I’m a massive fan of Skye. How could you not be? Vaulting mountains assault all the senses on the largest of our Inner Hebrides, while soaring cliffs rip around a rugged littoral that looks like it has been touched up for a BBC documentary.

On land, towns and villages beckon with art galleries and craic-fuelled pubs, while eating options sweep from historic inns to Michelin-starred gastronomic temples. But – and it’s a massive but – Skye can get crowded in summer. Very crowded. So I’ve got five islands for you – out of our rich bounty of 800-odd – that give Skye a run for its money and make for a brilliant escape this summer.

1. Arran

This Firth of Clyde charmer often gets overlooked, perhaps as it’s just so accessible (ferries notwithstanding); hidden in plain sight. Arran trumps Skye as the only Scottish island with all of the country’s Big Five wildlife. Its hills may not boast a Munro, but still offer superb walking and proper mountaineering too. Après-hike there are two distilleries and a brace of breweries. Swirl in Arran milk, ice cream, the epic cheeses of Bellevue Creamery, James of Arran chocolates and those gorgeous wee Wooleys of Arran ‘oaties’ and you’ve a foodie island too. Then there are stone circles, castles, seven golf courses and the cave where Bruce spied his plucky spider.

Stay: The Corrie Hotel – In 2022 Andy and Rodger swapped Manhattan for Arran and superbly refashioned this stately old dame into a boutique hideaway. corriehotel.co.uk

Eat: Next door to the Corrie Hotel, a dynamic young couple (an Arranach and her mainland husband) have conjured up Mara Fish Bar & Deli, which gets creative with Scottish seafood; best enjoyed right on the shore. mara-arran.co.uk

The Scottish Farmer: ArranArran (Image: free)

2. Mull

In some ways Skye’s biggest rival, an easier to get to large Hebridean charmer in sight of Oban. Take a wildlife tour with Nature Scotland (naturescotland.com) for deer and sea eagles, or Sea Life Mull (sealifemull.co.uk) for dolphins, whales and basking sharks. Tobermory is arguably Scotland’s prettiest island bolthole, its pastel-hued houses alive with bars, cafes and restaurants. A dram awaits at Tobermory Distillery; a beach to trump anything on Skye at Calgary. Iona tempts for a trip within a trip.

Stay: Isle of Mull Hotel & Spa – Book a Sound of Mull view room at this impressively revamped hotel, then bubble away in one of their outdoor hot tubs. crerarhotels.com

Eat: Boat-fresh ultra-local seafood as good as anywhere on Skye, served al fresco at Café Fish on the CalMac pier. thecafefish.com

The Scottish Farmer: View from Isle of Mull Hotel & SpaView from Isle of Mull Hotel & Spa (Image: free)

3. Barra

The Outer Hebrides spread their wondrous tentacles over 130 miles from south to north. Save time and stay more sustainable, cycling around just one island. Barra offers the Hebrides in miniature, a spectacular five hour ferry ride from Oban. Or savour the world’s only scheduled beach landing on the Loganair flight from Glasgow. Discover a real sense of community in the capital of Castlebay at Bùth Bharraigh (buthbharraigh.co.uk) information centre and shop. Paddle around the landmark castle with Clearwater Paddling (clearwaterpaddling.com) and then head out to choose which of Scotland’s best beaches to forget the world and its troubles on.

Stay: It is has to be the Castlebay Hotel. Book a waterfront room and hope the Vatersay Boys are playing a session. castlebayhotel.com

Eat: The king scallop - caught by local diver Martin - pakoras at Café Kisimul in Castlebay are one of the wonders of the modern world. cafekisimul.co.uk

The Scottish Farmer: Sea kayaking with Clearwater Paddling, BarraSea kayaking with Clearwater Paddling, Barra (Image: free)

4. Shetland Mainland

 It’s far north now to that archipelago often jettisoned in a box on TV weather forecasts. There are nigh 100 Shetland isles; pick the Shetland Mainland and enjoy the working port charms of Lerwick, where the Shetland Museum draws you into the unique culture of an archipelago as close to Bergen as it is to Aberdeen. Forge south for the remarkable prehistoric and Viking site of Jarlshof – Shetland’s Skara Brae, currently bidding for UNESCO recognition - and the puffins and whales of Sumburgh Head.

Stay: Wake overlooking Lerwick’s Bain’s Beach and Jimmy Perez’s house in the BBC detective series. Sea Winds is owned by local artist Ruth Brownlee, whose work adorns the walls and stars in Shetland too. facebook.com/seawindsshetland

Eat: Scan the waters for killer whales in Scandi-chic Fjara as you savour seafood and Shetland lamb. Great coffee too. fjaracoffee.com

The Scottish Farmer: ShetlandShetland (Image: free)

5. Small Isles

I’m cheating here with a quartet of islands, but these wee charmers have reclined too long in the shadow of their bigger sibling Skye just to the north.

Eigg is the community-owned charmer where everything works better than many mainland communities with its own brewery, record label, music festival and the glorious new An Laimhrig community hub.

Canna is striving for a similar community-driven journey and has even better beaches.

Rum is the brutishly wild big brother, with its own vaulting Cuillin mountains and the surreal abandoned Kinloch Castle.

Muck is the smallest of all, with an active community, bountiful farmland and more beaches. Ferries connect the Small Isles to Mallaig and Arisaig.

Stay: The community camping pods on Eigg are brilliant. Cook Knoydart venison from the community shop over your campfire. eiggcampingpods.com

Eat: An Laimhrig has its own café where you can tuck into Arisaig mussels washed down with Eigg Brewery beer and views as far south as Coll. galmisdale-bay.com

Travel writer Robin McKelvie has been travelling and writing his way around Scotland for three decades

The Scottish Farmer: Robin on Eigg with his daughter TaraRobin on Eigg with his daughter Tara (Image: free)