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Tour the Outer Hebrides, Scotland's enchanting outlying islands, at a wholly appropriate, supremely relaxed pace.
As modern life seems to gather daily momentum, so the Outer Hebrides appear to step back and contemplate where others rush in. Barra, Vatersay, Eriskay, the Uists, Benbecula, Berneray, Harris, Scalpay and Lewis await exploration, delivering an authenticity and tranquillity few destinations come close to matching. We’ve chosen some of the most appealing, out-of-the-way accommodation available to ensure this self-drive tour of the Outer Hebrides is one of our most relaxing Scottish island holidays.
Examine our other “Slowly…” holidays to inspire those who enjoy traveling at a relaxed pace.
Your holiday commences with the ferry crossing, from the classic west coast fishing port of Oban, to Castlebay on the Isle of Barra. Threading its way through the Sound of Mull between the Ardnamurchan peninsula and the Isle of Mull, the route opens up in to the Atlantic, the ‘small isles’ of Egg, Rhum and Muck to the north, Coll and Tiree to the south, before arriving at your destination.
Your Accommodation on Barra
Set in the West facing village of Borve, within easy walking distance of a Neolithic standing stone and burial cairns, this family owned guest house is one of our recently discovered favourites and an ideal place to spend the first three nights of your trip. Built by the friendly lifelong Barra resident owners just a few years ago, each of the four cosy and comfortable bedrooms feature solid oak floors and high-spec ensuite bathrooms. Guests are welcome to relax in the inviting lounge, and high speed wifi is available throughout the house.
Don’t be surprised by the cries of ewes and lambs outside your bedroom window of an evening, or the sound of the Atlantic crashing on the shore just a few hundred yards away.
What to See and Do on Barra
It takes around 30 minutes to circumnavigate Barra by car on the main island road, making this an easy island on which to find your bearings. Head to Northbay and take a stroll on the beach at Cockle Strand, watching for the flight arriving from Glasgow, landing on the sand; a quite unforgettable sight. The vantage point of Eoligarry is easily reached by car or bicycle, affording views across Springtime wildflower strewn landscape towards Eriskay and South Uist. A trip across the short causeway to tiny Vatersay is a must, and you’re likely to have the beaches all to yourself, while a boat trip from Castlebay to Kisimul Castle is a fine way to spend an afternoon.
Barra features one or two good spots for evening dining, all within easy reach of your accommodation.
Wave goodbye to Barra from the jetty at Ardmhor as you take the short ferry crossing to the tiny island of Eriskay, until 2001 reachable only by boat, but since then connected to the isle of South Uist by causeway, breathing a whole new era of life in to this enthralling island.
Your Accommodation on Eriskay
Built by the family just a few short months ago, your guest house on Eriskay oozes quality and comfort. Designed with the greatest care, sea views present themselves from virtually every angle in the house, vast windows creating a sense of space throughout, while each of the ensuite bedrooms is simply and elegantly furnished, the most comfortable beds ensuring an epic night’s sleep. Local art adorns the walls around the house, and the laid back guest lounge on the first floor is the kind of space in which you could easily spend an entire day should the weather be against you during your two night stay.
What to See and Do on Eriskay
Perhaps most famous for the foundering of SS Politician on its rocky shores in 1941, giving birth to Compton MacKenzie’s Whisky Galore!, the Isle of Eriskay is also legendary as the spot where Bonnie Prince Charlie first set foot on Scottish soil before heading for the mainland to lead the Jacobite rebellion in 1745. Today, behind the bar of Am Politician, you can see one of the 264,000 bottles of whisky that was the lost ship’s original precious cargo, some of which was ‘liberated’ by the island’s menfolk during a chronic wartime whisky shortage, while the ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ beach at Coileag a’ Prionnnsa is an atmospheric place for a stroll in the evening light, during a Hebridean sunset if you’re lucky.
From Eriskay, it’s a short distance to beautiful South Uist by causeway; here, on one of the Hebrides’ last Gaelic-speaking strongholds, you’ll find more fantastic beaches to the west, heather uplands to the east and some 20 miles of machair, home to the elusive corncrake, with red grouse and red deer waiting to be spotted on the island’s mountainous Eastern side. The Cladh Hallan Roundhouses are unique in the UK as the only site where prehistoric mummies have been discovered, while the nature reserve at Loch Druidibeg is a must-see for wildlife lovers.
Set off from Eriskay this morning and make your way northwards across South Uist and the island of Benbecula – home to a single hill, Rueval, and whose landscape, in the right weather resembles the badlands of Texas. Take your time and discover Benbecula’s hidden beaches and the ruin of 14th century Church of St Columba before arriving on North Uist and your base for the next two nights in the small community of Carinish.
Your Accommodation on North Uist
Small, modern family run hotel situated close to the famous Trinity Temple – an ideal centre to explore and experience the island. A warm welcome is extended from the resident owners who provide a tranquil atmosphere for their guests. Fresh and bright en suite rooms allow for a relaxing and memorable stay in this beautiful location.
What to See and Do on North Uist
A paradise for wildlife and beach lovers, North Uist features a unique ‘drowned landscape’ of peat bogs and lochans, where otters play without fear of human disturbance and the call of the male corncrake can be heard of an evening. The island is home to several prehistoric sites, including the chambered cairn of Barpa Langais, and birdwatchers will love the RSPB site at Balranald.
Enjoy another fine, homecooked breakfast this morning, before making your way back to Berneray to catch your ferry to Leverburgh on the Isle of Harris. You may have time for a bracing stroll on one of Berneray’s quite unbelievably beautiful beaches before taking to the ferry for the one hour crossing through the Sound of Harris. This is one of Scotland’s most technically challenging ferry routes, the ship making some 90 changes in direction as it negotiates the islets and skerries of the Sound.
Your Accommodation on Scalpay/ Harris
At McKinlay Kidd we love to seek out off-the-beaten-track spots and here that extends to your overnight accommodation. The tiny island of Scalpay, home to unique twin harbours and the distinctive Eilean Glas Lighthouse, is attached to Harris by bridge and lies just a few miles via a twisting, slithering road from the main village of Tarbert. You’ll gain a feel for genuine Hebridean culture at this family-owned B&B, a charming place to stay. For evening dining, you’re a short stroll to a highly rated bistro, one of the best places for fresh seafood and local island produce on the archipelago.
On the isolated Eastern coast of Harris, you’ll find some of Earth’s oldest rocks, dated to around three-thousand-million years, littered across the landscape of ‘the Bays’, whose inlets host villages and hamlets each of unique character. The western side of Harris is where you’ll find some of the world’s most spectacular beaches stretched all along the coast, with white sands of one seeming to melt into another. Further north, the Harris landscape turns mountainous, with an eerie, almost lunar feel as it reaches the border with the Isle of Lewis – actually part of the same landmass.
The village of Tarbert is home to Harris Distillery, a beautifully designed facility, for now producing one of Scotland’s most acclaimed gins. And no visit to the island would be complete without a browse around the Harris Tweed shop, the perfect place to pick up a handmade bargain. Indeed, it’s possible to see this most famous island craft being created at some of the home-set mills dotted around Harris and Lewis.
Bid farewell to Harris this morning and cross the ‘border’ to Lewis, location of the Hebrides’ most famous town, Stornoway. The island is home to craftsmen, crofters and fisherfolk, as well as a wealth of prehistoric sites, and you’re assured a welcome as big-hearted as anywhere in the world.
Your Accommodation on Lewis
On the outskirts of Stornoway, your guest house near the Hebrides’ main town is a peaceful and welcoming place, whose owner has garnered a reputation second to none for the quality of accommodation and will happily share information on the local area with you.
What to See and Do on Lewis
You’ll notice the dramatic contrast in landscape here, with mountains, rugged plateaux, meadow, moorland and rocky coastline all in abundance. Of the wealth of must-see features, the otherworldly standing stones at Callanish are at the top of most lists, with the many iron-age brochs and cairns, and 17th century blackhouses also featuring. A drive to the Butt of Lewis – the island’s northernmost point – to experience sunset at the foot of dramatic Butt of Lewis Lighthouse, with often just the birds for company while the wild Atlantic crashes dramatically on the rocks below, is one of our favourite activities.
The western shores of the island feature many remnants of the island’s strategic placement during World War II, perched atop soaring cliffs leading to more golden beaches of scarcely believable beauty.
Stornoway itself is a fine place to while away an afternoon, and features one or two excellent eateries for evening dining.
Your homeward ferry departs Stornoway for the mainland at Ullapool, one of Sutherland’s prettiest fishing villages, from where you have a dramatic route South to savour.
This multi-centre holiday covers Barra, Eriskay, North Uist, Harris and Lewis.
£1125 per person in April & October, £1225 per person from May to September.
This price is based on two people sharing an ensuite double or twin room for 12 nights on a bed & breakfast basis. This price also includes ferry travel as described for car and passengers.
A day trip to St. Kilda can be added on for an additional cost of £260 per person. As travel to St. Kilda is weather dependent, the exact day of departure may be subject to late change. If the trip does not run a refund of the excursion fare will be made. Please enquire for more details.
Before your departure, you will receive personalised holiday information including full directions, recommended routes, and suggestions on places to visit depending on your interests and our local knowledge to help you get the most from your holiday.
All itineraries and room types are presented subject to availability at specific hotels.
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This holiday can be arranged from April to October.
Availability is individually checked for a hand-picked selection of smaller hotels, guest houses and other independent businesses, so please bear with us and we will respond in 1-2 working days.
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We guarantee to refund this service charge if you believe that arranging your holiday through McKinlay Kidd has not met your expectations for value. All we ask is that you write to us within 7 days of your return and explain your reason for claiming the refund. This will ensure that we can improve the experience for all our future guests.
Highlights were the scenery, the people, the relaxed atmosphere.Margaret & Charles, Midlothian, UK
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