Is Scotland an island?

Written by Chris Thornton | 2nd of November 2022
Is Scotland an island?

Scotland is not an island, but it is part of the landmass of Great Britain, an island in northwest Europe. Scotland takes up the northern third of Great Britain and shares the island with its neighbours England and Wales.

Why is Scotland not an island?

Scotland is connected to England in the south and is its only border with another country. Because England is connected to mainland Scotland, it is not an island.

To Scotland's east is the North Sea which separates it from Europe and Scandinavia, and to the west, the vast gulf of the Atlantic Ocean leads to Iceland, Canada and America.

Directly north between Scotland and Iceland are the Faroe Islands, a self-governing part of the Kingdom of Denmark.

Dornoch Jail.  Stone version.
Map showing the border with England and UK nations.

Scottish Islands

Although Scotland alone is not an island, there are numerous islands in Scotland on the west and north coasts, over 900! Some inhabited and some completely wild and empty, the Highlands of Scotland are often called the "Highlands and Islands".

Scotland's islands can be put into four distinct groups:

  • The Shetland Islands

  • The Orkney Islands

  • The Inner Hebrides

  • The Outer Hebrides

St Kilda in the far west is one of the most remote of the British Isles.

Sign at the border with England. UNESCO World Heritage site.
Welcome to Scotland sign on the border with England.

In addition to the four groups, there are many smaller islands in the Solway Firth, Firth of Forth and Firth of Clyde, and many freshwater lochs. I went kayaking to the island castle of Loch An Eilean last year; it was a fantastic experience.

Island hopping is very popular with tourists and locals alike; many islands have pristine white beaches and UNESCO world heritage sites from Scotland's ancient history.

Please see my guide on the best Scottish Island to live on if you feel like a major lifestyle change!

A boat trip on Jacobite Cruises on Loch Ness.
A cruise on the Caledonian Canal.

Caledonian Canal - Is northern Scotland an island?

The Caledonian Canal is a man-made waterway connecting Scotland's east coast at Inverness and the west coast near Corpach, Fort William, along the Great Glen Fault. Completed in 1822 at the cost of £910,000, It cuts a sharp line through Scotland via Loch Ness and is now a huge tourist attraction for canal boats and boat trips along Loch Ness.

Could this mean the northwest part of Scotland is an island?

No - Because the Caledonian Canal is man-made and the water is not salt water, the northwest is not considered an island. It would also take a much larger expanse of water than a small canal to make the northwest an island in its own right.

Caledonian Canal, Eastern Highlands.
View of the Caledonian Canal.

Is the United Kingdom an island?

The UK is a collection of countries mainly within the island of Great Britain - Scotland, England and Wales, but the UK also has part of Northern Ireland. The "UK" collection of countries is not an island... but both parts are on islands.

Isle of Iona, Scottish mainland, Scottish Island.
The beautiful waters around the Isle of Iona.

Key takeaways

  • Scotland is not an island.

  • Scotland is on the island of Great Britain.

  • Scotland has many islands, mainly in the north and west.

  • The Caledonian Canal does not make north Scotland an island.

Conclusion - Scotland is not an island

So there we have it, Scotland is not an island as it shares a land border with England.

All information was correct at the time of writing, please check things like entry costs and opening times before you arrive.

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24th of December 2022 @ 00:16:52

Very informative! I just found out I’m 25% Scottish, thanks to my daughter doing a genealogy project. I thought my dad was all Irish, but my great grandmother‘s surname is Marie apparently a Scottish. It’s crazy because she always talked with a brogue lol