Islands. There are plenty of them around the world. But what makes an island special? What makes one particular island stand out above all the others. How can they become one of the special islands?
How about history?
Some islands have a fascinating history such as Hoy. The island was instrumental in hindering the German High Seas Fleet which was scuttled in Scapa Flow in 1919. Also, Lyness became the Navy’s base in World War Two and Scapa Flow Museum outlines the role Hoy had in both World Wars. Read my Blog post on visiting Scapa Flow and the rest of Hoy – Old Man on Hoy.
What about beaches?
Harris has some of the most spectacular beaches this side of the Caribbean. The fine, white sand is like a magnet that draws you in to explore the picturesque landscape further. Possibly the most stunning beach is the one at Huisinish, which is at the end of a 15-mile, single-track road on the mountainous north coast of Harris. This beach was recently voted one of the best beaches in Britain.
Did you know that the Royal family often holiday around the Scottish islands? Prince Charles has holidayed several times on Berneray and as recently as 2010, the Queen and other members of the Royal family chartered the Hebridean Princess Cruise Ship for a private holiday around the Hebrides.
Iona is known as the ‘Cradle of Christianity’ after St Columba sailed to Iona from Ireland in AD563 and set up a monastery which became a missionary base from which Christianity spread throughout Scotland and northern Britain. Many of the kings of Scotland, Ireland, and even the Vikings, are buried there. Some of the most famous Kings of Alba, from Kenneth MacAlpine to MacBeth, made their final journey – across the sound to Iona, onto the harbour and up the Street of the Dead to the burial ground, the Relig Oran.
Whalsay is one of Shetland‘s most prosperous small islands owing to its thriving fishing industry, which helps support a population of around 1,000. In Symbister harbour you can see an impressive fleet of fishing vessels, owned by their crews. In the 17th century German merchants came over to Whalsay each year to buy dried fish and ship it back Bremen and Hamburg.
After decades of problems with absentee landlords in the 20th century, Eigg was bought in 1997 by the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust. This in turn ushered in land reform in Scotland, giving islanders control of their future for the first time. Among other achievements, Eigg has the first completely wind, water and sun-powered electricity grid in the world.
The St Kilda archipelago is located 64 kilometres (40 miles) from the nearest land and was evacuated in 1930. St Kilda is the ultimate Scottish island to visit and many people who have visited, say it is a life-changing experience. It is possible to visit St Kilda on various cruise ships and also on day trips from Harris.
Mull has a variety of habitats & is the premier place in the UK to see Britain’s largest bird of prey, the White-tailed Eagle or Sea Eagle, Golden Eagles & Hen Harriers. It is also possible to see Red Deer, Otters, Grey and Common Seal, Dolphins, Porpoise. Hares, Highland Cattle and Hebridean Sheep.
Finally (and for some people the most important) the weather. Known as the ‘Sunshine Island’, Tiree enjoys an agreeable climate and warm coastal waters due to the Gulf Stream. Tiree has some of the highest levels of sunshine recorded anywhere in the UK.
So, in conclusion, I am sure there are other islands throughout the world that are worth visiting, but you’d probably have an expensive flight to get there and maybe even have to receive an injection to make sure you don’t come back with some ill-gotten tropical disease. Why put yourself through this, when literally on your doorstep, you have access to islands that have a fascinating history, beautiful beaches, Royal connections, spirituality, prosperity, remoteness, amazing wildlife and great weather.
What are you waiting for …