scottish islands – Calmac Ferry at Castlebay

2) Go to the Caledonian Macbrayne website  and order a copy of their brochure which has all the ferry timetables in it. It´s free and it will help you to plan your journey/s, as well as giving booking information and prices. Also in the brochure is information about Island Hopscotch tickets. These can save you money if you are travelling to more than one island.

3) Also, when reading the Caledonian Macbrayne timetable, be sure to note down what time you have to be at the ferry BEFORE boarding. For vehicles this can be from 10 to 45 mins and for passengers can be up to 30 mins. For certain longer routes (see below), you will also have to complete a Passenger Registration card.

• Oban – Castlebay
• Oban – Colonsay
• Oban – Coll
• Oban – Lochboisdale
• Oban – Tiree
• Coll – Tiree
• Lochboisdale – Castlebay
• Tiree – Castlebay
• Uig – Tarbert
• Uig – Lochmaddy
• Ullapool – Stornoway

Passengers travelling on these routes must observe the check in times for registration for the particular sailing and be on board at least 10 minutes prior to sailing time. Each passenger must complete a Passenger Registration card. These cards will then be collected from you on boarding and, where applicable, the second (landing) part of the card needs to be be retained for collection on disembarking.

4) Buy a Historic Scotland  membership card. This will give you access to more than 70 top heritage attractions in Scotland. This is excellent value if you intend to visit lots of attractions when visiting Scotland and the Scottish Islands. Attractions include:

Shetland Islands – Mousa Broch, Jarlshof, Clickimin Broch, Scalloway Castle, Fort Charlotte etc
Orkney Islands – Skara Brae, earls palace, Knap of Howar, Maeshowe, Ring of Brodgar etc
Outer Hebrides – Calanais Standing Stones, Dun Carloway Broch, The Blackhouse at Arnol, Kisimul Castle etc
Inner Hebrides – Iona Abbey, Iona Nunnery, Rothesay Castle etc
Mainland Scotland – Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle, Linlithgow Palace, Fort George, Urquhart Castle etc

Top tips for visiting scottish islands - Skara Brae

Top tips for visiting scottish islands – Skara Brae

The membership card costs £49.50 per year for 1 adult or £54 for 1 adult and up to 6 children (age 5-15). Please bear in mind that it costs £18.50 to visit Edinburgh Castle during peak season!

5) If you visit the Scottish Islands in summer, make sure to take a midge repellent. The midges in certain parts of Scotland (such as the Isle of Rum) can be horrendous and they can ruin your holiday if you are not prepared. This is especially true for campers or people who plan on being in the outdoors a lot (walkers, climbers etc). I have used Avon Skin So Soft, which has worked well, but there are others such as Smidge with a good reputation.

If you have any feedback on these Top Tips, please do not hesitate to contact me at

Scottish Island News – November 2017

Scottish Island News – November 2017

There are some interestimng articles about Scottish islands this week.  the first is an article about volunteering on the remote island of St Kilda.  Something I have always wanted to do. The artice explains what the rocess is for undertaking this and the positives and negatives of actially doing it, although there is mainly only positives for me.

Volunteering on St Kilda is all about DIY and clearing ditches. Yay! | Travel | The Guardian

Wanted: DIY-er with retail skills – or shop assistant handy with paint brush. Must be happy to be marooned on a remote Scottish island for a fortnight in May with 11 strangers and minimal sanitation. Ever since the National Trust for Scotland was bequeathed St Kilda in the 1950’s,

volunteers have taken the wild, three-hour Atlantic boat ride to the four “islands on the edge of the world”. Volunteering on St Kilda is all about DIY and clearing ditches. Yay! | Travel | The Guardian


The next article is about another remote island, Handa.  The island is located on the north west coast of Scotland and is a National Nature Reserve.  The Scottish Wildlife Trust is looking for a Ranger to look after the island, wildlife and visitors.  Handa is a beautiful island, but I imagine it can be quite severe in winter.  Some of the cliffs are extremely high.

Britain’s most remote job: fancy spending your winter on an uninhabited island with just 200,000 birds for company?

Those with that feeling should definitely apply for Britain’s most remote job –  a  ranger is wanted on an uninhabited  island  which is home to over 200,000 seabirds as well as Britain’s remotest and most expensive public toilet. The  Scottish Wildlife Trust is looking for someone to tend to the birds on the remote isle of Handa for £14,500 a year. However, some 7,000 plus visitors come to the island every summer, which has become so popular the Wildlife Trust installed a comfort stop. Britain’s most remote job: fancy spending your winter on an uninhabited island with just 200,000 birds for company?


The third article is about visiting the Outer Hebrides, something I have done on several occasions. Here, the article gives good advice on things to do and places to see as well as recommendations for food and drink etc.

What to do and see in the Outer Hebrides | The Independent

The Outer Hebrides are islands of extremes: 119 islands (of which just 14 are inhabited) dangling in the far north-west corner of the map of the UK. They’re an area of beautiful, isolated beaches where you can enjoy Robinson Crusoe moments, your footprints the only ones on the sand. The wildlife, too, is breathtaking: deer to dolphins, otters to golden eagles are all easily spotted.  There’s a food trail, pointing you to the many small-scale outlets where you can enjoy salmon, chocolate cake or a dram of whisky produced with water from the island’s own hills. What to do and see in the Outer Hebrides | The Independent


The final article is an interesting story about Simon Yates, who was famous as having the film ‘Touching the Void’ based on a life and death experience whilst mountain climbing in Peru. If you haven’t seen the film, tracj it down, it is excellent.

Simon is about to complete a challenge that I am trying to complete myself.  He has visited all the scottish islands that have a regular ferry service.  There are around 90.  I have currently visited just under 70, so I still have around 20 to visit.

Cumbria climber to complete 20-year isles quest – BBC News

Simon Yates became a household name in the 1980s following a harrowing expedition to Peru with climbing partner Joe Simpson. This weekend, Yates is to visit Cumbrae, the last isle on his list. He has also visited the Shetland Islands, including its isles of Foula and Fair Isle, accompanied by his family. Cumbria climber to complete 20-year isles quest – BBC News


Scottish Island Cruising – St Hilda Sea Adventures

Scottish Island Cruising – St Hilda Sea Adventures


Although I have visited many scottish islands over the years, one thing that I have never done is cruised around the islands.  Well, that dream has now become a reality. At the end of May, I will be cruising with St Hilda Sea Adventures on their Mull Odyssey cruise, which takes in the Isles of Mull, Staffa and Iona.

The St Hilda is a traditional, wooden 54ft Ketch, going to sea with only six guests, but it has it’s own onboard skipper and chef. The St Hilda was built in 1973 in St Monans by a family-owned boatyard in Fife, specifically for sail training with a crew of 20.  She is one of the smallest of the “Tall Ships” and has competed in several Tall Ship races. The company have recently celebrated 10 years of safe and successful cruising around the scottish islands

I am really looking forward to the cruise, especially seeing the islands from a completely different perspective. For example, when we visit Loch Na Keal, I am hoping that we can see some of the smaller islands such as Eorsa and Inch Kenneth, as well as remote islands like Gometra and Erraid.

On my last trip to the Treshnish Isles, I was unable to visit Lunga (the main island of the group) and had to visit one of the smaller islands (think it was Fladda), so as not to upset the wildlife. Again, seeing these islands from the sea should be a magical experience. Hopefully it will be around the time that the Puffins are there, as they can usually be seen from mid April until early August.


Scottish Island Cruising - St Hilda Sea Adventures. In the Mist

Scottish Island Cruising – St Hilda Sea Adventures. In the Mist


Having never been on a cruise before it is difficult to know what to expect. I have been assured that a cruising holiday on board the St Hilda is fun and informal. The deck saloon is where everyone dines and socialises and the outdoor decks are where I shall be looking out for wildlife and relaxing.  I have been told to look out for Dolphins, porpoises, basking sharks, otters, red squirrels,many species of birds and even the occasional Minke whale. There is a boat tender that takes passengers ashore, which will help to navigate in those hard to reach places that are inaccesible by land. It can even be used to get close to any nearby wildlife.

As well as the cruise around Mull, Iona and Staffa (known as the Mull Odyssey), St Hilda Sea Adventures also offer the following cruises:

  • Isles of the Clyde Explorer: Sailing & Wildlife – departing Holy Loch Marina
  • Sea Lochs of Argyll and the Crinan Canal – departing Holy Loch Marina
  • Malt Whisky and Wildlife Cruise 8-night, departing Tobermory
  • The Sounds of the Hebrides: Mull, Luing, Shuna & Jura – departing Tobermory
  • St Hilda to St Kilda: an Outer Hebridean Cruise – departing Tobermory
  • St Hilda for Skye and the Small Isles – departing Tobermory
  • The Mull Experience: Dinner, Bed and Breakfast Afloat – departing Tobermory


Scottish Island Cruising - St Hilda Sea Adventures

Scottish Island Cruising – St Hilda Sea Adventures


I will be writing about the experience and will also be updating my social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter and Google +) on a regular basis with details of the cruise and images (and possibly video) taken from around the islands

Some of the places that I will be visiting around the Isle of Mull are as follows:

  • Tobermory
  • Loch Tuath
  • Isle of Staffa
  • Isle of Iona
  • Loch Spelve
  • Loch Aline

Zoom in on the map below to see the exact locations of each of the places above.




The main thing I am looking forward to is being able to recharge my batteries and relax. And nowhere do I relax more than around the scottish islands. I can’t wait …

For more information on other Hebridean cruises please contact the St Hilda team:
Mobile: 07745550988






Mainland Orkney - countryside

Blogs about the Scottish Islands

There are many blogs about the scottish islands.  Whether the blog is about the islands in general or a specific island, there are some excellent blogs worth reading about.  The blogs I have included below are updated on a regular basis. I have tried to highlight mainly personal blogs rather than blogs that are there to promote a business.

Many of the blogs are from people who have moved to a scottish island and are detailing their experiences through blogging.  I think these are especially useful if you are thinking about moving to a scottish island, as the blogs deal with the highs and lows of living on a scottish island.  Here are a selection of my favourites:



Visit Scotland Blog – news, views and comments about scotland and the islands

Cal Mac Blog – some excellent articles and information about the islands and up to date information about new routes and timetables etc

The Hebridean Explorer Travel and Tour Blog about the Highlands of Scotland and the Hebridean Islands



Orkney Living – a blog about moving to and living in Orkney

Graham Brown Orkney – Thoughts from a northern place.  Blog from Englishman Graham Brown about his new life in Orkney

Life on a small island – a fascinating insight into life on the small orkney island of Graemsay.

Orkney Archive – An Orkney collection of photographs, books and documents dating from the 15th century to the present.


Blogs about the scottish islands - Mainland Orkney countryside

Mainland Orkney – countryside



Life in the Isles – Blog from with interesting stories from around Shetland

Shetland Dream – A professional photographer, lecturer, trainer, writer and lover of wildlife and all things Shetland

Robbie’s Northern Exposures – Wildlife, Images and Blog from 60 degrees North and the Island of Unst

Moder-dye – blog posts and excellent photos from remote place in Shetland by Kevin Serginson

Fair isle Blogspot – this is the blog from Tommy Hyndman who was in the TV series ‘Ben Fogle: New Lives in the Wild – UK.  Tommy is featured in Season 1, episode 5.  His blog is about his life on the remotest island in the UK – Fair Isle.



Island Crofters – On the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, lies a croft inhabited by an English off-comer. Island Crofters is a photographic record of daily life on the croft.

Photo Hebrides – day by day, a story of the Hebrides and other scottish islands and occasional other little places, in tiny square photographs by Donnie Mackay


Halaman Bay - Isle of Barra

Halaman Bay – Isle of Barra



The New Girl – Notes and thoughts on an Escape to the Isle of Skye by artist Katie Tunn

Hebridean Isles Blogspot (Island at the edge) – following the Hebridean Isles trading company and their personal blog about living on the Isle of Skye.



Scottish island Mum is a lifestyle website and blog based on Fiona Doubleday’s experiences of living on the Isle of Arran

Treshnish Farm – blog with photographs and snippets of life on the farm, located on the Isle of Mull

Islay Blog – this is a blog from Armin Grewe.  Armin blogs about anything Islay related

The Iona Blog – entitled ‘Iona through the eyes of a traveller’, this is a blog about the beautiful island of Iona.

– this is an excellent blog by Eva and Sebastian Tombs about their life on the Isle of Lismore.  I interviewed Eva for an article called ‘Lismore – moving to a scottish island a couple of years ago.


A few years ago there was an excellent BBC resource for islanders to blog aboiut their lives on the islands called ‘Island Blogging’.  This has since been wound down and archived but there is an excellent article and snippets from some of the best posts within the article entitled ‘When Scottish Islands blogged’.  Some of the posts are hilarious!

Also, Shetland seems to be a hotbed for personal Blogs.  There is a very good article entitled ’10 Shetland Blogs to Read’ that details these blogs. It is definitely worth a read.

The list above is my own personal opinion of interesting blogs about the scottish islands.  If anyone would like me to include them in this ist or has a particular favourite that I have missed out, please let me know and I will be happy to include it within this post.




Rothesay - Isle of Bute

Scottish islands news – weekly round up 17/01/06

Scottish islands news – weekly round up 17/01/16



The first of this weeks scottish islands news articles is about how writer Amy Liptrott has decided to leave her life in London and move back to Orkney to take care of her parents Sheep Farm. The bright lights of the city can be incredibly alluring, but often this is dwarfed by the pull of ‘home’.

Amy Liptrot interview: How the writer drowned in London – and rescued herself on the shores of Orkney

As Amy Liptrot prepared to take the decision to leave her life in London, in order to return to her parents’ sheep farm on Orkney (the island on which she was born and that she had longed, for years, to escape), she found herself faced with a journey that had the potential to mark the beginning, or the end, of everything.  Read the rest of the post here …

Ring of Brodgar - mainland Orkney

Ring of Brodgar – mainland Orkney



This is an interesting story about a message in a bottle that was found on Hosta Beach on the Outer Hebridean island of North Uist.  The message is dated Monday July 23, 2001 or 2007 and reads “This was sent over at Jackson’s Arm, Newfoundland”.  There is now a facebook campaign to try and find whoever threw it into the ocean. 

Message in a bottle from Newfoundland found on Scotland beach

From Jackson’s Arm, Newfoundland to Scotland is a long way to float, but a message in a bottle is believed to have done just that. Jason Tolmie found the plastic pop bottle washed up on Hosta Beach in Scotland nearly a year ago and has recently taken to social media to help find the person who sent it out to sea. Jason Tolmie found the message that came from Jackson’s Arm in a bottle, on a beach in Scotland. Read the rest of the post here …

Message in a bottle

Message in a bottle



I actually met and interviewed Andy Strangeway about 3 or 4 years ago.  He is a really down to earth bloke and was happy to talk to me about his love of Scottish islands.  Although there was a bit of media coverage at the time, I don’t think the record that he has will be equalled (or beaten) for a very long time.  Andy is now a campaigner as well as an an adventurer and you can follow him through his website. My article about Andy is called Island Man.

Scotch on the rocks: Andy the adventurer has whisky galore named after him

Andy Strangeway, 50, earned the nickname of ‘Island Man’ after he took on the challenge between 2003 and 2007. In recognition of his achievement, the Fox Fitzgerald Whisky Trading Company has decided to name its new cask range after him, calling it ‘Strangeways’. I don’t know any other product I would rather be associated with than malt whisky.” On the tubes that the bottles are presented in, the company wrote: “Our inspiration for our collection came from Andy Strangeway the first man to reach and stay on all of Scotland’s 162 remote islands.  Read the rest of the post here …

Andy Strangeway

Andy Strangeway



After visiting Vikingar, the ‘Viking experience’, in the coastal town of Largs on the west coast, I have always had a fascination for Viking Longboats.  The first port of call for the Longboat will be to Lerwick in Shetland.  I can imagine that it will be a an amazing sight when she rolls into view at Lerwick Harbour.

Shetland braced for “invasion” by world’s largest Viking longboat

Norwegian history buffs have spent the past six years lovingly crafting the 115ft “Draken Harald Hårfagre” – the largest Viking longboat ever built in modern times. Now her owners have decided to give their creation the ultimate test – an 1,800 mile transatlantic voyage tracing the route taken viking explorers to discover the New World. Expedition organisers are currently recruiting a team of 32 “volunteer Vikings” to man the ship for the mammoth trip – which will see the sailors working round the clock on the open sea. Read the rest of the post here …

Viking Longboat

Viking Longboat



Although the re-housing of Syrian refugees is often in the news, it had never occured to me that they may be moved to a scottish island. This article gives the islanders views on both sides of the argument.

From Syria to Scotland’s migrant island

The tourists are no longer coming in great numbers, but the Syrian refugees are: 15 families have fled the Middle Eastern country and made their way to the town on the Isle of Bute, off the west coast of Scotland. The council advised the new arrivals not to talk to the media as they try to acclimate to their new, much colder, surroundings. Within 10 minutes of getting off the ferry, I saw a refugee couple out for a walk with their young child in a stroller. What made them stand out was their youth, not their ethnicity. Read the rest of the post here …





Lerwick Harbour, Shetland

Scottish islands – weekly round up 10/01/16

Scottish islands – weekly round up 10/01/16



The first of this weeks articles is about the tiny island of Easdale, about 10 miles from Oban.  I have visited the island about 8 or 9 times and it is my wife’s favourite island.  Therefore, I was interested to read this article on the opportunity to move and live on the island.

The tiny Scottish island that wants you to call it home

From tiny Easdale, a charming slate island lying just off the west coast of Scotland, comes a beguiling offer to put down roots. Fewer than 70 souls dwell on this rocky outcrop separated from mainland Argyll by a few hundred metres of water, and they … click to read the story

Isle of Easdale

Isle of Easdale



There are many ‘Best of’ polls at the end of the year.  One of these is usually about which is the best place to live in the UK.  There was a similar one during the summer, where Orkney and Shetland came top (or close to the top).  Having visited both, I can understand why. 

Orkney Islands once again voted the best place to live in Scotland

Orkney has been declared the best place to live in Scotland for the third year running, according to a Bank of Scotland poll. The Scottish archipelago of 70 islands was commended for the high life expectancy of islanders, high employment, low crime and – click to read the story

Old man of Hoy - Orkney islands

Old man of Hoy – Orkney islands



It is amazing to think that you could own a flat in one of the most scenic parts of the country for the price of half a garage in London.  Although I have not visited Muckle Flugga (yet), I have seen it from the Hermaness Nature Reserve in the extreme north of the isle of Unst.  I think it would be a spectacular place to live.

Now THAT’S getting away from it all: Own the ultimate retreat on Britain’s most northerly inhabited island for £85,000

The station was the home of the island’s lighthouse keepers until it was sold off in 1991, when it was divided into four flats, one of which acts as the base for Scottish Natural Heritage’s warden for the Hermaness Nature Reserve and a small visitor centre. click to read the story

Flat in Muckle Flugga Shore Station on the island of Unst



Last year, I visited all four of the Small Isles during a weeks holiday.  I had previously visited Eigg and Rum, which are the two most accessible Small Isles.  On the tour, I finally visited the Isles of Muck and Canna and in my opinion they are two of the most picturesque scottish islands and well worth further exploration.  This article gives a short history of the Small Isles.

Small Isles of Scotland: A short history of Rum, Muck, Canna and Eigg

Muck is the smallest of four main islands in the Small Isles and part of the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. Although boasting some of the most beautiful beaches Scotland has to offer, Muck can also take a real battering from gales blowing in from the Atlantic. click to read the story


The Craft Shop and Restaurant - Isle of Muck

The Craft Shop and Restaurant – Isle of Muck



I have really enjoyed the first 2 seasons of Shetland.  Whether you like the plots or not, the real star of the show are the Shetland islands themselves.  I remember watching the 2 episodes that were based on Fair Isle in the last season and it made me vividly remember my last visit there.  Shetland is a magical place and even if you only watch the programme for the scenery, you won’t be disappointed.

Actor Douglas Henshall returns for a third series of BBC Shetland

He admits that when he returned to Shetland after the first series, he was nervous about how the show had gone down on the remote Scottish islands, which form the backdrop to the drama. Author Ann, 61, says, “After the very first episode went out, the Promote Shetland website crashed because so many people wanted to book accommodation on the islands.” So what can we expect from the third series? The difference this time is that Jimmy is investigating a single crime over all six episodes. click to read the story

actor-Douglas-Henshall-third-series-BBC-Shetland-James-Rampton-632397.jpg image from