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Summer holiday's on Scotland's west coast and islands

Blue sea water


Scotland's west coast and islands come alive in the summer months. The days are long, the weather gets better, and the wildlife comes out in full. 

But there's more to it than that. Let the islands capture your imagination: come to see the stronghold of sea eagles. To find the home of peaty whisky, the water of life. To take a dip in cold, crisp seas. To stroll on deserted beaches, and dive into packed-out pubs. To eat an ice-cream on Cumbrae, or a fish supper in Tobermory. To see the bloom of wild flowers on the machair of Eriskay. To laugh at the midges, rain, wind, and searing sunshine - all in a day.

Then there are the music festivals, highland games, and occasional bouts of beach rugby. All fuelled by the freshest seafood, straight off the boat.

Feeling inspired? Start planning your trip here, with our loose guide to a great summer on the islands.


Fresh air, fresh food

Fresh seafood platter

Nothing quite says 'escape from the office' like packing up and jumping on a ferry to hide on an island for a week or two. Forget your al desko sandwiches, the hours spent at the computer and all the vacuuming you haven't done. Shut the front door, and get outside: the west coast is waiting.

Go to Harris for a gulp of clean Hebridean air: you'll find the best at the top of one of its many hills. Tackle one of Skye's 12 Munros, or hideout on Rum, the best-kept secret of serious walkers.

And what about fresh food? You'll struggle to find anything less than exceptionally good seafood on the islands - from the tastiest mussels to rich Atlantic salmon. Go all-out at the Tarbert Seafood Festival to get a taste for yourself. And for a peek into the competitive world of vegetable growing, jam-making and local crafts, head to Barra for the .  


Indulge in a little nostalgia

Cumbrae Millport

On the hunt for a nostalgic summer holiday? Pack your finest vintage swimsuit, and head 'doon the watter' to Bute, Cowal or Cumbrae.

Glasgow folk began the tradition in the 19th century - and although the ferries no longer leave from Glasgow, you can catch them at Wemyss Bay and Largs. Drop into Nardini's while you wait for the ferry to Cumbrae for an enormous ice cream - and don't forget to get a selfie with the Crocodile rock when you're on the island.


Get back to nature

Gigha achamore gardens

Summer is an excellent time to spot wildlife on the islands. You might see otters, eagles, deer - as well as thousands of waders, puffins and kittiwakes.

And where else would have a whole festival devoted to basking sharks? Head to Coll for a chance to see them in the wild - and even swim with them, if you dare. Elsewhere, there's the great Mull Eagle Watch - the chicks are in the nests from May to July, and fledging from August onwards. Then there's the Islay RSPB reserve The Oa, home to golden eagles, choughs and peregrine falcons - and, of course, the beautiful Achamore Gardens on the isle of Gigha.


Head to an island festival

Festival scene

Base your summer trip around a festival, and you'll see a whole new side to the islands. How about a week of music and malt on Islay, or a few days of sax and smooth tunes at Bute's Jazz Festival? You could go for a three-day party on white sands at the Tiree Music Festival - one of the best small festivals in the country. For a real immersion in Celtic culture and music, book tickets for HebCelt on Lewis - and prepare for some legendary island hospitality.

It's not all music, either. The Colonsay Book Festival draws big names from around Scotland and the world - and there are highland games all over the islands, bringing the brawniest caber-tossers (and some very fine cows) into competition.  


Get active


The Barrathon, or the Jura Fell Race ? A 10K in Kintyre, or a cyclosportive on Mull? The islands make a beautiful backdrop for sporting events - if you can still see through the grimace and the sweat.

And if organised sport isn't your thing, there's plenty of opportunity to organise your own action-packed trip. Remember, you can take bikes on CalMac ferries for free - just call the port office to let them know you're coming. You'll find most of the roads on the islands are quieter than the mainland - just don't go pedalling about in the Mull Rally.

Try the Five Ferries challenge - island hopping and cycling through some of the most beautiful west coast landscapes. It's tough, but rewarding - and the satisfaction at the end of a long day in the saddle is unbeatable. Looking for a longer challenge? Try the Hebridean Way, from Barra to Lewis: perfect roads, wild landscapes, and a warm pub at the end of each day.  

There's plenty to do without a bike too. Go kayaking, gorge walking, coasteering and abseiling - all in a single trip, if you head for Raasay House.


Let the kids run loose

The islands are some of the safest, quietest holiday places you'll find. It makes them perfect for families: just pack a bucket, net and spade and let the kids run free for an afternoon on the beach. You can't go wrong with a trip to Arran - or explore a few coves on Mull's 300-mile coastline.


Get the full experience

Wherever you go this summer - you'll see the islands in full flow. And we've only scratched the surface here: dive into our Activities and Events pages to discover more of what's on where, and when this summer. For more island information check out our Destinations pages for some inspiration and how to get there.

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