This article has been written with the support of CalMac.

Best trails, ways and adventures on Scotland's west coast islands

It's About the Journey

Cycling the Hebridean Way / courtesy CalMac, credit: Rachel Keenan Photography

Whether by foot, bike or seaplane, the islands boast a range of incredible experiences

Samuel Johnson and James Boswell did in the 18th century, journeying around the Western Isles of Scotland is one of the best ways to take in the culture, tradition and landscapes of this part of the world. However, you don't have to hop-on-and-off numerous islands to experience something new, as there are plenty of smaller journeys that can be just as evocative and memorable

Hebridean Way

Cycle 185 miles, or walk 156 miles, through some of the most jaw-dropping landscapes in the UK on this dedicated route through the Outer Hebrides from Vatersay to Lewis. Take in the vast Atlantic Ocean, causeways, ferries, and inspiring Gaelic culture and heritage.

Cumbrae Cycling

Cycling around Cumbrae was / is a rite of passage for many Scottish holiday- goers during their summer holidays. The island is referred to as the 'Islands of a Thousand Bicycles' and has a perfectly formed 10.25-mile circumference, making it ideal for a day of cycling for all levels and ages.

Mull & Iona Food Trail

Although these islands are famous for a different kind of pilgrimage, this one could still be considered as sacred to foodies. The trail takes in island produce on Mull, Iona, Ulva, Gometra and Erraid and is developed so you can do it yourself and take in what you can. It includes shops, local eating places, producers, markets, and farm shops.

Best trails, ways and adventures on Scotland's west coast islands

Islay Whisky Trail

An unofficial trail through the whisky-dense island of Islay. At only 25 miles long, the island holds eight distilleries (plus two pending) and journeying around them can make for a fun and informative day out. You can split your trail up depending on location, flavours or transport: cycling is a popular way to do it.

Sea Plane Experiences

Discover the islands from the sky on an unforgettable, luxury seaplane experience. Fly over the islands and take in the stunning scenery from the rolling hills to the clustered islands and blue lochs. Your pilot will even provide a rolling inflight commentary.

Arran Coastal Way

Challenge yourself on a 65-mile walk around the coastline of Arran, which fits in neatly to a week-long walking holiday. You can self-guide and if you don't have a week you can walk a variety of smaller parts of the whole thing: just make sure to follow the marker posts that feature a gannet. An excellent way to see local wildlife and scenery.

Bonnie Prince Charlie Route

Follow in the footsteps of the 'Young Pretender' by retracing the places he visited, fled to and hid in the Outer Hebrides. Choose from short or longer versions of the tour and learn more about Scottish history and the Hebrides.

Know your Gaelic place-names

It's About the Journey

credit: Rachel Keenan Photography / CalMac
The pronunciations are enclosed in square brackets. Bold text shows where the stress or accent lies, and underline shows where the vowel is to be pronounced as long.

Isle of Bute ~ Eilean Bhòid [ellan vawdge] Eilean means 'island' but the word Bòd 'Bute' is of unknown meaning.
Stornoway ~ Steòrnabhagh [shjee-or-na-vaGH] (GH is a guttural sound that does not exist in English) This is originally a Norse (ie Viking) name, meaning 'steerage bay.'
Bruichladdich ~ Bruthach a' Chladaich [broo-oCH lat-ee] (the CH is pronounced a bit like the ch in Scottish loch) 'the brae of the shore.'
Bunnahabhain ~ Bun na h-Abhainne [boon nuh hav-een-uh] 'the foot of the river.'
Mallaig ~ Malaig [malik or mawik] Of uncertain meaning, but most likely from Norse.
Tobermory ~ Tobar Mhoire [toe-per voe-ruh] 'Virgin Mary's well' The well can still be visited in Tobermory; it was said to cure mental illnesses.
Tarbert ~ An Tairbeart [un tar-uh-per-sht] 'The isthmus' This denotes a piece of land between two bodies of water narrow enough to drag a boat across.
Corryvreckan ~ Coire Bhreacain [kaw-ruh vreh-CHkin] 'Breacan's kettle' This is the name of the gulf between Jura and Scarba, the name of the whirlpool itself is A' Chailleach 'the hag.'

By Dr Jacob King, Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba.

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