I’ve just finished reading a book called The Outrun and if you read my books to read in autumn post then you may have an idea what it is about. If not then the title of this post has probably given it away, yes you guessed it: Scotland. More specifically it is set in the Orkney Islands of Scotland and describes the wild and free life that comes with living there. The whole way through this book I have been falling more and more in love with the idea of visiting some of these islands myself. Couple this with the fact I’ve been missing Scotland a lot lately and you have a girl dreaming of the Scottish islands.
So here are the Islands I want to visit in Scotland
Mainland – Orkney
If you thought Orkney was just one island you would be mistaken. Instead Orkney refers to a cluster of island, 70 to be specific but only 20 are actually inhabited. The largest and biggest populations lies on the island named mainland, I know strange name for an island but that’s what it’s called. The mainland is where the majority of The Outrun was set and a place that receives very mixed thoughts in the book. Could you really imagine being happy here as a teenager? I’m not sure I can as much as I hate the city.
The mainland is where you will arrive and depart from when visiting Orkney, it is the central hub for those arriving by sea and air. This part of Orkney has the most built up areas, however, this still doesn’t amount to much and wildlife is in abundance.
Papay – Orkney
Papay or Papa Westray as it seems to be called on most maps is the second most featured island in The outrun. Amy, the character and author of the book, spends an entire winter on this island living among the 70 odd resident that call this place home. The outdoors life she leads here and the detail she describes this island in has me wanting to see it for myself. With little in the way of town the community on this island is everything for those that call it home.
Papay is famous for its historic attractions and the abundance of wildlife that lives here. Farmers are also drawn to this island because of the fertile land. Papay is one of the most northernly island of Orkney.
North Ronaldsay – Orkney
The most northernly island of Orkney is North Ronaldsay and in the book it is somewhere Amy can see on a clear day from Papay. Although she never visits in the book the island took me appeal all the same. This is another island which has a population of around 70 people. However, in previous years this number has been much higher. One of the biggest problems with a dwindling population is keep facilities like the school open. In terms of community I imagine North Ronaldsay to rely on each other much like they do in Papay. I would imagine winters here can get pretty bleak.
Again North Ronaldsay has a very strong wildlife and during spring and autumn is one of the best bird spotting areas in the country. This island is also home to plenty of sheep who have a diet of seaweed among other vegetation.
It isn’t only the remoteness and wildlife of the Orkney islands that makes them appeal but also their geographic position. During the winter months you are able to clearly see the northern lights and during the summer months you will be able to experience that magic midnight sun. Thanks to the little light pollution here during the months it gets dark at night you can also see an amazing array of stars.
Fair Isle – Shetland
Is an island that lies somewhere between Orkney and Shetland, although technically under the council of Shetland. It is the most remote but inhabited island in Scotland and again features in The Outrun. Amy takes a trip here during a bleak January to learn more about the island. She explored the ruins of a world war 2 post station as well as many of the settlements from years gone by. These days there are around 55 permanent residents of which most work on the land. Other fish or create some of the traditional products this island is famous for.
The weather has a huge impact on this island and if you visit during the winter months you risk being grounded here until the wind subsides. It is an island with little set up for tourists as there is not ‘proper’ restaurant or pub for the public but thankfully there is one shop. Despite this I still want to visit this island.
Mainland – Shetland
Again like Orkney, Shetland refers to a cluster of islands of which the largest one is called mainland. This is where the biggest settlement, Lerwick is, where around half of the island’s population live. Everything that I said about Orkney rings true about Shetland as well; abundance of wildlife, northern lights, midnight sun etc. It is of course further north from the mainland of Scotland and subject to more extreme weather conditions. However, that only makes it more remote, beautiful and appealing.
Shetland has a much larger population than Orkney and the economy thrives much more up here. Even tourism has a bigger place on this island but then it isn’t surprising to understand why. Shetland is a better know set of islands and one that gets named on the daily weather map in the UK. Things like this mean people in the UK have always been aware of these island even if they don’t know much about them. I for one have always wanted to visit Shetland.
Lewis and Harris – Outer Hebrides
Let’s talk about a whole different section of Scottish island now. The Outer Hebrides are located to the west of the Scottish mainland, beyond the Inner Hebrides surprisingly. I visited Mull and Skye of the Inner Hebrides when I lived in Scotland. The west coast of Scotland is just beautiful. It is different to that of the north and the east of the country and feels more foreign. I think maybe it is the colour of the sea, I only associate that colour of the sea with being aboard.
Lewis and Harris are two Scottish Islands that I have wanted to visit for years. Basically as soon as I saw a picture them. Technically although called two different names these islands are actually attached to each other. One being the south part and the other the north, they make up the largest Scottish island. Harris and Lewis are quite different, while Lewis is relatively flat Harris is much hillier. This makes each island just as interesting to visit.
St Kilda – Outer Hebrides
Like all Scottish islands, they are clusters with some islands being further away from the mainland than others. St Kilda is one of these island cluster, making up four separate islands in total and being part of the Outer Hebrides. The St Kilda islands are a group of very isolated islands, however, these days they are all uninhabited. To be able to visit here you need to come during the summer and book on to one of the arranged tours which visit the island. The island is however inhabited by plenty of wildlife including seabirds and unique breed of sheep. St Kilda is the only island on my list that I would not be able to spend the night at.
Iona – Inner Hebrides
Iona is a small island in the Inner Hebrides and reachable from the coast of the Isle of Mull. During my visit to Mull we stood out of the far point of Mull and looked over to this island. Known for its lack of cars and religious history many people make the journey to visit this island. These days it is most known for its beauty and if the Isle of Mull is anything to go by then this place must be stunning.
Iona is also prepared for tourist with a few hotels and B&Bs on the islands. A larger population of 177 allows for a slightly large economy than those northern Scottish islands.
Have you visited any of these Scottish islands? What did you think?