Things To See & Do
Isle of Lewis ‘must do’ list:
Step back in time and wonder about the meaning and purpose of the standing stones at Callanish – or Calanais in Gaelic. You can walk right among them and soak up the atmosphere across the millennia. Nearby Carloway Broch is one of the best-surviving examples of a fortified dwelling, not as ancient as the standing stones, but equally impressive. You can learn more about traditional island life in a blackhouse village, with its preserved thatched cottages. Stornoway boasts more-modern experiences, with a bustling social scene and arts centre, and is famous above all for its spicy black pudding – some claim it’s the best in Scotland – do try it at breakfast.
Isle of Harris ‘must do’ list:
You’ll be spoilt for choice along the south-west coast of the Isle of Harris, as one expansive white sandy beach after another unfurls before your eyes. Sometimes it’s hard to know where one ends and the next starts. On a sunny day, the contrasting pure turquoise waters give rise to many a comparison with the Caribbean, yet here you won’t need to wander far to find solitude and tranquillity, with not a sunbed in sight. On the opposite coast, travel the ‘Golden Road’ – a ribbon of tarmac meandering across a barren and rocky lunar landscape. You’ll still come across crofter’s cottages where you can watch Harris Tweed being woven and perhaps treat yourself to a special souvenir. And – if you’re feeling particularly adventurous – Harris is the best departure point for boat trips out into the Atlantic to the long-abandoned St Kilda archipelago, on the very edge of the British Isles (advance reservations vital – please ask us).
North & South Uist ‘must do’ list:
Explore more endless white-shell beaches along the western shores, and gaze at an unspoilt landscape of peat bog and heather-clad moorland, interspersed with pools of water – fabulous for photographs when the light is right. If you fancy a spot of fishing, then Uist’s thousands of freshwater lochs can answer your every whim. Get closer to nature at the RSPB reserve at Balranald, one of the best spots for wildlife in the UK. Sit by the visitor centre and listen for the distinctive rasping call of the rare corncrake, take the path to the shore or join one of the guided walks which take place through the summer months. Technically a different island, but easy to reach via causeway, Berneray is another beautiful wilderness, with great seal-spotting, fabulous views and – you guessed it – more amazing beaches!
Barra and Eriskay ‘must do’ list:
There aren’t many places in the world where we’d recommend you spend an hour or two at the airport – even if you aren’t due to fly – but you won’t find another airport anywhere in the world like Barra’s …where the runway is a cockleshell strand, the timetable varies with the tide and you can enjoy delicious home-cooking while you wait. There’s another great beach just over the dunes, too. It’s easy to understand the naming of the main town as Castlebay – from whichever direction you approach, your eyes will be drawn to Kisimul Castle, ancestral clan seat of the MacNeils, seemingly floating in the bay. Hop aboard the wee boat run by Historic Scotland and see it up close for yourself. Chat to locals in the bar about life on the island and get a taste of it by trying some tooth-achingly sweet but delicious Hebridean Toffee. Tick off the neighbouring islands. Vatersay’s apple-core beaches are a stunning spectacle, though tainted with tragedy as the sites of a major shipwreck in 1843 and plane crash in 1944 – reminders that these are remote and wild shores. The most famous shipwreck of all – the inspiration behind Whisky Galore! – happened on the Isle of Eriskay, reached by a short ferry-ride from Barra. Take time to linger by the dock and beautiful Prince Charlie Bay. Perhaps also take a drive around the island – it’s not that big – and spot some cute Eriskay ponies before stopping for a quick refreshment in Am Politician – a simple-looking bungalow, now a pub, but which houses many a relic of the ship with its doomed whisky cargo.
Travelling To & Around
The islands are connected by ferry routes from Oban and Ullapool, on the West coast of Scotland, and for those who prefer shorter crossings you can also access the islands from the North of the Isle of Skye. You can then travel by a series of causeways and ferry crossings between the islands. Grappling with the timetables – sometimes subject to tidal change – is not for the faint-hearted, however, so why not leave it to us? We can work out the best combinations and timings to ensure you get the most out of your adventure
If time is short, there are also flight connections from Glasgow and Edinburgh to Lewis, and of course the unique experience of landing on the beach runway on the Isle of Barra is on many “bucket-lists”, with daily services from Glasgow. As a fully bonded tour operator, licensed with the Civil Aviation Authority, McKinlay Kidd can offer fly-drive holidays, complete with one-way car hire, flights, accommodation and inter-island ferries. Leave it to us and enjoy a stress-free holiday!