LEWIS and Harris in the Outer Hebrides has been named the top island in Europe and in the top five in the world by an influential travel website, ahead of popular sunshine destination such as as Capri, Naxos and Santorini.
And two other Scottish islands - Mull and mainland Orkney - also feature in the European islands top ten published today by TripAdvisor.
The Orkney islands come in at number four in the list with Mull in ninth place.
Lewis and Harris is the largest of the islands in the Outer Hebrides with Lewis forming the northern part of the island and Harris the southern part.
James Kay, a TripAdvisor spokesman explained that the islands awards, now in their second year, are based on the quality and quantity of highly-rated hotels, restaurants, and attractions listed for each island and gathered by TripAdvisor during a 12-month period.
Kay said: “An island holiday usually conjures images of faraway palm-lined beaches, white sand and crystal clear water but the results of this year’s awards reveal that the ideal island getaway might be closer to home than you think.”
He added: “Lewis and Harris beat tropical rivals in Thailand, Chile and Madagascar to be included in the top five islands in the world, based on the reviews and opinions of millions of travellers on TripAdvisor.
“Scottish Isles were among the best performing in the world, with the Orkney Islands mainland and the Isle of Mull also named among Europe’s top ten. In fact, six of the UK’s top ten islands can be found north of the border. The Isle of Skye, Isle of Arran and Islay took fifth, sixth and eighth places respectively in the UK list of winners.”
The TripAdvisor entry on Lewis and Harris states: “A visit to Lewis and Harris is like stepping into the pages of a Scottish fairy tale. In Lewis — the northern part of the island — the legendary Callanish Standing Stones poke up from the ground like a strange and massive rock city.
“The Blackhouse, the Shawbost Norse Mill and Kiln, and the Carloway Broch all offer a peek at what island life used to look like. In southern Harris, the east side beaches boast some of the oldest known rocks in the world, dating back millions of years. Cruise over to the volcanic islands of St. Kilda to explore the ruins of a medieval village.”
Angus MacNeil, the SNP MP for the Western Isles welcomed the award.
He said: “This is yet another fantastic accolade for Lewis and Harris who had its first documented visitor in 325 BC, a Greek named Pytheas, who doubtless saw a better island than he was used to in the Mediterranean.”
He said that visitor numbers to the island had already increased by 27 per cent in the past six years. MacNeil said: “Lewis and Harris is a good place socially, Stornoway and Tarbert could almost be twinned with Galway in the West of Ireland for atmosphere.”
“The most important thing to make a place are its people, who are both friendly and humorous in equal measure. This is a good recognition of the skills and welcome by those who work in the hospitality industry to those visiting the islands and I congratulate them for that. This is a real boost for everyone involved in the tourism industry, who continue to do a fantastic job in promoting our islands.”
Mike Cantlay, the chairman of VisitScotland said: “With hundreds of islands, each with their own unique character, diverse landscape and rich wildlife, it’s no surprise that these islands have been recognised in the TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Islands Awards. It’s always great to get this kind of recognition and I’m sure it will help encourage even more people to visit these incredible islands in 2014, the year Scotland welcomes the world”.
Councillor Alasdair Macleod, chairman of the Sustainable Development Committee of the Western Isles Council, said: “I am delighted that Lewis and Harris has been recognised by TripAdvisor as the top tourist island in Europe. Lewis and Harris offer the visitor stunning scenery, rich archaeological and cultural treasures and a magical Hebridean ambience.
“Fantastic natural produce from land and sea, including the internationally recognised Stornoway black pudding are among the many other ingredients that make Lewis and Harris a must-see destination.”
Belize’s Ambergris Caye was voted the number one island in the world for the second year running.
TripAdvisor’s Top 10 European islands
1. Lewis and Harris
2. Naxos, Greece
3. Island of Gozo, Malta
4. Orkney Islands
5. Milos, Greece
6. Cephalonia, Greece
7. Santorini, Greece
8. Island of Capri, Italy
9. Isle of Mull
10. Paros, Greece
Top 10 Islands in the World:
1. Ambergris Caye, Belize
2. Providenciales, Turks and Caicos
3. Bora Bora, French Polynesia
4. Marco Island, Florida
5. Lewis and Harris
6. Naxos, Greece
7. Aitutaki, Cook Islands
8. Nosy Be, Madagascar
9. Easter Island, Chile
10. Ko Tao, Thailand
Top 10 Islands in the UK:
1. Lewis and Harris,
2. Mainland, Orkney Islands,
3. Isle of Mull
5. Isle of Skye
6. Isle of Arran
7. Isle of Man
9. St Mary’s, Isle of Scilly,
10. Island of Anglesey, Wales,