Walking holidays in the UK


Walking the Inner Hebrides

Islands, malts and wild walking

Taylor St. John
By Taylor St. John

When looking at a map of Scotland, it can be hard to distinguish peninsulas from islands on the wonderfully convoluted west coast.

The Inner Hebrides are nestled snug between the Western Isles (see below) and the mainland and are made up primarily of Skye in the north; Coll, Tiree and the Small Isles; Islay, Jura and Colonsay to the south, and Mull at their heart. Just a hop over the Kintyre Peninsula are the Clyde Islands of Arran, Bute and a smattering of smaller islands, connected by ferry services to Glasgow across the Firth of Clyde.

This is classic Scotland of islands, single malts and wild walking.

UK Scotland Skye Old Man of Storr

The classic view of Old Man of Storr, on the Isle of Skye


On Skye, drive past the entrance to Dunvegan Castle until you reach the end of the road at Claigan, from where you can walk out along a stretch of white sand at Coral Beach. Take a boat trip from Mull to Staffa and wonder at the basalt pillars of Fingal’s Cave. On Islay and Jura, taste the renowned single malts for which the islands are world-famous. Soak in the rays on Tiree, surprisingly one of the sunniest places in Britain.

In the Firth of Clyde, the Isle of Arran is sometimes referred to as “Scotland in miniature”, with the highland boundary fault creating dramatic mountains to the north and rolling hills and farmland to the south. The peak that dominates the skyline at 2,866 feet, Goatfell, makes for an excellent day hike that (just about) fits between ferry services if you plan in advance and walk quickly!

Need to know

The largest of the Inner Hebrides, the Isle of Skye, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Scotland. The other islands have followed suit, and it’s best to book well in advance, especially if you plan to visit in the peak month of May.

Caledonian MacBrayne (www.calmac.co.uk) runs ferries from Oban, Mallaig and Kennacraig to most islands in the Inner Hebrides. The operator also connects Bute (from Wemyss Bay), Cumbrae (from Largs) and Arran (from Ardrossan). Skye can also be accessed via road bridge at Kyle of Lochalsh. If you prefer to fly, Loganair services Islay and Tiree. It’s easiest to get around with a car on the large islands like Mull and Skye, though public transport is available. Portree and Tobermory, both colourful harbour towns and hubs of tourist activity on their respective islands, provide a good home base for a centre-based walking holiday.

Where to walk in the Inner Hebrides

Being an island chain, there are fewer waymarked long distance paths here, with the notable exception of the Arran Coastal Way (66 miles) and the Kintyre Way (100 miles). Specialist walking companies have developed their own offerings which typically consist of multi-centre trips with day hikes in each location. They will devise an itinerary to suit your preferences and arrange your accommodation, ferry tickets and other logistics.

There are countless day walks on the footpaths that criss-cross the Inner Hebrides and Clyde Islands. Just get yourself an Ordnance Survey map and head out! A smattering of suggested walks include the 7km Quiraing loop is a moderate-to-difficult walk on Skye that follows the Trotternish Ridge and offers some of the best views in the west of Scotland. On Mull, the 11km Treshnish coastal walk follows suit, passing a hidden whisky cave and featuring an abundance of wildlife in the sea below and sky above. Christianity and the Gaelic culture came to Scotland by way of Iona—where St Columba first landed. Walk past the Abbey, keeping your eyes peeled for the elusive Corncrake, and to the top of Dun I, at 101 metres, the highest point on the small island.

About the author

Walking the Inner Hebrides

Taylor St. John

Taylor is a freelance travel journalist based between Glasgow and the east coast of the U.S. She writes for publications like HuffPost UK, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Country Walking, easyJet Traveller and Orkney.com.

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