Embrace Scotland’s westernmost remote islands to find true wilderness, rugged hills, green pastures, white sandy beaches and warm hospitality.
This long string of islands flung into the Atlantic ocean on the edge of Europe conjures up remoteness, mystery and true wilderness, a place to be embraced and no moment of it’s spectacles missed. 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.
Open your arms to big skies and open seas 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.
Walking & Sightseeing
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.
Wildlife, Relaxation & Culture
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 Glasgow 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
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 and enjoying our first day in these wild Hebriden elements. We explore the remains of a former crofters summer shieling village. We may even witness some traditional peat cutting underway.
*Walking: 4 hours with breaks, 12 km, undulating; Overnight Stornoway*Walking: 6 hours with breaks, 15 km, alt 320m/ Overnight Kintail
A little must do sightseeing with two or three shorter walks. The Callanish standing stones date back 5000 years and are a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is an unusual assembly of remarkable menhirs with many unresolved mysteries surrouning this structure. We also explore other and lesser known stone circles and visit the Pictish Carloway Borch which is one of the largest and best preserved in Scotland. If time permits, we may be visiting one of the Harris Tweed weavers near Stornoway.
*Walking: 3 hours, 8 km, undulating; Overnight Stornoway
An ancient route with fabulous views across rocky hills and cliffs to the once remote village of Rhenigadale. These days there is also a road which we romantically ignore.
*Walking: 4 hours with breaks, 8 km, alt 410 m; Overnight Tarbert, Isle of Harris
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 and Lochmaddy.
*Walking: 3 Hours with breaks, 7 km alt 340m; Overnight Lochmaddy, North Uist
We explore some of South Uists vast sandy beaches and expose ourselves to wind and waves, looking out for seals and birds. Completely energised, we continue to explore 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 Isle of Barra
Barra is the southernmost island of the Outer Hebrides and small as it is boasts both beaches and a scenic hill walk. Vatersay a little further on and connected by a causeway seems to consist of white sand dunes only surrounded by turqoise waters and you may be forgiven to think this could be Turkey … We take our pick from these options according to moods and weather.
*Walking: max 4 hours, Overnight Isle of Barra
This morning we catch the ferry across the sea of the Minch all the way to Oban, a 5 hour journey which takes us through the islands of the Inner Hebrides and the Sound of Mull to mainland Scotland. Our onwards drive south rewards us with a very different beauty of inland lakes and forested mountains of Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park before we reach Glasgow.
*Sea journey 5 hours, drive to Glasgow 2.5 hrs. Arrival time around 17:00 hrs.
Enjoy comfortable, authentic and friendly hospitality in well tested small Hotels: the Royal Hotel in Stornoway, the much praised Tarbert Hotel on Harris, Langass Lodge on Uist and two Hotels on Barra’s lively harbour town Castlebay. 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 as beautiful and therefore our groups have the personable size of no more than 8 persons and is accompanied throughout by an experienced and knowledgeable guide to make you 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 meters.
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.