The Scottish islands are not particularly known as a tourist destination, but whoever visits them has an unforgettable experience. The land is filled with a unique beauty, powerful and wild. Lovers of bird watching go especially to observe hundreds of different species. Older than the pyramids of Egypt, the hills are covered with heathland hiding many megalithic sites. Beautiful bays, turquoise waters and golden sand, castles, ageless fishing villages built into creeks all add to the charm of these unique lands.
There are three main archipelagos:
The Inner and Outer Hebrides are the bastions of Gaelic culture. Gaelic is the official Scottish language and it is widely spoken. Many of the terms are used to describe particular places or events, such as at the end of spring, when you can see the unique landscapes called machair, incomparable meadows covered with flowers, shells and sand. The summer is very busy: Celtic music festivals (known as Ceilidhs) or Gaelic festivals of sailing or fishing. It is well known that the British island of Berneray is a favourite of Prince Charles.
Lovers of flora, fauna and peace especially appreciate the Shetland Islands. Seabirds, waders, outstanding maritime flora and famous ponies grazing freely on the hills create images worthy of the early days of humanity. This peace, however, is turned upside down when the Uphelia, the largest fire festival in Europe takes place in January each year. The era of the Vikings, ancient inhabitants of the country, is back, with longships, dances, performances and fires. Less hectic, but still exciting is the Tall Ships race which hosts over one hundred ships annually in the port of Lerwick in July.
Orkney belonged to Norway until the fifteenth century, which is still clearly visible in the architecture and in the inhabitants. The island is also well known for land otters and it is not uncommon to see them cross the road or near populated areas. A unique site to see is Skara Brae, a Neolithic miniature village that was discovered after a storm had cleared the dunes. There are also many beautiful stone circles and megalithic alignments from Druid times. The St Magnus Festival, which celebrates the summer solstice, is renowned for the quality of its orchestra and a very friendly atmosphere.
The Scottish Islands are a celebration of nature, discovery, culture and a thousand delights that will satisfy any visitor.