The Inner Hebrides are a group of islands off the west coast of Scotland, and are subdivided into two groups, the Northern and Southern Hebrides. Where the Northern Hebrides belong to the Highland Council, the Southern Hebrides are a part of the Argyll and Bute council. One can say that the Sound of Mull between the island of Mull and Morvern forms the dividing line. The area is also sometimes referred to as Scotland’s Sea Kingdom or the Hebridean Isles of Argyll.
This website is about the Southern Hebrides and includes the island of Mull and Iona in the north, the islands of Coll and Tiree in the west, the Slate Islands in the north east, Gigha in the south east and the islands of Islay, Jura and Colonsay in the south west. In Gaelic the islands are called Na h-Eileanan a-staigh which means the inner isles, whereas the Outer Hebrides are usually referred to in Gaelic as Na h-Eileanan a-Muigh, the outer isles.
People have always been fascinated by islands and they are often described as remote, lonely, wind swept and wild which can sometimes be the case on the islands of Scotland. Visiting islands often include an adventurous ferry or plane journey and the thrill of arriving on a remote island is hard to match. Visiting the islands in the Southern Hebrides recall such feelings and most islands are in fact quite remote.
Hamish Haswell-Smith, in his book ‘The Scottish Islands’, has a nice way of describing the island feeling. ‘There are few parts of the world which possess such magic and mystery as the seas around Scotland. This is an area of breathtaking beauty with a character formed not only by the proximity of mountains and sea but also by the complexity of the geography and the geology, of the climate and the social history. It is a serene yet chaotic landscape in which every isle has a distinct personality Each is an individual entity with differences so remarkable that the mere crossing of a short stretch of water can be like visting another continent.’
Ferry arriving at the Isle of Gigha
Martin Martin was one of the first mainland explorers to record his visit to the Hebrides and in 1703 he published ‘A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland.’ His publication assisted later travellers like Thomas Pennant who set out to explore the last remaining blanks on the map of the west coast of Scotland in 1772. Other travellers such as James Boswell and Samuel Johnson followed Martin?s and Pennant?s footsteps and left fascinating accounts of their journeys.
Nowadays we can still set out on a journey to discover this fascinating area, often on one of Caledonian MacBraynes Ferries, a name well known throughout the Scottish islands. Alternatively several companies in the area offer island cruises or wildlife sea tours. The islands in the Southern Hebrides have so much to offer and each island is unique in it’s sort. Where Islay is home to eight whisky distilleries, on Jura the two hundred people are outnumbered by the almost seven thousand red deer that inhabit this wild and stunning island. Colonsay has beautiful white beaches, Mull offers high mountains such as Ben Mor and is home to nesting White Tailed Sea Eagles. Mull’s main port of Tobermory is one of the most picturesque villages in the west of Scotland. Nearby Iona is the place where Columba came to the Inner Hebrides in 563 and founded a monastery. On one of the Garvellachs, there are also amazing ruins of an ancient monastery, and you can explore the isle of Gigha, owned by it’s inhabitants and having, like several other islands, very beautiful gardens which can be visited.
Ferry crossing the Sound of Mull from Lochaline to Fishnish
In the 9th century AD the Southern Hebridean islands were raided by the Vikings and came under Norse control, while in the Medieval 14th and 15th centuries the Lords of the Isles ruled the Hebrides and large areas of the west of Scotland from Finlaggan, Isle of Islay. The entire area is steeped in early history and offers many historic monuments such as monasteries, standing stones, castles, carved grave slabs, chapels and hill forts which can be visited.
This website offers a chance to enhance your knowledge of, and whet your appetite for the Southern Hebridean islands, through information and many photographs of these enchanting islands. For more online information, visit the Southern Hebrides Blog, the Online Daily Newspaper or, for the written word, a visit to the site’s book shop. This is an ongoing project and there will be many updates, so please return for a renewed acquaintance with these sometimes hidden Scottish gems. If you require accommodation in the Southern Hebrides please visit the Scotland Accommodation Directory.
Sound of Ulva seen from Mull
The islands of the Southern Hebrides are: Calve Cara Càrna Coll Colonsay Dùn Channuill Eileach an Naoimh Eilean Dubh Mòr Eilean Mhic Asgain Eilean Mhic Coinnich Eilean Rìgh Eorsa Erraid Garbh Eileach Gigalum Gigha Gometra Gunna Iona Inch Kenneth Islay Jura Kerrera Lismore Little Colonsay MacCormaig Isles Mull Nave Oronsay Samalan Scarba Skerryvore Slate Islands: Seil, Easdale, Luing, Lunga, Shuna, Torsa, Belnahua Staffa Texa Tiree Treshnish Islands: Bac Beag, Bac Mòr, Cairn na Burgh Beag, Cairn na Burgh Mòr, Fladda, Sgeir an Eirionnaich, Sgeir a’ Chaisteil, Lunga Ulva