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From wildlife to journey: six causes to go to the Scottish islands this autumn | Uncover the spirit of the Highlands and islands this autumn



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From wild seas and paradise seashores to selkie sightings and rutting stags, the Scottish islands are a must-visit vacation spot this autumn. The midnight solar of summer time has been changed by mist and mellow fruitfulness, the vacation crowds have all gone house, and there’s nothing standing between you, the tranquillity of the surroundings and a wee dram of whisky. Learn on to find what’s awaiting this autumn …

From wildlife to journey

The wild open panorama of the Scottish islands is ideal for any variety of adventures, from biking on Cumbrae, often called the Island of a Thousand Bicycles, to the quiet roads of the Hebridean Means, and hill strolling on Mull.


Hikers will probably be delighted with CowalFest 2023, a five-day household pleasant strolling competition that showcases the attractive autumnal surroundings and heritage of the spectacular island-like Cowal peninsula in Argyll & The Isles, from 12-16 October.

For water sport lovers within the know, the Scottish islands have lengthy been a vacation spot of alternative, with browsing more and more fashionable. In October, Tiree performs host to the Tiree Wave Traditional, the place execs, masters, amateurs and youngsters can all compete to win on the waves. The Isle of Lewis, with its stunning white sandy “Caribbean” seashores and nice swell, is one other must-visit vacation spot for surfers.

As autumn rolls in, the wild seas of the Scottish islands tackle dramatic enchantment, greatest skilled by mountaineering alongside the shoreline, the place you’ll be able to cease to wave-watch. Notable stretches embody journeying west from Silwick to Westerwick in Shetland, which has among the most gorgeous cliff surroundings within the UK. Marwick Head in Orkney is equally interesting, whereas a hike to Carsaig arches on the Isle of Mull affords spectacular shoreline views.


Historical past

High view of Clickimin Broch
Clickimin Broch in Shetland exhibits proof of 1,000 years of settlement. {Photograph}: Euan Myles/PromoteShetland

The Scottish islands spoil historical past followers with alternative. In Orkney, uncover 15 neolithic chambered tombs on the isle of Rousay, nicknamed the “Egypt of the north” for its trove of archaeological treasures. And on Arran, you’ll be able to hear fascinating tales of past-rulers of the island on the castles of Brodick, Lochranza and Kildonan.

There’s proof of greater than 1,000 years of settlement on the fascinating Clickimin Broch in Shetland. Newbie archaeologists can have enjoyable attempting to piece collectively the historical past of the constructions across the lough-side stone-built tower.

Scapa Movement, in Orkney, has been used as a harbour since Viking occasions, however within the twentieth century among the most vital naval motion of the second world struggle started right here. Now, accompanied by native knowledgeable guides, divers can go to most of the wrecks, together with warships of the German Excessive Seas Fleet. On the island of Hoy, go to the refurbished Scapa Movement Museum, the place you’ll be able to see naval artefacts up shut.

Additional west, head to the idyllic island of Colonsay and cross the tidal sands to discover the attractive Oronsay Priory. Based by the Augustinians within the early 14th century, it has some fascinating tombs and carved stone effigies of chieftains, in addition to one of many best Celtic crosses in Scotland.


Food and drinks

From oysters to mushrooms and even wild brambles, the Scottish islands provide a bounty of scrumptious produce come autumn. Attempt scallops on Barra, blueshell mussels in Shetland, or salmon on Uist. Or get your self to Colonsay, well-known for being a foodie heaven, with the Colonsay meals & drink competition going down from 7-10 October. Together with gin and whisky tasting, foraging and cooking lessons, the competition additionally places on guided walks and youngsters’s actions to showcase the island’s wildlife and pure magnificence.

Meals followers heading to Shetland received’t miss out this October because the Style of Shetland competition will get beneath manner, showcasing the unbelievable domestically produced food and drinks the islands have to supply.

For those who’re fortunate sufficient to go to the Isle of Harris this autumn, you could be among the many first on this planet to attempt the island’s just-launched single malt, the Hearach. Native distillers have created a posh Outer Hebridean spirit, in an actual group effort. For craft beer lovers, there’s a faucet room on the Loomshed Brewery in Tarbert.



Music has all the time performed an integral a part of island life, and there are thriving music scenes to be discovered particularly in Shetland. Be a part of the locals on the Lounge Bar, the Dowry and Da Wheel in Lerwick and revel in a night of conventional music, from jam classes to performances by native skills.

The nights could also be chopping in, however the festivities proceed – lots of them transferring indoors to create a extra intimate expertise. Guests to the Isles of Skye and Raasay from 17-25 November can actually immerse themselves in native tradition on the 2023 Small Halls competition, which brings massive music to small halls across the islands with an “everyone seems to be welcome” ethos. Additionally on Skye is the Sabhal Mòr Ostaig Gaelic faculty, the place you’ll be able to expertise music workshops and concert events.

Whereas many couldn’t organise a knees-up in a brewery, yearly the inhabitants of the island of Islay placed on a jazz competition in a whisky distillery. Different venues for native, virtuoso performances embody a Gaelic faculty, a fowl sanctuary and several other village halls. Previous attracts have included Laura Macdonald, Colin Steele and Fergus McCreadie.


Wildlife and nature

Red Deer Stag Cervus elaphus on hillside Isle of Jura
Late autumn brings rutting season on Jura. {Photograph}: Sigrun Eriksen/Alamy

Despite the fact that most of the Scottish islands could not have an ample human inhabitants, it is a boon for the wildlife – and an important purpose to go to for nature lovers.

Head to the Isle of Jura, which is house to about 6,000 purple deer. Come autumn, the largest and strongest males battle for mating supremacy. This is likely one of the most enjoyable occasions to go to. Preserve your eyes peeled for golden eagles, or watch wild goats grazing on seaweed on the distant seashores of the west coast.

For the last word autumn wildlife expertise, go to the Outer Hebrides. Take a stroll alongside its wild coast to identify gray seal pups, otters and minke whales on the Hebridean Whale Path, or comply with the Chicken of Prey Path with an area wildlife knowledgeable on North Uist to look out for eagles, hen harriers and short-eared owl, in addition to uncommon autumn migrants.

For those who’d want to remain on dry land, then Kylerhea on the Isle of Skye is likely one of the greatest locations in Britain to identify otters and different aquatic mammals.


And don’t miss Orkney, house to about 15% of Scotland’s seal inhabitants – often called “selkies”. Snap up native naturalist Tim Dean’s information to clue up earlier than your journey, however the South Ronaldsay East Coast stroll provides you the perfect likelihood to identify them.

For those who like otters – and let’s face it, who doesn’t – Shetland has the very best density of Eurasian river otters in Europe. If that’s not sufficient to tempt you, an autumn journey to Shetland additionally permits for some orca recognizing.

Autumn is the right season to find the distinctive spirit of Scotland’s Highlands and islands. Begin planning your journey at

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