West of Scotland, a group of islands defies the storms of the Atlantic: the Hebrides are among the most pristine and remote landscapes in Europe. In the very west lie the Outer Hebrides, which – despite their size – are almost uninhabited. On Lewis and Harris, eight residents share a square kilometer. Their main source of income is catching fish and crabs or breeding sheep. The landscape is characterized by grassy hills and peat bogs. Long sandy beaches invite to endless walks. The more varied Inner Hebrides resemble the scenery of the neighboring Highlands. Despite their extreme remoteness, they look back on a venerable history. Iona, one of the smallest islands, with its monastery is considered the cradle of Celtic Christianity.
Monument built on spectacular cliffs
The Oa Peninsula in the western part of the Isle of Islay was heavily populated during the 19th century. Yet the villages were eventually forced to make way for sheep, which triggered a wave of emigration to America. Today, Oa is mainly populated by birds. The American Monument stands at a spectacular location on the cliffs and serves as a memorial to the American soldiers who lost their lives during a U-boat attack in 1918. A footpath will lead you from the parking lot to the memorial.
Get away from it all
Colonsay (Scottish Gaelic: Colbhasa) is one of the Inner Hebrides. Although the small island has been inhabited for 7000 years, today less than one hundred people live close to the ferry port Scalasaig, each and every one of them being exceptionally friendly. Tourists looking for shops and night life, should go somewhere else. For walkers, cyclists, botanists and photographers, however, the island is a small paradise at the end of the world.
Pristine coves, reefs and sandy beaches
The Islay and Jura islands in southwest Scotland are only divided by a narrow sound and almost appear to be a single mass of land. The Irish coast is only about 25 miles away and is visible on a clear day. Known as the “Queen of the Hebrides”, the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides has largely remained free of mass tourism. As a result, visitors can still find plenty of quiet coves and beaches. Interesting sites include two castle ruins and several distinguished whiskey distilleries.
Seashells, seals, waterfowl
Uist ist the southernmost island of the Outer Hebrides and its landscape is amazingly versatile. More than 30 kilometers of sandy beaches stretch along the west coast where attentive beach walkers can find shells and a rich marine life while being observed by seals from the water. During spring the flower-covered hills are colorful and in autumn, when the heather blooms, they turn purple. The island is interesting especially for ornithologists. Of the 286 different species some are threatened with extinction elsewhere. The trail of Ben Mor, with 620 meters the highest mountain on the island, is one of the so-called Scotland's Top Ten Wild Walks.