The Inner Hebrides are an archipelago just off the west coast of Scotland. It comprises 35 inhabited islands and 44 uninhabited islands greater than 30 hectares (74 acres) and many more smaller ones. Gigha off Kintyre is the most southerly inhabited island of the Inner Hebrides and the Summer Isles off Ullapool the most northerly.
Ardnave, Isle of Islay
Islands are very special. You get there by ferry. During the ferry crossing you leave the hassle and buzz of cities and towns of the mainland behind and on the island you arrive in a different world where things are much more relaxed and go at a slower pace, partly dictated by the ferry timetable. You can even sail to the Isle of Skye instead of going across the bridge, which you'll do if you join our Scottish Highlands & Skye luxury walking tour.
Every island has a different character, but whichever island you'll visit, you are assured of great scenery and the sea never being far away. You can explore the coasts with rocky bays, spectacular cliffs and sandy beaches, all great for walking.
Most islands of the Inner Hebrides are a heaven for wildlife with an abundance of sea birds, including puffins, gannets and shags; raptors, including golden and white tailed eagles; otters, seals and if you are lucky you will even spot dolphins, minke whales or basking sharks.
We love the Scottish Isles and many of our walking holidays go to the islands of the Inner Hebrides. You will stay on the island during some of our holidays and have day walks on the island and on neighbouring islands. The are also day walks on islands during our holidays that are based in the West Highlands. The scenery of each island is different, from the gentle low lying isles of Islay, Colonsay, Iona and Lismore to the wild and rugged isles of Mull, Skye and Jura.
Walking along Loch Coruisk, Isle of Skye
All the islands have many historical sites from the Mesolithic and Neolithic up to the 18th and 19th century. In the past the seas were the highways and most people lived along the coast and on the islands. The Inner Hebrides have been occupied by many people. The first written records date from the 6th century AD about the founding of the kingdom of Dál Riata by Irish immigrants. Columba, who founded a monastery on the Isle of Iona and introduced Christianity, is the most famous immigrant of these days. Two hundred years later, invading Vikings overrun the islands and brought them under the control of Norway. The islands remained under the suzerainty of the Norwegians till 1266, after which they passed into the hands of the Scottish crown. Actual power - administrative and political - was, however, held by local chieftains, of whom the main came to be the MacDonalds, Lords of the isles in 1346; they were to remain so till 1660, when they were displaced by the Campbells. This state of affairs remained more or less unchanged till the mid-1700s, when the islands were finally made a part of Scotland.
Iona Abbey from Dun I with the mountains of Mull in the background
You'll learn more about this history, the wildlife and the culture from your guide while you explore the islands on foot. Click here for details of all our walking holidays.