Hebrides View slideshowRegions: Western Isles Area, Highland and Strathclyde Region.
More than 500 islands off the northwest coast of Scotland make up the Hebrides (2,812sq.mil/7,285sq.km in total) and about 80 of them are inhabited. The islands are broken up into those lying close to the mainland, the Inner Hebrides with Skye, Mull, Islay, Jura, Rhum, Eigg, Coll and Colonsay the biggest and best known, and the 130mi/210km long outer arc, known as the Outer Hebrides or Western Isles (Nah Eileanan Siar) with Lewis and Harris ("Long Island"), North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist and Barra as the main islands. The North Minch, Little Minch and Sea of the Hebrides separate the Inner and Outer Hebrides. The former islands are part of the Highland and Strathclyde regions, while the Outer Hebrides form the Western Isles region and are administered from Stornaway.The Hebrides are formed from Pre-Cambrian gneiss, metamorphic schist and volcanic rocks. Heathers and moorland predominate in the cool, windy, and wet climate. As well as cattle rearing and the cultivation of small plots of land, woolen products, such as tweeds, fishing and tourism provide the main employment opportunities for the islanders.
Communications (Ferry Links)
All the year round ferries ply between the Kyle of Lochalsh on the Scottish mainland and Kyleakin on Skye, but from the end of 1995 a bridge (toll payable) will cross the Kyle Akin from Kyleakin. Another ferry service to Skye sails between Mallaig and Armadale (Skye) and from there passenger boats cross to Eigg with connections to the smaller islands of Muck, Rhum and Canna. In the summer a ferry also links Mallaig and Kyleakin (Skye) and Glenelg and Kylerhea (Skye). Passenger boats run from Arisaig to Eigg and from Mallaig to Rhum and Canna. Iona can be reached by ferry from Fionnphort (Mull), Staffa by boat trips from Mull or Oban. Scalasaig (Colonsay) is also accessible from Oban. Car ferries operate between Kennacraig/Kintyre and Port Ellen and Port Askaig (Islay) with connections from Port Askaig to Feolin Ferry (Jura) and Scalasaig (Colonsay). Car ferries to the Outer Hebrides leave from Uig (Skye) for Tarbert (Harris) and Lochmaddy (Uist). In addition there are boats from Oban via Tobermory (Mull) to Castlebay (Barra), Lochboisdale (South Uist), to the island of Coll and Scarinish (Tiree). Ferries to Stornoway (Lewis) leave from Ullapool. Within the Outer Hebrides, services exist between Castlebay and Lochboisdale and between Lochmaddy and Tarbert.
Caledonian MacBrayne ferry tickets
Caledonian MacBrayne offer two flexible tickets for the Firth of Clyde and the Hebrides. The Island Hopscotch ticket, which is valid for three months from the date of the first journey, entitles you to economy fares for cars and accompanying passengers on 24 different Caledonian MacBrayne routes. The Island Rover ticket, valid for either eight or 15 consecutive days, is for unlimited travel on all Caledonian MacBrayne's ferry services except to Kilcreggan, Gigha, Lismore, Raasay, Scalpay and the Small Isles.
It is possible to fly to the Inner Hebrides islands of Skye, Islay, Coll and Tiree, and Lewis, Benbecula and Barra on the Outer Hebrides. The runway at Barra is the beach at Tràigh Mhór so planes can only land and take off at low tide.
Isle of Skye
Isle of Skye, famous for its breathtaking scenery, picturesque mountains and beautiful beaches, is a popular tourist attraction. The Island is home to a diversity of bird-life including eagles and geese.
Isle of Mull
Dervaig's Little Theatre
An old cow shed near Dervaig is home to Britain's smallest theater (43 seats). There are performances throughout the year.
The main road on the island of Mull (A848, A849) follows the Sound of Mull from Tobermory to Craignure in the southeast.
The early Victorian Torosay Castle was designed in 1858 by David Bryce. The interior is Edwardian in style while the beautiful terraced garden, laid out by Sir John Lorimer, is decorated with Italian marble statues, rhododendron and eucalyptus trees.There is also informal woodland and a water garden.
Duart Castle stands in a prominent position on the eastern tip of Duart Bay. Dating from the 13th century, this seat of the MacLean family was left to decay in the 17th century. Restoration took place in 1911 under Sir Fitzroy MacLean. The keep (ca. 1360) houses an exhibition on the history of the clan.Views from the Sea Room and the battlements are among the best on Scotland's west coast.
Gruline - Macquarie Mausoleum
The Macquarie Mausoleum on the Isle of Mull is on the Gruline Estate. Lachlan Macquarie, who was born nearby at Ulva Ferry in 1761, died in 1824 after distinguished service as Governor of New South Wales and was known as 'the father of Australia'. The property is managed by the National Trust of Scotland.
Volcanic eruptions many millions of years ago formed the distinctive stepped outline of the peninsula. A 5mi/8km long footpath, in parts rather treacherous, runs alongside Loch Scridain to MacCulloch's Fossil Tree, that was encased in lava about 50 million years ago.
The vast Fingal's Cave is certainly the highlight of an excursion to Staffa. Discovered by the explorer Sir Joseph Banks in 1772, this geological marvel extends for 227ft/69m. It resembles a cathedral with bizarre basalt pillars and vast ribbed columns in magnificent colors. The name derives from Fingal, the mythical Celtic figure and the father of Ossian who was popularized by James MacPherson of Kingussie in his epic poem. Its Celtic name is "An Uaimh Binn" meaning "musical cave", a reference to the droning echo of the waves that crash against the dark cavern walls. This dramatic scene has inspired poets, painters and composers with William Wordsworth, Lord Tennyson, Sir Walter Scott, William Blake, Herder and Brahms among the most celebrated artists to come under its spell. Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy visited Staffa in August 1829 and went on to write his Hebrides Overture. Three years later William Turner was moved to express the clash of the elements on canvas.
Coll and Tiree
Dating from the ninth or 10th centuries the Kildalton Cross 2mi/3km northeast of Port Ellen is one of the best preserved crosses in Scotland.
Islay Island's main town is Bowmore (pop. 800). Its most interesting feature is the Kilarrow parish church built in 1769 by Thomas Spalding. The Campbells of Shawfield commissioned it as part of a planned settlement and it is the only round church from this period. According to legend the round walls prevented the devil from hiding away in a corner.
At low tide it is possible to walk across to Oronsay in about two hours. On the island look out for the ruins of a 14th century priory with an unusual 16th century cross and the finds from a Viking grave in which a man was buried in his boat with his horse beside him.
At Stillhouse there is a magnificent view over the Sound of Islay to Jura.
Some 30mi/48km long and 7mi/11.2km wide, the island of Jura is almost treeless and has until recently attracted few tourists. The word "Jura" means "stag island" a reference to the large red deer population. Jura's highest point on the island is the double peak known as "The Paps" (a vulgar Scottish word meaning "breasts"; 2,571ft/784m). The best place to start an ascent of The Paps is from Feolin where the ferry arrives. In Barnhill at the north end of the island Eric Blair, alias George Orwell, wrote "1984", his satire of a totalitarian state (published in 1949).
A narrow channel separates the two Hebridean islands of Colonsay and Oronsay, which were named after St Columba and St Oran. Wildlife on Colonsay includes otters, seals and sea birds.
At Kiloran Gardens rhododendrons, mimosas, eucalyptus and magnolia thrive in the mild climate.
Isle of Skye - Small Southern Islands
Eigg, Muck, Rhum and Canna form a little group of islands to the south of Skye but few people live there today.
Canna (Volcanic Island)
The small volcanic island of Canna probably ranks as the prettiest out of the small islands south of Skye. Compass Hill in the northeast was regarded with suspicion by mariners as the high iron content in the rock distorted compass readings and ships unwittingly took a wrong course.
Rhum - Kinloch Castle
A geological curiosity is the main attraction on Eigg: the Scuir or Sgurr consists of pitchstone pillars which soar 1,300ft/400m out of the solid rock.
Outer Western Isles
The Outer Western Isles of the Hebrides are mainly barren, rugged islands. These are a mix of moorland and large white sand beaches which primarily draw tourists with an interest in nature.
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