Even though Scotland’s rocky coast is home to over 790 islands, only 93 of them are inhabited. Each of these microcosms of Scottish life has its own distinct personality, geography, and history, as those who have visited them will attest. Here are Scotland’s nine most populous islands to whet your appetite.
1. Lewis and Harris
Lewis and Harris, the third-largest land mass in the British Isles after Great Britain and Ireland, is by far the largest of Scotland’s islands, with a total area of 217,898 hectares. With 21,031 inhabitants, it is also the most populous Scottish island.
The two names designate the island’s two parts that are divided by mountains. Around 12,000 people live in Stornoway, the island’s largest town. White sand and turquoise waves may be found on some of Scotland’s best beaches on the island.
2. Mainland, Shetland
When tourists learn that Mainland, the largest island in Shetland, is actually an island, it can be puzzling. With about 18,765 residents, it is the second most populous of the Scottish islands and has a 96,879-hectare area. Lerwick is its largest city.
3. Mainland, Orkney
The Mainland, also known as Hrossey and Pomona, is the main island in Orkney. It is home to 75% of the island’s population, or 17,162 people, many of whom reside in Kirkwall and Stromness. 52,325 hectares constitute its total land area.
The Isle of Skye is Scotland’s second-largest island, covering an area of 165,625 hectares, although only 10,008 people call it home. The rugged Cuillin mountain range dominates Skye, the northernmost of the Inner Hebrides islands.
The Isle of Bute, located in the Firth of Clyde, is home to 6,498 people. The majority of people reside in Rothesay, the only town on the island, which is connected to the mainland by a frequent ferry.
Due to its diverse landscapes, Arran is known as “Scotland in miniature.” Its year-round population of 4,629 rises significantly during the summer vacations. The Highland Boundary Fault separates the island’s highland and lowland regions.
Islay, also referred to as “The Queen of the Hebrides,” is well-known for producing whisky and is located only kilometres from the coast of Northern Ireland. There are currently only 3,228 people living there, a significant decrease from the 15,772 residents who called it home in the middle of the 19th century.
The Isle of Mull is home to the charming and colourful seaside town of Tobermory, which has a population of 2,800. It’s one of the best spots in Scotland for wildlife enthusiasts to watch animals, including otters, red and fallow deer, mountain hares, white-tailed sea eagles, and golden eagles.
9. Great Cumbrae
Despite being only 4 kilometres long and 2 kilometres wide, Great Cumbrae manages to rank among the ten Scottish islands with the highest population. 1,376 people live there, and it’s a well-liked vacation spot for visitors from the mainland. It’s situated in the Firth of Clyde. Most people reside in Millport, a seaside community.