Remote Hebridean island with its own whisky distillery named one of the best in the world to visit in 2020

A Hebridean island with a population of just 170 people has been named one of the best islands in the world to visit in 2020 - alongside hotspots in the Caribbean, Brazil, Japan and Australia.

Raasay, an island off the east coast of Skye which is just 14 miles long and five miles wide, was singled out in the wake of the opening of its first ever legal distillery, which offers visitors overnight stays.

The island, arguably best known as the birthplace of Gaelic poet Sorley MacLean Angus Mackay, Queen Victoria’s first piper, has just one hotel, three bed and breakfasts, two shops and a primary school, but boasts an iconic flat-topped peak offering views of the Outer Hebrides, steep cliffs, forest trails and secluded beaches.

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But now a leading travel bible has rated it alongside Hong Kong, Kyushu in Japan, the Anavilhanas Archipelago, in Brazil, Prince Edward Island, in Canada, St Barts and Domenica, in the Caribbean in its 13-strong guide “to be two steps ahead of the pack.”

Spectacular views of the Isle of Skye are on offer from Raasay's new distillery.Spectacular views of the Isle of Skye are on offer from Raasay's new distillery.
Spectacular views of the Isle of Skye are on offer from Raasay's new distillery.

Believed to have been inhabited as far back as the sixth century, Raasay was part of the Norse Kingdom and was later ruled by the Clan MacLeod for several centuries.

The island has seen a boom in visitors in recent years with the reopening of 18th century Raasay House as a hotel and visitor centre and the arrival of the new distillery, which has won two tourism awards in recent months, in 2017.

Conde Nast Traveler said its “trend report” was aimed at giving the inside track on the inside track on the ones to watch, the sustainable champions, and the revived stars.”

Its report states: “The wild Scottish isle of Raasay feels storybook remote. Sheep trot along single-lane roads, moody hills draw in hikers. Now there’s also a sleek whisky distillery, its long windows reflecting Skye’s Cuillin peaks and a debut single-malt slowly, slowly maturing inside.

“Those overnighting in the B&B rooms—each embellished with a tweed map of the island—can dine on venison pie at Raasay House nearby, striding out to the crumbly nub of Brochel Castle in the morning and, with the whisky proper ready in 2020, taking a nip of Raasay’s ‘While We Wait’ blend along the way.”

Alasdair Day, co-founder of the distillery, said: “We’re delighted to be named one of the top islands to visit in 2020, which will be huge for us as we launch our inaugural single malt at the end of the year.

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“Raasay is a unique whisky destination, rooted in centuries of illicit distilling, and our two tourism awards this year are testament to that. We work hard to ensure our distillery tours and luxury accommodation capture the full Raasay experience for anyone visiting the island. “

Chris Taylor, regional leadership director at VisitScotland, said: “The beautiful island of Raasay offers a unique visitor experience, so it’s not surprising that it has been included in Conde Nast Traveler’s list.

“Raasay is one of the most stunning of Scotland’s small islands, being a paradise for walkers, nature lovers and those who just want to escape and experience the peace and tranquility of island life.

"It’s the potent mix of stunning landscapes, culture and heritage, great local food and drink and the warmth of the people, which makes islands like Raasay the go-to place for the discerning traveller looking for an authentic adventure in Scotland."