As if the main islands of the Outer Hebrides didn’t offer enough opportunities for exploration, visitors can also enjoy the archipelago’s many uninhabited or abandoned outlying islands.
Charter boats and tours sailing out of many of the harbours in the Outer Hebrides offer trips to the outlying islands, each of which has its own unique identity and plays an important part in Hebridean history and heritage.
Mystery lovers should head for the Flannan Islands - the site of one of Scotland’s great unsolved stories. Sitting 20 miles to the west of Lewis, it was here that an entire crew of lighthouse keepers disappeared at the turn of the 20th Century never to be seen again. Uninhabited since the automation of the lighthouse in the 1970s, the Flannans are now home only to some wonderful wildlife, with birds including puffins, fulmars and kittiwake nesting here and whales and dolphins commonly spotted in the surrounding Atlantic waters.
Over on the south east of Lewis, sitting five miles into the waters of The Minch, are the Shiant Isles, another popular destination for day trips. Privately owned, these islands provide nesting for seabirds, including guillemots, razorbills and gulls. The Shiants are also home to a rare colony of black rats – believed to be the descendents of ships rats that swam ashore here after a wreck.
Thanks to recently introduced new catamaran cruises, adventure lovers can now head for the remote rocky islet of Rockall – hundreds of miles out into the Atlantic Ocean. Best known for giving its name to an area featured in the shipping forecast, this volcanic outcrop represents the pinnacle of extreme – rarely landed, the rock is used as a waymarker for seafarers attempting to round Rockall and prove their marine mettle.
Perhaps the best known of the outlying islands of the Outer Hebrides is Taransay, two miles to the west of Harris. The largest uninhabited island since its abandonment in the 1970s, Taransay rose to fame in the year 2000 when it was used as the location of the groundbreaking reality TV show Castaway, which followed the fortunes of 36 “competitors” tasked with creating their own Outer Hebridean island community.
Now home only to red deer and sea birds, Taransay is also a stunning site for Hebridean flora – with wonderful wildflower-filled machair grasses bordering its beautiful white sand beaches.
Individuals and groups can enjoy visits to most of the Outer Hebrides outlying islands, with scheduled day trips and charter tours offered subject to sea conditions.
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Our holiday operator partner, Hebridean Hopscotch Holidays, is a fully bonded operator with many years experience in providing individually arranged holidays in the Outer Hebrides. Their holiday advisers live locally and they can discuss your plans, offer advice, submit a firm holiday quotation and, if acceptable, arrange all your sea or air travel, accommodation and activities to suit your requirements. Use our expertise to get the most out of your holiday.