St Kilda and the surrounding seas are a world heritage site with unique plant and animal life. Hermits can enjoy the stunning landscape and sea birds. If you arrive in your own boat you can contact the St Kilda Ranger, call sign ‘Kilda Warden’, but ships with closed cabins are not allowed alongside the pier in case unwanted stowaways devastate the island.
You’ll have to leave your dog at home too because of the risk of disease they could bring to the native Soay sheep, relics of sheep domesticated in the Iron Age. Tourist facilities are limited; the St Kilda Club shop opens by prior appointment only and National Trust advice is to use the toilet on your boat. Kilda Cruises also offer day trips to St Kilda.
(Total journey time by boat and bus from Fort William: 8 hours)
Barra boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the Hebrides. The rich eschew the long hours on the boat and land private planes on the beach at Cockle Strand, but don’t arrive at high tide because the runway will be under the waves.
Brave hermits can take a sea kayaking tour with a guided tour of the sheltered bays. There are self-catering cottages including the House by the Sea, with an open fire and vaulted lounge with views over Brevig Bay. Barra is not quite as isolated as St Kilda and for the urban hermit there is even a Cocktail Bar at the Castlebay Hotel.
(Total journey time from Oban: 5 hours)
The Shetlands have a wealth of culture and historical sites to discover but the true hermit should head to the most northerly isle, Unst. With spectacular scenery, it has a unique sub-arctic stony desert on the Keen of Hamar that blossoms with wild flowers in summer. Pure-bred Shetlands ponies and sheep roam free here. Save your coastal walks for a calm day because there are high cliffs.
The hungry hermit should head to Victoria’s Vintage Tearoom. Unst has the nothern-most stately home, Belmont House, which offers self-catering accommodation. In the main village of Beltasound you’ll find three shops, one called The Final Checkout.
(Total journey time by boat from Aberdeen: 14 hours)
Fair Isle is just three miles long and one and a half miles wide and very beautiful. The island is famous for its jumpers and well known for its bird-life.
There’s a bird observatory, an Iron Age Fort at Landberg and in summer visitors are allowed to help with the sheep clipping. Local craftspeople are happy to show visitors their work. Hermits might like to stay in the full board South Lighthouse on a rocky peninsula, but special dietary requests must be placed in advance.
(Total journey time by boat from Aberdeen: 15.30 hours)
‘Diamond in shape, diamond by nature’, as the tourist website claims. Rum can be glimpsed from the Glenfinnan viaduct, made famous by the Harry Potter films. Hermits might enjoy a visit to Kinloch Castle, a time capsule from Edwardian times and home to the only playable Orchestrion left in the world, an electric organ made in 1900 for Queen Victoria. You’ll find it under the stairs. Hermits can stay nearby at Kinloch Hostel or at one of two bothies in the far flung reaches of the island.
(Total journey time from Fort William: 3.30 hours)