7 Underrated Scottish Islands You Need to Visit Before Everyone Else Does

Scotland has more than its fair share of islands to visit but if you’ve ever been to Skye on a particularly busy August weekend like I did the first time I went, you’ll know that the remote Scottish ideal isn’t quite the reality for everyone!

But don’t fear because if you’re hoping for some remote wandering these underrated Scottish islands might be ones to add to your list. They’re not all easy to get to, some needing a couple of Scotland’s ferries, and sometimes there are no tourist attractions except the great outdoors to enjoy. But that’s half the fun right?

A note from the writer: Hey! I’m Kirsty and I’m a UK travel expert – while I grew up in Scotland, as an adult I now return to visit almost every year – there’s so much to see! Shout (or comment below) if you have any questions about your next trip and I’ll get back to you ASAP.

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Before the rest of the world wakes up to these remote Scottish islands get planning a trip:

boat trip from mull past iona
The Isle of Iona with it’s stunning Abbey

1. Iona

This small island off the coast of Mull is known for its connection to Christianity and the old Abbey ruins that lie on the island.

It’s only reached by ferry via the Isle of Mull and so this restricts who makes the journey to the island.

You’ll be able to walk all over the island where you can see pristine beaches, remains of the monks who lived on the island and some amazing wildlife too.

You can also do boat trips to the Isle of Staffa from Iona which is an iconic, but uninhabited island with amazing rock formations.

island of rum on Scotland's west coast
Looking over to the Isle of Rum – once off limits to tourists

2. Rum

Not that long ago the Isle of Rum was off limits to any tourists as it was part of a National Nature Reserve – nowadays it’s welcoming people to explore but the infrastructure there means that very few people add it to their itineraries.

It’s an absolute stunner for anyone who wants to hike and be at one with nature there – there’s a large population of deer on the island which makes it great to visit in the Autumn months.

As part of the small isles, it’s often overlooked by the more well set up Isle of Eigg but they are all so different so it’s well worth checking them all out if you can. A Small Isles ferry goes between them all and some clever planning could mean you could tick a few of them off!

telephone box in a remote part of Shetland
Remote Shetland – you can call home though!

3. Shetland

Shetland is the most northerly of Scotland’s islands and often has far more in common with Scandinavia than its actual country!

Since it’s so far from the mainland it’s not on the radar of many visitors and even less so from international guests. It’s easy to get to by plane and ferry but the time traveling there obviously eats into your vacation time.

For those willing to make the trip north you’ll be greeted by amazing wildlife, picturesque villages and interesting viking history!

Jura Island landscape
The Paps of Jura – one of the best islands for a bit of solitude

4. Jura

The Isle of Jura is a beautiful island that is as remote as it is stunning. While there is a passenger ferry from the mainland in summer, most people tack a visit to Jura on after a trip to the island of Islay (famous for its whisky!).

George Orwell, who came here to write ‘1984’, once said that Jura was the most un-gettable place!

Jura is a perfect place to come for solitude, walking and cycling and photography with so many places to enjoy once there. If you’re partial to whisky, and you might be if you’ve explore Islay beforehand, then there’s also another distillery there to discover as well.

isle of tiree
Beautiful beaches on Tiree

5. Tiree

While almost all of the islands in this article are great for stargazing, the Isle of Tiree has a designated Dark Sky area at Balevullin. The island has no street lamps and is sparsely populated which makes it ideal for seeing the night sky, checking for the aurora borealis (Northern Lights) and astrophotography.

Tiree is only a small island but has lots to offer from archaeological sites to some of the best wind surfing around.

And if you’re worrying about the weather in Scotland – Tiree is one of the sunniest places in the UK! A bit windy though!

airplane on beach at Barra Airport, a regional airport in Scotland
A unique arrival in Barra!

6. Barra

Located at the southern end of the Outer Hebrides Barra is a completely different island to some of the more mountainous examples around. It’s more rolling hills and moor than soaring peaks.

One of the most exciting things you can do is to arrive by plane because the airport runway is actually on the beach – a unique thing to do in Scotland!

The beaches here are some of the most stunning in Scotland with beautiful white sands and bright blue seas. You’ll likely have them to yourself too!

Another unique thing to do is to visit a castle in the sea – otherwise known as Kisimul Castle. It’s perched on a small rock and literally looks like it’s floating in the sea!

Calgary Bay Campsite on Mull
One of many stunning and quiet beaches on the Isle of Mull

7. Mull

Okay, the Isle of Mull is one of the biggest islands on the west coast and easy to get to but if you decide to go and explore it you’ll find that it’s got loads of remote areas to discover well away from any other tourists. Its size means you will definitely find solitude even in the busy summer months.

It’s known for its wildlife, stunning beaches with crystal clear waters and there’s even the town of Tobermory if you want to easily find civilisation again (and whisky!)

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🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Visiting Scotland FAQ 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

What are the best guidebooks for Scotland?

I really like the Lonely Planet Guidebooks

Where to get flights for Scotland

Skyscanner is my first port of call for finding cheap flights to Scotland.

Do I need a visa for Scotland?

Many countries don’t need a visa for visiting Scotland as tourists (USA, Canada, Aus, NZ and Europe) – it’s always best to check first though.

Do I need a car for visiting Scotland?

YES – If you’re wanting to explore Scotland fully then a car is worthwhile. It will get you to all the best sights and on your own timetable

I recommend DiscoverCars to compare car rental prices in Scotland

How to book accommodation in Scotland?

For hotels I recommend Booking.com

For apartments and cottages check out VRBO

Photo of author

Kirsty Bartholomew

Kirsty Bartholomew is a travel expert and has been getting lost around the world for over 30 years and writing about it for over 10 of those. She loves to help people explore her favourite places in Scotland, England and beyond. She cannot stay away from historical sites.

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