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Hebrides Attractions

Regions: Western Isles Area, Highland and Strathclyde Region.

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.

Air Service

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

Basalt columns on the Ilse of Mull.
The largely treeless island of Mull (pop. 2,400) is the third-biggest of the Hebridean islands. As a holiday destination it offers impressive scenery, footpaths for walkers and sport and leisure facilities including golf, pony trekking and water sports. The south and east of the island are mountainous with peaks of 3,000ft/915m. On the other hand the hills in the north are lower and the vegetation and wildlife are similar to those found on Skye.

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.

Tobermory

The waterfront of Tobermory.
Tobermory (pop. 650) is the main town on the Isle of Mull. Colorful houses overlook the ferry terminal and fishing harbor in this busy tourist center. The settlement was founded in 1788 and its name derives from "Mary's spring" near the chapel ruins to the west of the town. In 1588 the "Florencia" a fully-laden ship belonging to the Spanish Armada sank off the coast, but only a few coins have been found from the treasure that was thought to have been on board.

Craignure

The main road on the island of Mull (A848, A849) follows the Sound of Mull from Tobermory to Craignure in the southeast.

Torosay Castle

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

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.

Carsaig Arches

Cliff walls along the sea near Carsaig.
The scenery along the southern coast of Mull to the west of Carsaig is particularly impressive. At low tide a footpath about 3mi/4.8km long leads to the huge arches and tunnels known as Carsaig Arches which have been forged out of the black basalt by the waves. Nuns are said to have used the caves as hide-outs during the Reformation.

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.

The Burg

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.

Iona

Staffa

The cliffs on Staffa Island.
The tiny island of Staffa (6mi/9.6km northeast of Iona) now belongs to the National Trust for Scotland. It can only be reached from Mull or Iona when the weather is fine. This uninhabited island is famed for its unusual black basalt rock formations which were formed by a huge volcanic eruption during the Tertiary Era about 70 million years ago. Theodor Fontane a German writer who visited the island in 1860 described Staffa thus: "When the god Vulcan's work was done and he had brought the tens and hundreds of thousands of basalt columns into the world, Staffa stood there like a tightly-bound bundle of stone pine trees, but the ocean, that has reigned with absolute power and washed these parts from the beginning of time, was angered by the new arrival from the underworld and began to exercise its superior might. Whole pieces and halves were torn down and washed away, and so emerged, depending on the extent and nature of the destruction, the embankments and cave formations which are peculiar to this island".

Fingal's Cave

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

An abandoned house on the Isle of Tiree.
On the treeless islands of Coll and Tiree, accessible by plane or by car ferry from Tobermory (Mull), Gaelic is the principal language of the inhabitants. The breakers that roll in from the Atlantic attract surfers who often have the broad sandy beaches to themselves.

Islay

An old cemetery on the Isle of Islay.
The islands of Islay and Jura formed from schist and Torridon sandstone are separated by the 0.5mi/0.8km wide Sound of Islay (car ferry) and often seem like one island. They can be reached from Oban via the island of Colonsay or, more quickly and more easily, from West Tarbert on the Kintyre peninsula
Islay (pop. 4,000) lies at the southern end of the Inner Hebrides and is characterized by unspoiled scenery, picturesque rocky reefs, bays and sandy beaches. Historic monuments include a number of Celtic crosses and two abandoned castles - Finlaggan Castle the former seat of the "Lord of the Isles" near Port Askaig in the north and Dunyvaig Castle on the coast near Ardbeg in the south. Bathing and angling are popular pursuits with visitors and the Machrie golf course near Port Ellen is used for tournaments.

Kildalton Cross

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.

Bowmore

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.

Oronsay

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.

Stillhouse

At Stillhouse there is a magnificent view over the Sound of Islay to Jura.

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).

Colonsay

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.

Kiloran Gardens

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

Kinloch Castle at Rhum.
In view of the island's range of rare fauna such as red deer, Manx shearwaters and sea eagles, Rhum was declared a protected area by UNESCO in the 1980s. Kinloch Castle is a grand hotel that was built at the turn of the century for Sir George Bullough.

Eigg

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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