The Inner Hebrides, unlike the Western Isles, is not a compact geographical unit. Rather, it is a collection of disparate islands lying off the Argyll coast and forming part of that county(apart from Skye, which is part of the Highlands). Each island has its own distinct character, with sizes ranging from the87,535hectares of Mull (the third largest of Scotland’s islands) to the 33 hectares of Staffa and the 877 hectares of Iona.
Not all the islands are inhabited, and of those that are, most have seen a drop in population over the years. On some that were once inhabited, the remains of cottages and even old chapels are still to be found. The names trip off the tongue like a litany, and some, to English speakers, are decidedly unusual. Mull; Muck; Rum; Eigg; Coll; Canna; Tiree; Islay; Jura; Colonsay. Most have their origins in Gaelic, and in some cases Norse.
Each island is different. Lismore, for instance, is flat and fertile, while Jura is mountainous. Mull is easily accessible from the mainland, while Canna, beyond Rum, is remote. Islay (pronounced ‘Eyelah’) and Jura are the most southerly and lie off the western coast of the Mull of Kintyre, from where they are reached by ferry. Islay is where you will find, at Finlagan, the capital of the ancient Lordship of the Isles. It is also an island famous for its distilleries, which make a peaty, dark malt. Tiree is said to be the sunniest spot in Britain, though it is also one of the wettest and windiest. It is low lying, so much so that its name in Gaelic, Tir an Eorna actually means the land below the sea. It is now famous for its surfing beaches, and many championships are held here.
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