Ask an islander
We have featured the following islands so far - follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more Island of the Week action!
Image: Sophie Whitehead-Robertson
We travelled across to Luing– one of the Slate Islands - for our next island of the week feature, and Lorraine from the Atlantic Islands Centre gave us the full low-down on Luing life:
"The picturesque conservation village of Cullipool is at the heart of life on Luing and where you will find the Atlantic Islands Centre, home to a fascinating historical exhibition and a gift shop selling books and gorgeous crafts from over 20 local crafters."
"But it is the cafe which is the real jewel in the crown of the centre, selling local seafood, bread from our award-winning island bakery and an amazing selection of cakes provided by the Luing home bakers co-operative."
"The best thing about it is the lovely warm community. I've not been here that long and everyone has made me feel so welcome - I feel like I've been adopted!"⠀
"The community loves to come together regularly and are very proud of Luing. The centre holds a variety of events over the year from ceilidhs to book launches, and art exhibitions to community meals, where the whole island is invited! The centre opens on a Saturday night like a local pub and people gather to play pool, have a meal, share a drink with friends and catch up."⠀
"My favourite part of the island is the slate quarry in Cullipool. A walk to the quarry is like taking a walk into another world. It sits right beside the sea - a rugged coast where the water laps right up over the rocks giving you the feeling that you really are on the edge of the Atlantic!"⠀
"The landscape has a real atmosphere and you can imagine the men who worked here long ago and the hard physical graft they had to put in to extract the slate."⠀
"Luing is really accessible; it takes less than 40 minutes to drive down from Oban - and we have a brilliant regular car ferry service that runs all day. You can visit for the day no problem - although you will want to come back to explore the rugged coastline, the scenic walks and see the local wildlife. The sunsets are also amazing! Luing is beautiful, unspoilt, wild and friendly - everyone who visits ends up falling in love with Luing!"⠀
If Lorraine has inspired you to plan a trip then do head to https://isleofluing.org for more travel tips.
Nestled between Orkney and Shetland and a sanctuary to birds and home to the famous knitwear, we couldn’t wait to hear more about Fair Isle. Rachel from Barkland Croft told us all about life at 59 degrees North:
"Walk to the top of Vaasetter for spectacular views over to Sheep Rock and depending on the time of year, there is a seal colony that comes out to rest on the shore around its base. Climb up to Ward Hill, the highest point on the isle and wander among the remains of the old radar station and trig point. Explore the south-west coastline and find Gunglesund, the isle's natural 'swimming pool!’
"I have always loved September partly that sense of 'new school year' and the beginning of a new cycle, but also colourful fungi start to pop up everywhere! That said, I really enjoy the time of year we're currently at (spring) - just a week or so before lambing starts so there's the excitement of that building!
"Visit the George Waterston Memorial Centre and Museum - we have a treasure trove of displays and artefacts, ranging from agriculture to the lighthouse board, shipwrecks to fishing and, of course, Fair Isle knitwear."
Once the ability to travel has been reinstated, if you fancy visiting this wee jewel of an island, sandwiched between Orkney and Shetland, Fair Isle can be reached from the Shetland mainland either by sea or by air. Additionally, during the summer months, Loganair offers flights from Kirkwall to Fair Isle twice a week.
To reach Shetland and Orkney, Northlink Ferries sail daily from Aberdeen and Loganair flies to Sumburgh (Shetland) and Kirkwall (Orkney) from Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness - you really do have a variety of travel options.
One of the Small Isles of the Inner Hebrides and home to a National Nature Reserve, we loved hearing all about Rúm.
Our island correspondent - Jed of Rum Bunkhouse - told us more about his stunning home isle:
"The freedom here is something that I try to appreciate and not take for granted. We have a National Nature Reserve on our doorstep and especially during the summer you can seize the day when the sun is out by getting out on the hill, cycling over to Kilmory or Harris; canoeing in the bay or getting the BBQ out.
"A walk up Coire Dubh to Hallival is my favourite. The moonscape-like rocks and beautiful views of the mainland and the Outer Hebrides is one of the privileges of living on the island; access to the island’s beauty is on our doorstep.
"We make good use of the village BBQ and have impromptu gatherings usually cooking steaks or handmade Venison burgers. However, my favourite dish is the Venison lasagne that is available at the local village café – Kim’s Kitchen.”
If you fancy visiting Rum once it is safe to resume travel, CalMac Ferries run regular sailings throughout the summer and winter months from Mallaig. ⠀
Stretches of beautiful sandy beaches, sea caves and wholesome local produce – our next feature took us to the wonderful island of Stronsay in Orkney.
Islander, Louise McQuaid from Fish Mart Cafe and Hostel told us all the highlights that left us wanting more.
"The best parts of the island are Rothiesholm Beach (known locally as Bu Sands) and the Vat of Kirbuster. The beach is a mile stretch of beautiful sand whereas in stark contrast, the Vat is on the cliffy shoreline with a stone arch of what was once a sea cave - it's amazing seeing the power of the sea and waves crashing into the cliffs."⠀
"The Fish Mart café has reopened selling simple, wholesome and hearty food with daily specials. Also, Maurice A. Williamson's shop at Olivebank makes amazing freshly-baked meat pies and has the best local sausages going."
"Winter forces you to slow down and have more #family time in the evenings to read, play games, movie nights and just hang out together doing activities. One of last year's highlights was the arrival of The Screen Machine (a mobile cinema kitted out inside of a lorry)."
Have you been inspired by this week's Island of the Week? Well good news - there are loads of ways to get to Orkney with Northlink Ferries, Pentland Ferries, John O'Groats Ferries and Loganair all offering regular services to mainland Orkney and you can take the final jaunt over to Stronsay courtesy of Orkney Ferries.⠀
For more tips and travel information to and around the Orkney Islands by bus, plane and ferry, check out orkney.com
Being the westernmost island of the Inner Hebrides, Canna is a small island with a big heart! We asked islander Fiona, of Tighard Guesthouse, why Canna is a must-see for everyone:
"Spring is a stunning time of year here. Our mild winters mean the flowers are in bloom earlier and for longer. We're surrounded by bluebell woods and the smell of the ransoms is incredible. The days get longer and the island really comes to life; there's lambs and calves to delight us all! It's magic. It's very hard to put your finger on it, but there is something incredibly special about Canna. It's a wee island with a huge heart!"⠀
"Cafe Canna produces some fantastic dishes using as much locally sourced ingredients as possible. From rabbit stew to massive seafood platters, there is something delicious for everyone. The cafe serves lunch and snacks throughout the day and also doubles up as the bar. It's the social hub of the island and is right on the shore, offering some of the most stunning views."⠀
"There are a surprising amount of walks you can do on our island, including walking up Compass Hill, out to the 'West End' for great archaeological finds and the stunning Tarbet beach. Also, the Canna 10k is now in it's 2nd year with a record sell out of places in 24hrs! It got great feedback last year for being a good challenging run, and the ceilidh was an absolute hoot!"
If you fancy experiencing the Canna magic, you can sail direct from Mallaig to Canna courtesy of Calmac Ferries.
Cumbrae was our next small but-mighty-island to be featured, and giving us the low-down on island life was islander, Scott from Visit Cumbrae:
"Being roughly four miles long and two miles wide makes Cumbrae the perfect spot for cycling or walking, taking in some stunning coastal views”.
“The Cathedral of the Isles is a lovely place to stop too, with many more hidden gems, pirate’s tunnel, Cannon in the wall, standing stones, glaid stone - not to mention our very famous Lion, Indian and Crocodile Rocks. Also - don't miss our great museums at the Garrison House or the Field Studies Council."
"Being known as the island of a thousand bikes, cycling is a big thing to do on any day! Then there's crazy golf, trampolining and of course rock pooling. There's also fishing, a beautiful 18-hole golf course, bowling, bouncy castles and paddling, building sandcastles, and wildlife spotting at the beach."
"My firm favourite beach is at Bell Bay, (by the Indian Rock). With lovely white sand and stunning views of Bute and Arran. It's also quiet and the water is shallow, so it's great for the kids."
“But the best thing about island life is the community. Everyone says hello and it's such a warm and friendly place."
With just a 10-minute ferry crossing from Largs with CalMac Ferries (no booking necessary) this wee island is packed with activities. Why don't you hop across and check it out!
Our fifth 'island of the week' adventure took us to the Outer Hebrides and to the island of Barra, or ‘Barradise’ as it's affectionately known.
We spoke to Sarah from Bùth Bharraigh who gave us the low-down on this absolute gem of an island:
"In winter there are lots of activities to try and ways to get involved in community activities. This winter we made a Castlebay Christmas tree using knitted and crocheted squares from all over the world. It looked spectacular. Anyone can get involved - check out Barra Bunting - be a part of it. On a rainy day come to Bùth Bharraigh. Have a coffee and catch up, do emails and get your laundry done! It's a great community hub selling craft supplies and good books to keep you busy. Then there's the Heritage Centre where you can learn about the island's past too."
"On a sunny day it's Barradise! Going to one of our beautiful beaches is a must. Swimming in the crystal-clear waters or going kayaking or snorkelling with Clearwater Paddling is a great way to enjoy Barra. You can also book boat trips to uninhabited Mingulay, where you can see seabirds, basking sharks and porpoises with Mingulay boat trips and wildlife spotting."
"In spring, wonderful primroses appear all over the place, the days are getting longer, and there is a real warmth in the sun. Visitors also start to return, many now friends who come back year after year. It is nice to see them and a there is a definite buzz about the island."
"There are so many lovely beach and hill walks on the island. It is nice getting up Heaval, the highest point on the island, and seeing the magnificent views from the top."
Doesn’t it sound glorious? You can fly from Glasgow with Loganair or you can go for a wee Scottish cruise with CalMac Ferries from Oban or Eriskay. For more information head over to Visit Outer Hebrides.
Up Helly Aa, incredible landscapes and an abundance of wildlife, Mainland Shetland really does have it all!
At 60 degrees north, the archipelago is surprisingly accessible with regular flights from Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Orkney and Manchester courtesy of Loganair, and you can also take the overnight ferry from Aberdeen with Northlink Ferries.
Islander and local photographer, Gary Buchan told us more about his home islands:
“Winter brings many challenges with it but, on the upside, there can be dramatic skies, glorious sunsets/sunrises. And, of course, the bad weather can bring some seriously dramatic seascape imagery.”
"The wildlife here is spectacular, with otters, orca, Humpback Whales, a half dozen different species of dolphin, Pilot Whales, many different species of birds. The list goes on!"
"My favourite time of year has to be Summer. With the arrival of thousands of seabirds to the clifftops, Orca all around the coast, wall to wall sunshine, up to 18 hours of daylight and so many great events with music and food, Summer on Mainland Shetland has so much on offer for locals and visitors alike."
If you fancy seeing Shetland for yourself, why not plan your trip? You can find heaps of information as well as travel guidance at https://www.shetland.org/.
The Isle of Raasay proved to be quite the wee gem; not only does it have the most amazing views of Skye and delicious local produce, but it is also the location for the current series of SAS Who Dares Wins!
Our featured islander, Calum from Isle of Raasay, told us all about Raasay’s highlights:
"We're lucky to have two amazing food stops straight off the ferry. The newly opened The Larch Box is fantastic, with fresh soups, baguettes and toasties and some of the best coffee you'll find anywhere in Scotland! Raasay House has an incredible restaurant and an unbeatable view over to Skye - you'll never want to leave!"
"Our annual 'Whisky, Fire and Song' event in November has music, ceilidhs and, perhaps most notably of all, a wonderful torchlit procession! It's a great event that really shows the best of what Raasay has to offer out of the normal tourist season."
"It's tough to find a spot on Raasay that isn't worth visiting, but the secluded beach at Inver is certainly one of Raasay's most picturesque spots. A winding path takes you through forests, over streams and eventually terminates at a beautiful beach, positioned directly across from Portree, with wonderful views over towards Skye."
"But isn't all about the outdoors! Raasay Distillery is a great stop for anyone interested in whisky with warehouse tours, handmade chocolate and whisky tastings, and a chance to try the new Raasay Gin."
If you like what you hear, Raasay is just a short hop across on the CalMac ferries from Sconser on Skye, with crossings 7 days a week, all year round.
Papa Westray – affectionately known as Papay to locals, was our second island of the week and is the second most northerly Orkney island. But there is nothing second rate about this wee gem which can be accessed via the world’s shortest scheduled flight.
Islander Jonathan Ford told us what he loves about the island he calls home:
“Papay is a wonderful place for big skies, seas and landscapes. May is my favourite time of year here. It is a time of coming back to life and new arrivals on the island. The Pickies (Arctic terns) are back from Antarctica, migrant birds are passing through on their long journey North and the island is waking from the long winter at 59 degrees North. Oh, I almost forgot, the Puffins are back too!!"
“The Old Pier is my favourite spot on Papay. The sea is always beautiful, you can sit and watch the world go by, catch a boat trip over to the Holm of Papay, or investigate The Kelp Store, our arts and heritage centre."
"My favourite place to walk on Papay is the coastal walk around North Hill, with Fowl Craig as the highlight. In the summer it is home to our splendid seabird colonies, and in the winter it is dramatic and wild. The perfect place to get away from it all at anytime of the year."
Inspired by Jonathan’s words? Why not plan a trip yourself?
Getting to Orkney is easy with NorthLink Ferries, Pentland Ferries, John O'Groats Passenger Ferries and Loganair offering frequent scheduled services to mainland Orkney. From there Orkney Ferries and Loganair take you the final short hop to Papa Westray.
For more info on travel to and around the Orkney Islands by bus, plane and ferry, as well great travel tips, check out Orkney.com.