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Hiking Scotland’s remote westernmost islands
A fascinating adventure for women on the edge of Europe. Explore rugged, windswept landscapes interspersed with lovely green pastures, white sandy beaches, the turquoise waters of the Atlantic ocean – and the warmest hospitality!
*This women’s trip is scheduled on just one departure date this season. You may, however, be interested in our standard tour to the Outer Hebrides with the same itinerary departing in June.
on the edge of Europe conjures up remoteness, mystery and true wilderness. As different as these islands are from the mainland, they are even more surprisingly different from each other. The stark moorlands of Lewis give way to the rugged hills of Harris followed by the island-scattered Uists with their endless white sandy beaches and turquoise waters. The Isle of Barra, a small rocky outpost, is the most southerly of the inhabited islands.
and feel hugged by an ever present wind! Within the raw nature of these landscapes you find wilderness and wildlife but also ancient history, evident by the amazing collection of monuments such as the neolithic standing stones of Callanish and the Pictish Carloway Broch.
There are small but vibrant communities which form the last bastion of truly Gaelic culture. Here life happens at a refreshingly gentle pace with people eking a modest living from croft farming, fishing and the weaving of their famous cloth, Harris Tweed.
The hiking on this trip is easy to moderate, though rough, rocky and often wet underfoot. Generally, we will be hiking no more than 4 hours per day as this trip also requires a fair bit of travel and time to see some of the significant cultural and historic sites the islands offer.
Spotting seals, otters, eagles and a multitude of seabirds is very much part of any outdoor experience in Scotland as is strolling on a white beach, exploring a romantic castle and discovering evidence of past lives where sometimes you least expect. Unwind in the expanse of natural wilderness, enjoy delicious and scenic picnics and a ‘wee blether’ with the locals in the pub at the end of the day!
The archipelago is a natural paradise for birds such as eagles and harriers but also corncrakes, redshank and waders. Particularly stunning in early summer are the beautiful blooming machairs, flowering meadows along the sandy beaches. Offshore, and often visible from land, visitors can spot dolphins, basking sharks and even whales.
A wonderful bonus of your holiday is travelling from and back to Stirling through some of Scotland’s most iconic landscapes: the rolling hills and big tree forests of Perthshire, the mountainous Cairngorms National Park, the impressive Moray Firth estuary near Inverness and finally the remote and wild western seaboard. En route we stop at the spectacular Corrieshalloch Gorge for a short walk before we board the ferry in Ullapool for our sailing to Stornoway.
*Journey time 5 hours; Walking: 1 hour, 1 km; Overnight Stornoway, Isle of Lewis
Ness is the name of the northern tip of Lewis. A fabulous hike on top of spectacular cliffs and along sandy beaches, leaning into the wind, watching sea birds nesting in the cliffs and enjoying our first day in these wild Hebriden elements. The 35m Stevenson lighthouse at the end of our trail calls for admiration both for its brave architecture and Scotland’s most windy location. We find out about land use, crofting, the traditional black houses and we may even witness some traditional peat cutting underway.
En route south to the Isle of Harris we explore the famous Callanish Standing Stones. This 5000 year old UNESCO World Heritage site is an unusual assembly of remarkable menhirs with many unresolved mysteries surrounding this structure.
*Walking: 4 hours with breaks, 12 km, undulating; Overnight Isle of Harris
Today we have the choice between wind and sun: either a hike along the remote west coast of Harris following a trail into hilly moorland and along a broad grassy ridge with spectacular views or we may venture into a wild valley (glen) with impressive cliffs and the possible sighting of and eagle or two.
*Walking: 4 hours, 8 km, undulating; Overnight Isle of Harris
An ancient route, this former ‘postman’s’ trail offers fabulous views across rocky hills and cliffs to the remote village of Rhenigadale and gives insight into past times and more difficult livelihoods. We pass ruined houses and a settlement with a history to tell.
One of Scotland’s most scenic roads is the Golden Road along the eastern rocky shoreline of Harris. Remote, rugged and wildly beautiful. Luskentyre Beach on the west counts as the top UK beach, so we might be enticed to a dip or watch mesmerised the rolling blue waves on white sand.
Then our journey continues south and a wonderful ferry ride meanders past a scattering of little islands to Berneray from where we can drive across a causeway to North Uist.
*Walking: 2 hours with breaks, 4 km, alt 180 m; Overnight North Uist
Today is a day of choices, a hill walk to Eaval is most versatile and scenic, the breathtaking beauty of flower strewn machair on the west coast unmissable, especially for those liking a spot of bird watching and the Barpa Langass chambered cairn and Pobull Fhinn stone circle a must …
*Walking: 2 hours with breaks, 4 km, alt 180 m; Overnight North Uist
From atop the small hill Rueval we absorb wind and weather one last time and survey much of the waterinfused world we have been roaming this past week. In the afternoon we meander through delightful woodlands surrounded by some of the highest peaks in the Outer Hebrides. Unusual for this region fuchsia, holly, pine and gorse accompany us on the trail with lovely views over Loch Eynort and the possibility of spotting otters near the shore. Completely energised, we continue to Eriskay and find out what happened to 260,000 bottles of whisky ‘rescued’ from a ship run aground in the 1940s which inspired the famous story and film ‘Whisky Galore’.
*Walking: 4 Hours plus breaks, 12km, undulating; Overnight South Uist
This morning we catch the ferry all the way to Mallaig, a 4 hour journey which takes us across the Minch to mainland Scotland. Our onward drive south rewards us with the very different beauty of inland lakes and forested mountains before we reach Glasgow.
*Sea journey 4 hours, drive to Stirling 3 hrs. Arrival time around 17:00 hrs.
*Please note that this programme may be changed according to weather conditions and group ability.
Enjoy comfortable, authentic and friendly hospitality in well chosen small hotels on the Isle of Lewis, Harris, North Uist and South Uist.
If you are a single traveller and happy to share a twin room, please let us know. For single accommodation a supplement applies depending on availability.
We think small is beautiful and therefore our groups have the personable size of no more than 8 persons. The group is accompanied throughout by an experienced and knowledgeable guide to make your holiday a wonderful and enjoyable experience.
This holiday is designed for guests with a good general level of fitness, balance and mobility. We hike mostly on good paths which may, however, be narrow, rough, uneven, rocky and slippery when wet. You should to be sure footed, have experience hiking on unpaved trails and be comfortable on hilly terrain and ascents of up to 350 metres.
Equipment & Clothing
Following your booking, we send you our recommended kit list which you may find helpful.
We also strongly advise that you take out a comprehensive travel insurance to provide cover in case of an accident, loss of luggage, cancellations, delays etc. It makes for an even more relaxed holiday.