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Voted the 4th Best Island In the World By National Geographic, the Isle of Skye has quickly become a popular tourist destination in Scotland.

Many a traveller will think about Edinburgh when someone mentions Scotland, where the immense Edinburgh Castle sits atop its hill looking over the rest of the old city. It’s a destination hot-spot to be sure, but travellers are often unaware of the other wonders in Scotland, beyond its famous cities. Scottish Islands have been overlooked before, but in the past decade, tourism to these small islands has skyrocketed and for good reason: Scotland is an island lover’s paradise. Here is a list of a few of the best Scottish Islands that are worth visiting on your next holiday to Scotland.

Skye

The Isle of Skye is the largest of the Inner Hebrides and is a gem of an island that boasts beautiful mountainous scenery, incredible geology, heaps of wildlife and stunning sea lochs. The Isle’s mountains, the Cuillin mountain range, are famous for their dramatic jagged ridges and difficult hikes. Keep your eyes peeled for an abundance of wildlife like red deer, Scottish wildcats, pine martens and mountain hares, along with seabirds and seals along the coastlines. If you visit during the summer months, try taking a boat trip to glimpse dolphins, sea eagles and golden eagles in their natural habitats. According to the official island website, the Isle of Skye has been voted the 4th best island in the world by National Geographic Magazine and after experiencing this tiny, vibrant island, it isn’t hard to see why.

Iona

Iona is accessible by ferry boat from Mull and via tour boats from Oban on the mainland. Once you get here, you’ll understand the reason it has been a spiritual isle and place of pilgrimage for centuries. The legends of St. Columba and the ancient Scottish kings are alive and well here among the 120 people who call the island home. Also known as the ‘cradle of Christianity’ in Scotland, Iona hosts around 130,000 visitors a year. Highlights of this island include the Iona Abbey, St. Columba’s Bay and Dun I where you can look over the island from its highest vantage point.

St. Kilda

St. Kilda is the only site with Dual World Heritage Status in the U.K. for its natural and cultural importance—one of only 24 such sites in the world. The archipelago is often at the forefront of weather events and gets hit with strong winds and overpowering waves as they roll in through the North Atlantic Ocean. The cliffs and sea stacks on St. Kilda are the site of the most important seabird breeding stations in all of Northwest Europe. One of the more interesting parts of St. Kilda’s history is the people who live on the island. They existed on this small chunk of land for hundreds of years without government or money and since their evacuation in the 1930s, there exists small ruins of their only village, surrounded by volcanic scenery that can only be described as captivating and breathtaking.

Harris

The Isle of Harris sits just outside the Outer Hebrides and has a unique landscape for such a small island. Its east coast is jagged, rocky, dramatic and volcanic and sits in extreme contrast to the white sandy bays and beaches found on Harris’s west coast. These beaches allow Harris to boast that they have some of the best beaches in Europe. The shockingly blue waters and white sand are surrounded by incredible mountains where you won’t have any company except for maybe some seals and birds.

Colonsay

Colonsay is one of the smallest Hebridean islands and is known for its stunning beaches. Perhaps the most famous of these beaches is Kiloran Bay, where you can catch a wave or relax with the seabirds and other wildlife enjoying the relatively mild climate. If you are an active adventurer, try the challenge of bagging the MacPhies or the 22 small hills that are over 91 meters in height. To complete the challenge, you must work your way through a 32 km continuous walk. The current record for completing the MacPhies is just under four hours.

Pack your bags and head to Scotland for some coastal fun at any of the number of islands within the country. If you are planning on getting on the water and kayaking, or if you plan to explore and hike around the island(s) you are visiting, consider choosing an adventure sports travel insurance policy from Cover-More New Zealand to ensure your activities are covered and your health is protected.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Jonathan Combe; cropped from original