The Hebrides: The Best Things to Do

Isle of Skye Old man of Storr

The Hebrides

The Hebrides, a vast archipelago off the west coast of mainland Scotland, is a captivating destination for any sightseer.

Comprising the Inner and Outer Hebrides, the region is home to an array of islands that each possesses its own distinct charm and attractions, from the whisky of islay to the windswept grasslands of Lewis.

Geographically, the Hebrides lies in the North Atlantic Ocean where it’s divided into the Inner Hebrides, closer to the mainland, and the Outer Hebrides, further west.

The Inner Hebrides includes Skye (Scotland’s single largest island), Mull, Islay, and Jura, among others, while the Outer Hebrides consists of a chain of islands stretching over 130 miles that includes Lewis and Harris at its northernmost point moving south to North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist, and Barra.

The landscape of the Hebrides is a mesmerizing blend of remote mountain peaks, rolling peatlands, flower-covered machair (a rare coastal grassland), and pristine white sand beaches that contrast dramatically with the azure waters of the Atlantic, especially in the Outer Hebrides which boasts beaches like Luskentyre – frequently voted one of the world’s most scenic places.

Luskentyre beach

Many of the Hebrides’ towns and villages are steeped in history and tradition. Portree, the largest town on Skye, boasts a picturesque harbour that’s equally used by fishing and tour boats while Tobermory on Mull, with its colourful waterfront buildings, is famed for its boutique shops and fresh seafood.

Stornoway – by far the largest town in the entire Hebrides – offers a blend of Gaelic culture and history as well as a pretty harbour and attractions like Lews Castle, plus it’s the home of Stornoway black pudding – a delicious savoury treat that simply has to be tried while visiting the town.

When it comes to tourist attractions, the Hebrides offers such a vast assortment that it would be almost impossible to see them all in an entire lifetime.

On Skye, the Old Man of Storr, the Quiraing, and the Fairy Pools offer breathtaking hikes, while the historic Dunvegan Castle provides a glimpse into the island’s past.

On Islay, whisky enthusiasts can taste some of Scotland’s finest spirits on a number of tasting tours before heading to beautiful locations like the Oa peninsula, the 5-mile Strand beach, and the gobsmacking Loch Gruinart (visit when the tide’s out for the best views).

isle of islay

Meanwhile, the Outer Hebrides is home to the prehistoric Callanish Standing Stones on Lewis, mile after mile of golden beaches on South Uist, and unique oddities like Traigh Mhor on Barra – the world’s only beach airfield.

The Hebrides also boast a wealth of cultural attractions including traditional music festivals, crofting museums, and opportunities to learn about Gaelic language and culture. The islands are also renowned for their local produce with seafood, lamb, venison, and of course, whisky, being highlights.

From hiking in the mountains, exploring historic buildings, sampling local produce, or simply soaking in the breathtaking landscapes, a trip to the Hebrides is a journey of discovery that’s guaranteed to leave all visitors captivated.

Find places to visit and things to do in the Hebrides with these visitor guides.

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