The islands of Scotland’s west coast are known collectively as the Hebrides; the Inner Hebrides are separated from the Outer Hebrides by The Minch to the north and the Sea of the Hebrides to the south. The Inner Hebrides are split into two areas being those that lie north and south of Ardnamurchan. The northern Inner Hebrides includes Skye, the Small Isles and the Summer Isles. The southern group, includes Islay, Jura, the Slate Islands and Gigha. On this occasion we will take a quick look at one from each area so in the North we will visit the Isle of Skye and in the South we will take a look at Islay.
You could argue that Skye is no longer an island being connected to the mainland by bridge since 1995 but no one seems to take any notice of this and it is still referred to as the Isle of Skye.
The two locations I intend to visit are for me the most recognisable views of Skye starting first of all in Elgol with the remarkable backdrop of the Cuillin mountains plunging steeply into the Atlantic on the far side of Loch Scavaig, one of the finest wilderness locations in the British Isles. Reaching heights of over 3,000ft these jagged peaks are considered by many to be the most dramatic range of mountains in Britain. The remnants of a volcanic eruption over 50 million years ago.
The second one is The Storr, a rocky hill on the Trotternish peninsula. The hill presents a steep rocky eastern face overlooking the Sound of Raasay, contrasting with gentler grassy slopes to the west. The area in front of the cliffs of the Storr is known as the Sanctuary. This has a number of weirdly shaped rock pinnacles, the remnants of ancient landslips. One of the most famous of these is known as the Old Man of Storr.
Although I will take you back to Skye sometime in the future I now want to move on to the Isle of Islay. The most southerly of the Inner Hebrides, lying off the west coast of Kintyre. Islay occupies a special place in the history of the Western Isles. It’s known in Gaelic as “Queen of the Hebrides”. The Antrim coast of Ireland is as close to Islay as is the mainland of Scotland. As well as stunning scenery Islay has eight working distilleries so if scenery is not “your thing” I am sure the whisky will help compensate.
The wild and beautiful little bay of Kilchiaran is one of the few harbours on the west side of the Rhinns peninsula on Islay, and is open to westerly gales though otherwise protected. Near the shore stands the ruined medieval chapel of Kilchiaran. It was dedicated to Saint Queranus or Ciaran hence the name ‘Kil-(chapel)-chiaran’. It is believed that St. Columba who first set foot on Islay in 560AD did so close to Kilchiaran Bay.
The coastal scenery around the Rinns is very impressive, particularly at Killinallan Point, a beautiful and lonely headland at the far northeast of Loch Gruinart. Killinallan Point consists of a dune system with very interesting wind shaped sand figures and beautiful beaches surrounding the point. It’s typically the place where the tides from the Atlantic Ocean meet the water in Loch Gruinart and from where the many Barnacle Geese can be seen first when they return to Islay for the winter.
When I visited Islay I also intends to visit the Isle of Jura but unfortunately the weather took a turn for the worse and I did not make it and had to settle for this tantalising view captured from Islay on one of the better days of my trip. It shows the iconic Paps of Jura and the ferries. The smaller ferry is the one I should have caught to Jura and the larger is the one which took me to and from the mainland from Islay.
The Isle of Jura is one of Scotland’s last wildernesses. Its about the same size as Islay but only as a population of 200, if you don’t count the deer which number 5000. It is thought that the name originates from the Norse meaning “island of the Deer. Hopefully one day I will get the opportunity to visit and be able to share further images with you. In the meantime I hope you have enjoyed this brief excursion to part of the Inner Hebrides.