Byline: SELINA SCOTT
THE only disagreement I have with the survey that lists the Hebrides as the second most desirable island holiday venue in the world is that the magical isles of the west come only second top.
For my money - and I've visited a lot of islands in my time - the Hebrides are way out on their own.
Okay, maybe they don't have the wall-to-wall sunshine of Mauritius or the bath temperature waters of the Caribbean.
But despite the endless gales, rapacious midges and monsoon rains, nowhere captures the heart like the spellbinding island chain stretching between Barra and the Butt of Lewis.
Many islands have natural beauty, but I've yet to see anything to compare with the beaches of Harris, the multi-hued spring wild flowers on the machairs of Uist, or great natural vistas like the Cuillins as seen from Elgol on Skye.
First-time visitors are transfixed by the quality of light, often after rain, as the sun sets over picture postcard views like romantic Castlebay or Tobermory or slants through the great Druidic stones of Callanish... sunlight all the more special because of its Hebridean rareness.
But what you also find in the isles of the west, which make them unlike anywhere else in the world, is a warmth totally independent of the sun.
And that's why it's a joke to suggest that the No.1 destination in the survey, Harbour Island in the Bahamas - for all its beautiful pink sand - can hold a candle to the Hebrides.
Hebridean hospitality is unique. Where the inhabitants of some of the islands in the survey appear surly, the welcome you get in places such as Berneray and Balivanich, Stornoway and Staffin is as genuine as it's natural.
Given the sad history of the Hebrides, which saw thousands forced abroad by their own clan chiefs on leaky emigrant ships during the Clearances, it's all the more remarkable that there isn't the local emnity you find, say, in the West Indies.
The Gaelic Scots have reason enough for resentment. You need only recall the lines from the Song of the Canadian Fishermen to understand how deeply these dispersed islanders felt.
From the lone shieling of the misty island/mountains divide us and a waste of seas/yet still the blood is strong/the heart is Highland/and we in dreams behold the Hebrides.
Where are 'the folk like the folk of the west' indeed. They are the real reason why it's the Tangle of the Isles at No.1 for me.
Legs ruling judge talks plane sense
AT last the breakthrough we long-legged types have been waiting for.
I've always believed airlines have a legal obligation to make sure that passengers are able to sit straight in their seats without their knees pressing against the seat in front.
Now Judge Andrew Wallace at Macclesfield County Court has issued a landmark judgment that's likely to hit every airline where it hurts most - in their already-depleted pockets.
While Judge Wallace didn't accept six-footer Brian Horan's fear that he might contract the potentially lethal deep vein thrombosis, or economy class syndrome, on a holiday flight to Canada, he awarded him pounds 500 for the discomfort he was subjected to by the airline, Airtours. Now airlines could face thousands of claims from passengers who find it impossible to sit without also playing kneesy with the passenger in the next seat.
Nobody denies that the airline industry is facing a crisis, but treating their customers like cattle in a truck is no way to persuade us all to start flying again.
Airtours is one of the worst offenders, but economy travel on most airlines is a disgrace.
If we have to pay a little more for our allotted inches of seat space, then so be it. …