Inner Hebrides Coast Guide
The Inner Hebrides is a large group of islands that lie between the Outer Hebrides and the mainland. The islands are dispersed over a large area stretching some 130 miles along the west coast of Scotland and generally only 10 to 20 miles offshore. There are around 70 islands in the group in total but most of the population live on the main islands which are; Islay, Jura, Mull, Tiree, Eigg, Rum and Skye. Skye is the largest of the islands and has its own page.
Tobemory Isle of Mull
See separate page for the Isle of Skye
There are 36 inhabited islands and a further 43 uninhabited islands in the Inner Hebrides group. The largest ten in terms of area are listed here, ranked by population.
Islay has a population of 3457 and is situated around 15 miles offshore from the Kintyre peninsular in western Scotland. Popularly known as the 'Queen of the Hebrides' Islay lies to the south of the main group of islands. The main village on the island is Bowmore with around 860 people; the main employer is the Bowmore distillery which produces the famous Bowmore Single Malt whiskey. Islay is a popular tourist destination and is particularly popular with birdwatchers who come to see the geese which winter on the island in particular.
Mull lies only 3 miles offshore from the Scottish mainland and may be reached by car ferry from Lochaline. Mull has a population of around 2667; the main town is Tobemory (see photo above) where around 700 residents live. The island is quite hilly with the highest point being Ben More which reaches 966 metres (3,169 feet) from where most of the island can be seen. Mull is surprising large being around 25 miles long and around 20 miles wide in a sort of L shape. There are several good coastal roads to help you explore. Mull is a popular tourist destination and is well known for its wildlife; there are around 250 species of birds on the island including sea eagles (white tailed eagle) and basking sharks, minke whales, porpoises and dolphins are among the sea life that can be seen on boat tours from Mull.
Tiree is a small island located around 20 miles from Mull, it is the most westerly island in the group and is only a few miles from Coll its neighbour. Both islands may be reached by car ferry from Oban on the Scottish mainland. Around 770 people live on the island the main settlement is Scarinish where about 150 people live. Surprisingly Tiree has an airport which was built during World War II and Flybe operate daily flights to the island from Glasgow. Crofting and tourism are the main industries on the island; it is a popular place for windsurfing due to the westerly winds and strong Atlantic surf.
Raasay is one of the Small Islands and is tucked into the Isle of Skye's eastern coast. It is only a couple of miles offshore at the nearest point and is reached by car ferry from Sconser on Skye. The island is long and thin; 13 miles by 3 miles and rises to 443 metres at Dun Caan. Around 192 people live on the island, the main village is Inverarish on the west coast. Some accommodation is available at Borodale House which is also an outdoor centre. The island has a flourishing wildlife that includes sea and golden eagles, otters, red deer and mountain hares.
Jura is situated to the south of the Inner Hebrides, just to the north of Islay. The islands are only a mile apart at the nearest point and a ferry crosses this stretch of water between Port Askaig on Islay and Feolin Ferry on Jura. With a population of around 188 and an area of 142 square miles Jura is one of the least densely populated islands. The main settlement is Craigmore on the east coast; there is a distillery here also that makes Isle of Jura whiskey. There is a large population of red deer on the island (Jura means deer island in old Norse) and deer stalking is a major source of revenue and employment on the island. There are six large estates on the island and deer stalking is organised through these estates.
The island is also known for its three conical peaks, quaintly called The Paps of Jura, the highest of which is Beinn an Oir which reaches to 785m (2,575 ft) the other two peaks being slightly lower.
Coll is located out to the west next to its close neighbour Tiree and 8 miles from Mull. A car ferry connects the island to Oban on the Scottish mainland. The population is around 164 and the largest settlement is Arinagour on the eastern coast. Coll is well known for its sandy beaches, in particular two picturesque bays; Crossapol Bay and Feall Bay at the southern end of the island. Nearby is a large RSPB reserve which is renown for the rare corncrakes which live here.
Please note: Coll is a small island and accommodation is limited - there is one hotel - The Coll Hotel; one guest house and one b&b, there is a camp site - please check before you arrive otherwise it will be the beach!
Jura Raasay Coll
Colonsay is a small island situated just north of Islay and around 20 miles from the mainland. About 143 people live permanently on the island, the main settlement is Scalasaig on the east coast. The island is connected by car ferry from Scalasaig to Islay and then Kennacraig, on the mainland, and to Oban in the north. Although small the island has a number of holiday cottages for rent and there is one hotel, the Colonsay Hotel; visitors are attracted y the sandy, unspoilt beaches and the peacefulness. Colonsay House has a beautiful rhododendron garden which is open on some days in the summer months.
Eigg is one of the Small Islands of the Inner Hebrides and it is small, being only around 5 miles by 3 miles. It is located around 8 miles from Arisaig on the Scottish mainland; it has two neighbours nearby - Rum and Muck. The population is also small being 67 at the last count, the main settlement is Cleardale to the north of the island. Rather surprisingly the island is craggy and rises to 393 metres 91,289 feet) at An Sgurr, a dramatic pitchstone ridge - it is worth the climb as from the summit you have views of Mull, Coll, Muck, the Outer Hebrides, Rum, Skye, and the mainland.
A ferry service runs from Mallaig on the mainland on a circular route taking in Eigg, Canna, Rum and Muck; please note - only residents and registered disabled vehicles are allowed on the island. Accommodation is limited but there is enough - there are several b&b's and holiday cottages and a camp site. There are several nice beaches on the island including the 'Singing Sands' a beach of quartz which sings when you walk on it. And then there's Massacre Cave - but you can discover that story for yourself!
Rum is quite large compared to Eigg being about twice the size but with a smaller population of on 22 people. All of the people live in Kinloch on the east coast. The island had a population of around 400 by the end of the 18th century but they were cleared out to make way for a sporting estate around 1828. The island was purchased by the Nature Conservancy Council in 1957 and is now managed by Scottish Natural Heritage. They also manage Kinloch Castle which was built as a luxury shooting lodge by Sir George Bullough, a textile tycoon; it is now run as a hostel (it may close in 2012).
A defining feature of Rum is that the interior is very rugged which makes it largely unsuitable for agricultural purposes and why nature has come to predominate. At the centre of the island are the Rum Cullins a range of mountains the peak of which is Askival at 810 metres nearby is Sgurr nan Gillean at 763 metres. There a two other peaks to the north of the island. The reason for the ruggedness is that Rum was once a volcano which has since been eroded to leave the harder rocks exposed.
Eigg Rum Colonsay
Several of the above photos come from Wikipedia; these are Tiree, Jura, Coll and Eigg
Map of the Inner Hebrides
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