THOUSANDS of free ferry tickets are being given away to encourage more people to visit Scotland's islands.

The initiative will see 8000 free trips to places such as Orkney, Shetland and the Outer Hebrides as part of the Year of Homecoming celebrations. Visitors will also be able to visit Lewis and Harris, which were named the top islands in Europe by international travel website TripAdvisor.

They beat tropical and Mediterranean rivals to secure fifth place in a list of top 10 islands in the world.

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Lewis and Harris, Orkney mainland, Mull, Skye, Arran and Islay secured six of the places in its list of top 10 isles around Britain.