The Islands

The Inner Hebrides and the Isle of Arran - 
also the Outer Hebrides, Orkneys and Shetlands if I ever make it there...

If you're looking for the Aran Islands, rather than the Isle of Arran, they're in Ireland.
I've been there, too - you can see my pictures here!

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Eilean Musdile (Lismore) light house in the Sound of Mull

What little remains of the deserted village of Ardmore is mostly hidden in trees.

Bloody Bay on the northwest side of Mull

Ardmore point

Bloody Bay

Calgary on the west side of Mull - the city in Canada was named after this Calgary

Rush Hour on the Isle of Mull

Tobermory, the colorful capital of the Isle of Mull

Tobermory harbour

Tobermory, capital of the Isle of Mull
The ferry from Kilchoan lets out right on this waterfront road.

A path at Kilmore Hill leads to a spectacular overlook.

The Killmore Standing Stones now stand in a clearing in the forest near Dervaig. When they were raised during the Bronze Age (2100-750BCE) they would have been aligned toward sunrise at midwinter.

The view from Kilmore Hill toward Dervaig

The road from Tobermory to Dervaig

This fountain was something of a shocker when it was first dedicated.

Old Aros Bridge, near Salen

Fishing boat and gulls in Tobermory Harbour

The old ferry pier at Salen


The view from the 13th century Aros Castle looks out over the Sound of Mull to the mainland of Scotland. 

There's not a whole lot left of Aros Castle...  

...just a few walls and lots of tumbled stones.

Scoor, in southwest Mull

Scalastle Bay

Tobermory Light - Rubha nan Gall to be exact - with CalMac ferry MV Clansman. The light is a relatively short and easy walk from Tobermory village. At least, that's what the guidebook says. It was probably about two and a half miles, but well worth the time. 

Stream near Tobermory on the path to the lighthouse

A baby robin along the path to Rubha nan Gall lighthouse

Honeysuckles along the path, as well.

Bunessan Beach

Glen Mor

Loch Scridain in southern Mull

Church and graveyard at Pennygowan

The road through Glen Mor

The road to Scoor

A ruined church at Kilvickeon

Duck crossing at Knock


The deserted village of Penalbanach

Like many islands in the Hebrides, Mull's population is a fraction of what it was at its peak. Changing economic conditions, the potato famine, and the Clearances in the 19th century led to the emigration of most of the population, mostly to Canada and the USA.

A ruined house in Ardmore

Foxgloves, with bee

These are Shags, a variety of cormorant.

These Hielan Coos just weren't interested in yielding the right of way...

Duart Castle, home of the Clan MacLean

Duart Castle is 13th century in origin, but as the seat of Clan MacLean, it has remained in good condition. The scones at the castle gift shop were really good, by the way. 

Eilean Musdile Light on the Sound of Mull, from Duart Castle.

MV Clansman - second largest in CalMac's fleet, the ferry handles the Oban to Coll and Tiree route.

Rubha nan Gall lighthouse and the view along the Sound of Mull


Iona is regarded as a "holy isle" - it was here that St. Columba (Columcille in Gaelic) came here from Ireland in 563 with a dozen companions to found a monastery and bring Christianity to Scotland. The island is quiet and peaceful, even when there are lots of tourists visiting. Like most of the smaller islands, most tourists are day-trippers, and don't go far from the ferry pier. After the last boat has left, or if you take a short hike away from the village and abbey, you have the island to yourself. 

Colorful fish boxes on Fionnphort Quay, with Iona in the background

Rainbow over the Sound of Iona

The Iona ferry runs frequently from Fionnphort (pronounced "fin-furt") on the Isle of Mull to Iona. Cars are only permitted for residents, so Iona is pleasingly car-free.

Iona Abbey - substantially rebuilt in 1899, there was an abbey on this site since St. Columba's day. 

The highest point on Iona is the site of an Iron Age ring-fort Dun I ("dun ee"). It's a bit of a climb to the cairn on the top, but well worth it for the view.

This cat followed us from the Nunnery

View from Iona Quay


The "misty isle" of Skye can be reached by ferry from Mallaig or by bridge from Kyle of Lochalsh. With its rocky Cuillin mountains, its terrain is much more rugged than Mull or Islay, and the drive around the island provides spectacular views. 
Above, the harbor in Uig provides seasonal ferry service to the Outer Hebrides.

Portree is the capital of the island. Its small downtown has all the services you might need, which is good because there's really no other community on the island to provide them. 

View from Portree, capital of Skye

Portree Harbour, on a typically misty day

Colorful buildings line Portree Quay

A waterfall winds down Glen Sligachan

Ferry from Mallaig to Armadale


The road north from Portree very quickly becomes a one lane two-way road - the standard for the Highlands and Islands. Of course, in addition to oncoming traffic, you have to share the road with woollier travelers. 

The view across the water to Rona and the Scottish Mainland. 

The road from Portee heads north around the island, until you come to a small path leading to Duntulm Castle, former home of the MacDonald Lords of the Isles. Abandoned around 1730, the ruins are still impressive, if too dangerous to enter. 

The MacDonalds gone, these are Duntulm's only permanent inhabitants. 

OK, so I like sheep...

Just south of Duntulm is the Museum of Island Life

A turnip slicer - you must have to eat a lot of turnips to need a machine to slice them...


The Round Church stands at the head of the main street of Bowmore. It's said that the church was build round so that there would not be any corners for the devil to hide in.

Islay is generally flat - so much so that from Bowmore harbor on the west coast, you can see the Paps of Jura on the next island to the east. 

Bowmore Distillery - one of seven on Islay. 

Inflatable boats surf the wake of the ferry to Islay. 

The Paps of Jura from the ferry to Islay

Carraig Fhada lighthouse, Islay

The houses in Bowmore are nearly all painted white - but show their individuality by painting the inside of each window opening in a bright color. 

A Corn Bunting

Small Tortoiseshell butterfly

Coast at Carraig Fhada

The village of Bridgend

Dunyvaig Castle

Finlaggan, on Eilean Mor in Loch Finlaggan, was the seat of the Lords of the Isles during the 13th to 15th centuries.

A ruined chapel at Finlaggan

The Council Island, across from Eilean Mor, was where the Lord of the Isles would meet with the other nobles and hold council.

Kildalton Cross dates to the end of the 8th century - one of the oldest surviving Celtic Crosses

Ruined chapel at Kilnave, on the shore of Loch Gruinart, was built in the late 1300's or early 1400's

Celtic cross at Kilnave 

View from inside the church at Kilnave, In this church, the surviving MacLeans of Mull took shelter after the battle of Traigh Gruinart. The victorious MacDonalds of Islay locked them in, then burned the church down around them. 

Kilnave graveyard

The shore at Kintra

Rocky foreshore at Kintra leads uphill to the deserted villages inland.

The American Monument at the end of the Oa peninsula marks the loss of several American troop ships near this point during World War One. 
We visited here late in the afternoon, so after hiking to the point we asked our GPS for the nearest restaurants. The closest was only about 12 miles away - in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. 

The village of Port Ellen is where the ferry from Tarbert docks


Port Ellen in the dusk, around 11PM 
This is an HDR image with super-saturated colors - I don't usually like HDR, but I think it works here

Panoramic view of Port Ellen from the incoming ferry

Lagavulin Distillery

Laphroaig Distillery

Saligo Beach is on the west shore of Islay

Surf at Saligo

These mysterious sloping iron brackets at Saligo turned out to be the tower base for a huge wooden tower, part of the World War Two Chain Home radar system. 

Abandoned bunkers from Chain Home are scattered around Saligo, home only to sheep.

Isle of Arran

Arran lies in the Firth of Clyde, downriver from Glasgow and between the Kintyre Peninsula on the West and Ayrshire on the East. It's sometimes called "Scotland in Miniature" because the Highland Boundary Fault runs through the middle of the island. The north end of Arran, to the right in the picture above, is steep and rocky like the Highlands. The south end is more gentle and rolling, like the Lowlands and Borders. I visited in 2016, and found both ends to beautiful. 

Blackwaterfoot is a neat little hamlet on the west coast of Arran. Clustered around a small harbour, it's got a small store, a hotel with quite good food, and the UK's only 12-hole golf course. 
The Laighbent B&B in Blackwaterfoot was my home for my three nights on the island, and a very pleasant home it was.

The Blackwater, which flows into the Clyde at Blackwaterfoot

Blackwaterfoot Harbour

Drumadoon Point, overlooking Blackwaterfoot, is the site of an Iron Age hill fort (the "Doon"). A single standing stone on the top of the Point is the only obvious evidence of human habitation - pretty much everything else is buried under chin-high ferns. It's well worth the walk just for the view. 

View from Drumadoon Point, overlooking Blackwaterfoot, the bay and beach, and the 12 hole golf course

Drumadoon Point from the north - the cliffs are the same columnar basalt as on the island of Staffa (home of Fingal's Cave) and the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland. The Doon sits on top.

Brodick Castle, located just north of Brodick town. 

Formal garden at Brodick Castle

There are two ferries on the summer run from Ardrossan to Brodick, and they pass each other at mid-crossing. Here, the Caledonian Isles passes in front of Ailsa Craig, the island where most of the world's curling stones are quarried.

Boats aground at low tide in Brodick Harbour

Sunset over the Kintyre Peninsula, view from Blackwaterfoot Beach

Glenashdale Falls is a steep walk from Whiting Bay on the east coast of Arran...

... but the view of the double falls is well worth the effort.

A Mountain Hare at Drumadoon

An Oystercatcher and a juvenile Gull on the rocks near Machrie

Kilmory beach, with an Easter Island-like statue left by an earlier tourist. 

Kildonan Beach with the island of Pladda just off the south coast of Arran, and Ailsa Craig in the distance.

Black-and-white cows, yellow flowers, green grass and blue water...

Torrylin Cairn near Lagg on the south coast of Arran is a prehistoric chambered tomb. 
It's a pleasant walk from Lagg down to Kilmory Water, overlooking the Firth of Clyde with Ailsa Craig and Ayrshire beyond.

The entrance to King's Cave. By tradition, this is the cave where Robert the Bruce took shelter while he was in exile, driven out by the English. The story says that while he was in this cave, he watched a spider climbing and being knocked down and climbing again - and from the spider, he took the lesson that one should always persevere.

The wall carvings include a cross in a flower and a human figure, among others. 

There's no real support for this being the actual cave the Bruce stayed in - or for the story about the spider, either. The name "King's Cave" wasn't applied to this cave until centuries later, and it's likely that Sir Walter Scott invented the story, as he did so much of Scottish folklore - but no matter. The wall carvings - long predating the Bruce - are worth the hike anyway. 

Lochranza Castle dates from the 13th century.

Lochranza, on the north end of the island, is the port for a small seasonal ferry to Kintyre

The Ross - this is the second east-west road across Arran, and very much the lesser of the two. The Ross is a single track with passing places which offers a very scenic but slow crossing.

Beautiful views of Machrie Bay can be found on the trail through the Tor Righ Beag Forest to the King's Cave. 

Sunset on the rocks of Machrie Beach

Sunset over Machrie Bay, with Kintyre on the horizon

Sunset on Machrie Bay

Whiting Bay is the former ferry terminal for Arran. The Holy Isle is across the harbour. 

Another attraction in Lochranza is the Arran Distillery. The tour ends with a tasting of Arran Gold, the very tasty cream liqueur made at the distillery.

Machrie Moor on the west side of Arran is known for prehistoric standing stones and stone circles, with eleven different sites. 

A short hike across the moor from the car park leads past deserted Moss Farm.

Stone circle at Site 1

Standing Stones at Site 3

Another Standing Stone at Site 3

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