SILLY ISLES; Hebrides Beat Seychelles as Top Holiday Spot

Article excerpt

Byline: FRANK HURLEY

THE wet and windswept Hebrides put some famous paradise hot-spots in the shade in a bizarre list of top island destinations.

The outstanding beauty of the west coast islands is used to justify its place above the Seychelles and Mauritius.

And it seems that the gale-force winds, stormy seas and midges just add to the charm.

The Scottish isles, touched by the Gulf Stream, attract many species of sea life, making it the ideal destination for misty-eyed tourists suffering from what travel experts call "island-itis".

Many other holidaymakers, however, prefer to jet off to the stunning beaches of St Barts, in the Caribbean, or the mouth-watering menus of Capri.

Travel editor of House and Garden magazine, Pamela Goodman, who compiled the list, said yesterday: "I spent most of my school summer holidays on Tiree and I've since travelled the world.

"So I know what I'm talking about when I refer to the unrivalled beauty that is special to the Hebrides. The colours are breathtaking with scenery that can be dramatic and romantic.

"No one compiling a list of the world's top 10 holiday islands can ignore what the Hebrides offer.

"There are worries about air travel since the atrocity of September 11 in New York and our holiday trade has suffered.

"I hope the elevation of the Hebrides gives Scotland's tourist trade a much-needed boost."

Ecosse Unique, which caters for island tourists, says its clients are spellbound at the thought of being isolated somewhere in the Hebrides.

Mark Breed, island adviser, said: "Islands provide a sanctuary of sheer peace for those who literally want to get away from the hustle and hassle of town life.

"Visitors can walk freely among wild land and sea birds as well as seeing roving deer herds and all kinds of natural wildlife from foxes to otters.

"There is the sheer romantic aspect of being on an island and I think many customers go for that in the Hebrides." One favourite is Eilean Shona, a two-and-a-half miles by one-and-a-half mile wooded island, off Mull.

It has stunning views of the mainland and no cars or bicycles to disturb its tranquillity.

Other Hebridean islands that get a special mention in the magazine are Mull and Skye.

A spokesman for visitScotland said: "The Hebrides certainly deserve to be included with the best of the best for island holidays. …