Did you know there is more to Scotland than the Isle of Skye and Edinburgh?
Before I started planning my trip to Scotland, I knew I wanted to explore Scotland’s off-the-beaten-path locations, but I couldn’t find much in the way of information online. With just one week to explore, I settled on the Inner and Outer Hebrides, using Oban as my ferry port and flying in and out of Glasgow.
This must-read travel guide for the Hebrides Islands in Scotland covers how to get there, which islands to visit, things to do, where to stay and more!
Travel Tips for Visiting the Hebrides in Scotland
How to Get to The Hebrides
My trip started with an overnight layover in London’s Heathrow airport — a common hub for those traveling from the West Coast of the United States — so I scoured the internet for an inexpensive hotel with easy transportation to and from Terminal 5.
I booked a stay with Premier Inn on Bath Road after reading dozens of reviews and learning about the free local bus which stops right in front of the hotel.
I paid £51 for one night, plus £3 unlimited wifi — the best deal I could find. The rooms were immaculate and the dinner was one of the best meals I had during my entire stay in Europe. This hotel made my layover not only bearable, but it actually may have changed my negative attitude toward London.
The flight from Heathrow to Glasgow the next morning was short and sweet, after which I hopped on the Glasgow Airport Shuttle Bus #500 (only £6 and included free wifi!) to the Queen Street Rail Station.
Trains from the Queen Street Rail Station run frequently to Oban, where you can catch ferries to the Inner and Outer Hebrides. The train ride takes a little over three hours and shouldn’t cost more than £23 for a one-way ticket with ScotRail. Make sure to ask an employee about which end of the train goes to Oban; the train splits at a station before Oban, so you don’t want to be left behind!
It is also possible to fly from Glasgow to the Isle of Lewis, Benbecula and Barra with Flybe airlines. At the end of my trip, I flew from Barra’s Traigh Mhor Beach Airport to Glasgow to get the one-of-a-kind experience of taking off on a runway of sand.
Isle of Mull – Inner Hebrides
The train station is right next to the ferry port in Oban, so it’s extremely easy to catch a connecting ferry ride to the islands. A round-trip ferry ticket from Oban to Craignure, Isle of Mull was less than £10 — which was surprisingly cheap!
To get prices on other ferry trips, see CalMac’s website.
On Mull, I highly recommend renting your own transportation and staying in the picturesque town of Tobermory. I rented a small car with Mull Self Drive and I’m so thankful I decided against public transportation on this island. The owner met me at the ferry port in Craignure, answered my questions about the area and eased my concerns about driving on the one-lane roads of Mull.
Honestly, after driving for two days on the island, I would prefer it over driving in my home town of San Diego. It was actually relaxing because the roads are practically deserted and the other drivers are uncommonly gracious. The locals and tourists will wave when they pass you on the road, without fail.
The town of Tobermory is straight out of a fairy tale. It’s small, cozy and colorful — as you can see in the photo above.
I booked a room at Glengorm Castle and instantly felt at home. There is also a hostel in Tobermory (Tobermory Youth Hostel) for those travelers looking to save a few bucks on accommodation.
You cannot visit Tobermory without eating at the Tobermory Fish and Chip Van. It’s cheap, and probably the best fish and chips you will have in Scotland. I only wish I had eaten there every meal because all the fish and chips I ordered during the rest of my trip didn’t even compare to this place.
During the two days I spent driving around Mull, I found myself in awe at every turn. There is no shortage of cute animals and jaw-droppingly gorgeous landscapes on this island.
Staffa and the Treshnish Isles – Inner Hebrides
From Mull, you can easily visit the neighboring uninhabited islands of Staffa and Lunga. For more information about these islands, visit our post about where to see Puffins in Scotland.
I’m disappointed that I didn’t get to spend more time in Oban. I took the ferry back to Oban from the Isle of Mull and spent one night at the Oban Bay Hotel & Spa, before my early morning ferry departure to the island of Barra.
Barra – Outer Hebrides
The first word that comes to mind when I think of Barra, is peaceful. The stillness of this island can be shocking. I walked around my first day and the only noises I heard were the occasional “baaa” from a nearby sheep.
There are only a few hotels on the island, so be sure to book in advance during the high season. I stayed two nights at the Castlebay Hotel, which overlooks Kisimul Castle, the harbor, and the gorgeous island of Vatersay.
Barra and Vatersay are the westernmost permanently inhabited islands in Scotland. On a sunny day, the beaches look like they belong in the Caribbean, with crystal-clear, calm water.
There are obviously more islands to visit in the Hebrides and I plan to make another trip to visit the ones I missed. I hope this post shows that it’s entirely possible to see the Scottish Islands, even if you only have one week of vacation — and it won’t blow your budget to add an island or two to your itinerary.