VIDEO: Over 63,000 Brilliant Island Moments

VisitScotland has discovered the appetite for Scotland’s stunning islands is greater than ever thanks to an overwhelming interest in the tourism organisation’s latest competition.

Over 63,000 people from the UK entered the Brilliant Island Moments prize draw to win one of the 8,000 free tickets to Scotland’s islands as part of a joint promotional campaign between VisitScotland, Caledonian MacBrayne and Serco NorthLink Ferries. The total number of entries is nearly double that of last year’s Big April Adventures Campaign (35,000).

Brodick on the beautiful Isle of Arran was the most popular destination choice with 9,470 requests. In second place was Lerwick (8,989) and Stornoway (7,048), Craignure (6,710) and Kirkwall (6,204) took third, fourth and fifth respectively.

As Scotland welcomes the world in 2014, with the Commonwealth Games, Ryder Cup and Homecoming Scotland 2014, it’s clear that focus is not solely on the Mainland, with evident demand for the brilliant islands of Scotland, which each boast their own unique character, diverse landscape and rich wildlife.

In February, Lewis and Harris beat tropical rivals Madagascar, Chile and Thailand to be included in the top five islands in the world, based on the reviews and opinions of millions of travellers on TripAdvisor. Scotland also dominated in the Top 10 Islands in the UK, with a total of six located north of the border - Orkney, Mull, Skye, Arran and Islay (alongside Lewis and Harris).

Profile for the islands has also been raised through programmes such the BBC series Hebrides: Islands on the Edge; the crime drama, Shetland; and last week the world’s biggest travel magazine, National Geographic Traveler, which has more than 8.5 million readers worldwide, named a guided holiday of the Outer Hebrides as one of its “50 Tours of a Lifetime”.

A recent study, The Islands Survey, revealed that of the 425,000 visitors who went to the Outer Hebrides, Shetland and Orkney between 2012 and 2013, around three quarters said that they would be likely to return in the next five years for a holiday or short break, contributing over £100 million to the islands’ local communities. Speaking after visiting Culla Bay on the Isle of Benbecula, Minister for Parliamentary Business, Joe FitzPatrick said:

“Scotland’s islands boast beautiful scenery, rich history and diverse culture. The fantastic response to the Brilliant Island Moments campaign illustrates how attractive our islands are to visitors.

“The people working in the tourism sector on our islands share a pride in offering our domestic and international guests a warm welcome and enjoyable holiday.

“The Year of Homecoming will provide a unique opportunity to encourage more and more visitors, both international and domestic, to come and enjoy our magnificent islands.”

Mike Cantlay, Chairman of VisitScotland said:

“Scotland’s islands are so easily accessible, either by ferry or plane, and once you’re there, you can explore long stretches of white sands, turquoise waters, remarkable natural landscapes, diverse island cultures and an abundance of magnificent wildlife.

“Whether you won tickets or missed out, there are so many reasons to visit the islands during the Year of Homecoming Scotland. From the St Magnus International Festival in June to the Hebridean Celtic Festival in July, as Scotland welcomes the world in 2014, I would encourage everyone to jump on a ferry and discover the magic of Scotland’s islands”.

Martin Dorchester, CalMac’s Managing Director said: “It is very gratifying to see that the Brilliant Island Moments campaign has captured the imagination of so many people and built on the success of last year’s Big April Adventures.  The participants will receive a warm welcome on board our ferries and the islands themselves and can look forward to a very memorable experience.”