So what better way to start than to share with you my five favourite islands in Scotland. Now don’t be surprised or horrified, but the Isle of Skye DOES NOT feature in this blog post. Not that it isn't amazing, but Scotland has sooooo much more to offer.
5. Easdale and Ellenabeich
Commonly known as part of the Slate Isles, Easdale is an island off the coast of the Isle of Seil and Ellenabeich is a small village on the Isle of Seil which is separated from Easdale by a narrow channel. Confused yet? Well sometimes people refer to Ellenabeich as Easdale due to its proximity to Easdale Island! Either way it is a stunning location.
Climb the small hill behind Ellenabeich for stunning views over Luing, Scarba, Mull and Easdale Island, and pop into The Oyster Bar for a wee drink and a bite to eat.
Then head over to the ferry terminal (dont forget to press the buzzer to request the ferry) and head over to Easdale. No cars are permitted on the island, so instead the locals use wheelbarrows to transport shopping etc, and you will notice them lined up as you get off the ferry. Wander around the many flooded quarrys, or maybe even go for a quick dip in one of them, before a short climb to the highest point on the island. At only 124ft, what it lacks in height it makes up for in views. And the best bit is, you will probably get to enjoy the views alone.
4. St Kilda
St Kilda is in fairness an archipelago, but if I listed Hirta at number 4 would you know where I was talking about?
St Kilda is a collection of islands and sea stacks. The most commonly known being Hirta, Stac Lee and Stac an Armin. Hirta is the island that people land on when they say they are off to St Kilda and it is the site of The Village. The Village is where most, if not all of the population of the island lived until they requested evacuation in the 1930's.
Since then St Kilda has been a popular location for many who enjoy the eerie romanticism of what it must have been like to live and work on such a remote archipelago all those years ago.
When visiting, a walk around the village is a must, you get a real sense of how life was through the amazing upkeep of the National Trust for Scotland and Scottish National Heritage.
If you are feeling more adventurous and energetic, then take a walk to The Gap, it is behind the village and what looks like a continuous walk uphill drops away into a dramatic cliff edge with stunning views onto Boreray (another island within the archipelago).
And for the really energetic amongst you then continue up the sea cliff towards Conachair, at 430 metres it is the hightest point of St Kilda and the views are breathtaking. After taking it all in head back down for another walk around the village and to admire the native Soay and Boreray sheep before taking a dip in the Village Bay.
This really is a spectacular island and worth every effort it takes to get there.
A hidden gem of an island and not one that gets enough credit in my opinion. I first visited Colonsay 4 years ago in February. It was meant to be a 1 night stay before taking the onward journey to Islay in my quest to visit all of the islands. Unfortunately the ferry got cancelled due to high winds and my one night stay turned into 3. Almost immediately I realised it was a blessing in disguise as the hospitality of the islanders was amazing. From the ferryman to the shopkeeper, they made sure I had somewhere to stay and food to eat. I think I must have been the only person visiting in winter, as everyone else was a local.
Scottish islands are at their best out of season, empty beaches, big waves and strong winds make for dramatic views at every turn.
I have since been back to Colonsay on 2 other occasions, both times for the music festival 'Ceol Cholas'. Yup - I bet you didn't realise Colonsay has its very own music festival, but it does and it is amazing. I was lucky enough to see Breabach, Blazin Fiddles and loads more amazing musicians.
The beaches are breathtaking, from the most popular of Kiloran Bay to Balnahard at the northern most tip of the island.
A relatively quick walk to the hightest point on the island, Carnan Eoin at only 143m gives spectacular views towards Jura, Kiloran Bay and the north of the island. Keep your eyes peeled for the whale made out of stones in the fields below.
2. Isle of Rum
This was a very, very, very close 2nd, and had I not been from Shetland then it may have well pipped it to the post.
Where to begin with Rum. I love everything about this island. I can remember the first time I set eyes on it during a trip to Ardnamurchan Lighthouse, and I knew right then that I had to visit.
Rum has everything!! Dramatic coastline, stunning castle, breathtaking hills, bothys, wild deer, Rum ponies and the most amazing beaches.
The Rum Cuillin cover the 5 major summits on Rum which include 2 corbetts and a graham, but don't be tricked into thinking it's an easy walk. Taking 12 hours and a descent in the dark means it is not for the faint hearted or the inexperienced. I was lucky enough to watch the sunset from the highest point on the island, Askival and it is something I will never forget. Knowing you are the only people on the hills in such a remote place is incredibly special.
If the hills are too big an ask, then take a walk or cycle to Kilmory Bay, there is unlikely to be anyone else around and the views onto the Skye Cuillin are something else. In other words it is the perfect place for a skinny dip, which is exactly what I did.
And if even that is too much, then take a short walk from the ferry terminal to Kinloch Castle and enjoy one of the tours, given by an islander. The castle is so out of place and the history is so quirky and scandalous that it alone makes a visit to Rum worth it.
Did I mention I'm from Shetland? No?! Well I am, and that is why it is positioned firmly in the number one spot. Now it is a bit of a cheat as Shetland is made up of more than one island, but it would be impossible to separate them. (On this list and geographically.)
I grew up in the North Mainland, with a sea view which watched the Yell ferry go back and forth all day, well apart from on the really windy days.
Now where to begin with Shetland? It is made up of lots of different islands all with their own uniqueness and charm. It has the most northerly everything! Most northerly point, most northerly beach, most northerly fish and chip shop. Pretty much anything is the most northerly of anything in Shetland.
However it is not for the tree lovers, Shetland is known for not having many trees, it does have some, but if you prefer lenghty forest walks then maybe Shetland isn't for you. However, if you love wild and windy spectacular coastal walks, then Shetland definitely is for you.
In fairness Shetland has something for most people. We have amazing culture, history, music, knitwear, artists, festivals and food but better than any of that are the people. Friendly and helpful to a fault. You will never be stuck in Shetland, the locals will make sure of it.
Visit Mousa Broch, visit Muckle Flugga, see the Mirrie Dancers (Northern Lights to those who don't speak the dialect), or experience Up Helly Aa, stay in an actual lighthouse, get some chips from the most northerly chippie or just wander around Lerwick and enjoy the shops and some food at the Peerie Shop Cafe.
Shetland is remote and seems somewhat challenging to get to, but that all just adds to its charm.