Off the Beaten Track
One of the big things that I have learned from travelling around the Scottish islands and especially the remote Scottish islands, is to always try to go ‘off the beaten track’. Some of my favourite places have been found purely by accident – which can feel exhilarating, especially when you are on your own and you have the whole place to yourself! It is great to visit the places that each island is famous for, but there are also places that are quieter, that can offer solitude and respite from the rigours of today’s speed-obsessed world.
A few examples of places that are off the beaten track, that I would recommend visiting are:
Loch Skipport – South Uist, Outer Hebrides
Lochbuie – Isle of Mull, Inner Hebrides
Blackmill Bay – Isle of Luing, Inner Hebrides
Tresta – Fetlar, Shetland Islands
Savaskaill Bay – Rousay, Orkney Islands
Elgol – Isle of Skye
Loch Skipport – Isle of South Uist
Towards the north east of South Uist on the way to Benbecula is stunning Loch Skipport. It is about 5 miles of single track road off the main road between South Uist and Benbecula. As you reach Loch Skipport, there is a steep descent, so it is advisable to leave your car at the parking place above. The view opens up as you walk down to the old pier and it is here that the royal family use to alight when visiting the Hebrides.
Lochbuie – Isle of Mull
Lochbuie is reached by a twisty single track road, just off the main road between Craignure and the Isle of Iona. On the way to Lochbuie, there are fantastic views of Loch Spelve, as well as Ben More and there is even a Circle of Standing Stones. All this is before you even get to Lochbuie! Once there, the road ends and there are a few artists and craft shops to browse through, whilst taking in the magnificent views.
Blackmill Bay – Isle of Luing
This was the most recent example of finding a fantastic place that is not really mentioned in the guide books, but is well worth the effort to get there. Blackmilll Bay is in the south west of the Isle off Luing. The single track road takes most tourists down to Toberonochy to see the harbour and white-washed cottages (which to be fair is very picturesque). However, if you turn right, rather than continue to Toberonochy, you will be rewarded with fantastic views over to the Isle of Scarba and beyond.
Tresta – Isle of Fetlar
Tresta is located just off the main single track road on Fetlar, towards the south west of the island. The beach at Tresta is one of only 4 in Shetland to have received a ‘Seaside Award’ every year since 2008. Just behind the beach is Papil Water, a fresh water loch which is used for seasonal trout fishing. The Fetlar Foy takes place at midsummer on the Links at Tresta, where islanders and tourists are entertained with music, food and drink.
Savaskaill Bay – Isle of Rousay
Located around the north east of the island, Savaskaill Bay is a lovely spot on the Isle of Rousay, where it is possible to see Otters and Seals. Rousay is known as ‘the Egypt of the North’ because of the important archaeolgical sites arond the southern section of the island. However, if you venture to the remoter northern coast, you will be rewarded with fantastic views over to Westray and also looking back to the high cliffs, further east on the island.
Elgol – Isle of Skye
Elgol is the gateway to Loch Coruisk, which was voted one of the most picturesques places in the whole of the UK. It is also possible to visit the Small isles from here on a fast R.I.B. The village itself is a great place to stay if you are taking one of these trips. It is worth the long drive on the single track road to reach Elgol and there are great views the length of the road. and especially as you descend into the village.
One of the things that makes me return year after year to remote scottish islands is the prospect of finding another place like the ones mentioned above. They are special memories that will stay with you and make you long to go back.