the-skye-bridgeClose to the west coast of Scotland, the Inner Hebrides include Skye, Mull Jura and Islay, along with a number of smaller islands. They present an ideal opportunity for exploration by island hopping, in order to experience a whole range of things to see and do.

Across these island, there is a good range of self-catering, holiday cottage accommodation to choose from, but you don’t need to be restricted by where you base yourself. The best thing to do is to get out and about, exploring the islands.

Exploring on Skye

At the northern end of the Inner Hebrides, Skye is the largest of the islands. It has miles of coastline, mountain ranges and towns and villages bursting with character.

It’s an ideal destination if you want to pull on your walking boots and really get involved in exploring the landscape. While you wouldn’t necessarily come to Skye for a traditional beach holiday, it does have beautiful beaches, such as Claigan Coral beach, actually made of algae fossilised and bleached by the sun. Nearby is the island of Lampay, which you can cross the bay to in low tide. Also close by is the historic Dunvegan Castle, which is well worth a visit to see both the interior with its highland artefacts and treasures, and its beautifully tended, formal gardens.

By way of contrast, the Cuillin is a rocky mountain range that is the dominating feature on Skye, approachable by boat or on foot. You can walk the popular Glen Sligachan route, which runs between the granite Red Hills and the Cuillin to the west.

If you want to experience wild swimming, or just take in some natural beauty, you must visit the Fairy Pools on the island, at the foot of the Black Cuillins. On the River Brittle, these are beautifully clear, tranquil blue pools.

Tobermory and Mull

On the island of Mull, Tobermory is the main town, originally built as a fishing port in the late 18th century. This charming location has a good collection of independent artisan shops, pubs and eateries.

Mull is also hugely important for wildlife. Its woodland is home to a variety of Warblers and Songbirds in the summer months, while pine forests to the north of the island are where you may find the Crossbill, a bright red, parrot-like bird, whose rareness makes spotting it all the more rewarding.

The island is also the best place in the UK to see eagles, including the Golden Eagle and the White Tailed Sea Eagle.

Other wildlife on Mull includes otters, whales and dolphins – all of which you can arrange guided tours to see in their natural habitat.

Islay and Jura Distilled

Islay and Jura are walkers’ paradises, as well as being centres of notable whisky distilleries. Jura has over 5,000 deer, while Islay is home to the RSPB Loch Gruinart reserve, where you can observe a wide variety of bird species.

On Islay there is an annual Festival of Malt and Music held every May, and you take guided tours at its various distilleries at Port Ellen, Bowmore and Port Askaig throughout the year.

Jura is really quite an untamed location, but this long, narrow island is worth a visit to experience its wildness and natural beauty. It has its own distillery, producing whisky with a distinct, smoky flavour, which you can visit by appointment.

The Inner Hebrides offer plenty of choice when it comes to scenery, activities and accommodation, and a real opportunity to experience a different kind of Scotland.