Curving in a rainbow in the waters off the Lochaber coast, each of these four islands of the Inner Hebrides has its own distinctive character. Designated a National Scenic Area, the Small Isles are rich in archaeology and history and abundant with wildlife and culture. Traditional music is still very much part of the community scene with regular ceilidhs being held for one and all to enjoy.
Only foot passengers and cyclists can sail to the Small Isles from the two harbours of Mallaig and Arisaig (the latter summer only), leaving vehicles and the faster-paced mainland life behind. With relatively few people living on any of the four islands, they are a haven for wildlife. Thousands of seabirds including puffins and Manx shearwater can be spotted here, along with regular sightings of sea eagles, otters, porpoises and whales. For time spent well off the beaten track and in nature, these attractive little islands of the Inner Hebrides are the ideal destination.
Four unique islands connected by volcanic roots
Starting at the end of the curve closest to the Scottish mainland, Muck is the first and smallest of the group and home to Camas Mòr bay, with its ancient lava-formed rocks. Keen walkers can climb Beinn Airein or walk the isle’s 14km circumference via beautiful Gallanach Beach.
Next in the chain is Eigg – which was the subject of a pioneering community buy-out and is now a hub of renewable energy innovation. Hire a bike to explore the golden beaches of Laig and Singing Sands or clamber up the impressive Sgùrr of Eigg and be rewarded by magnificent 360-degree views.
Picturesque Rum is the largest of the Small Isles. It’s a National Nature Reserve and home to lavish Kinloch Castle, built by Sir George Bullough at the turn of the 20th century. Outdoor enthusiasts can tackle the Rum Cuillin ridge or choose a gentler stroll with binoculars in hand to spot the elusive white-tailed sea eagle.
Canna is known for its status as a bird sanctuary, its Neolithic and Viking history and its one-time owners, Dr Lorne Campbell and his wife Margaret Fay Shaw. The couple established a unique library of Gaelic music and texts that still attracts visitors from all over the world today.