Join us for a Grand Tour of the Outer Hebrides to explore the famously laid-back pace of life in Scotland’s Western Isles, but bear with us: on these remote islands, you’d be hard-pressed not to discover a new archaeological gem at every turn. Whether discovering Norse mills or ancient hills, this is truly a place where time is on our side.
In the far north of the United Kingdom, at Europe’s Atlantic edge, we find a string of islands that is unique indeed. Prehistoric sites, windswept beaches, artists’ hideaways, and imposing castles dot landscapes that are alternately wild and homely.
Here in the Outer Hebrides, there is a uniquely slow pace of life reminiscent of times past — in the north, establishments go into once-weekly hibernation in observation of the Sabbath, while up and down the island chain there is a pleasing dissonance as ancient sites meet modern life. On the Isle of Lewis we see Shawbost Norse Mill and Kiln, an accomplished restoration and a fascinating insight into a way of life once common on the island; and walk amongst the mysterious Standing Stones of Callanish.
But a trip to the Outer Hebrides is by no means just about the sites.
The Outer Hebrides Holiday Highlights:
- Four scenic ferry crossings
- Visits to Skye, North Uist, Benbecula, Barra, Eriskay, Vatersay, Harris, Lewis and Stornoway
- Blindingly white sandy beaches on Vatersay
- The unique airport at Cockleshell Beach
- 5000 year old standing stones
- The tranquil location of the Norse Mill at Shawbost
- Return coach travel available from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dunfermline, Kinross, Perth or (subject to numbers) Dundee
- 4 nights’ accommodation: 2 nights at the Dark Island Hotel on Benbecula and 2 nights at the Caberfeidh Hotel, Stornoway. All rooms have private facilities
- Four breakfasts (one on the ferry and three in the hotels)
- Four dinners (one on the ferry and three in the hotels)
- Visits to Skye, North Uist, South Uist, Benbecula, Barra, Eriskay, Vatersay, Harris, Lewis and Stornoway
- All coaching and ferry transfers
- Visits to RSPB Reserve at Balranald Cockleshell Beach, St Clement’s Church, the Standing Stones of Callanish, Gearannan Black Houses and Shawbost Norse Mill
- Services of a tour manager
Single supplements apply. Subject to availability.
Grand Tour of the Outer Hebriddes Itinerary
We depart from our designated pick-up points and head north, stopping en-route for refreshments (not included), travelling via Glencoe, Fort William and Glenfinnan to Mallaig. From here we sail to Lochboisdale in South Uist, cross to Benbecula, the ‘stepping stone’ between the Uists, and continue to our accommodation at the Isle of Benbecula House Hotel, where dinner will be served on arrival.
After our full Scottish breakfast we will depart for Barra, travelling via the little island of Eriskay, just three miles long and two miles wide, with a great sandy beach known as Prince Charlie’s Bay – Bonnie Prince Charlie having landed here in July 1745. From Eriskay we make the short ferry crossing to Barra and have a tour of the island, including a visit to Cockleshell Beach, the unique runway whose use is governed by the tides. On approaching the airport keep an eye out to the left for the much loved former home of Sir Compton Mackenzie, the author of ‘Whisky Galore’, which is forever associated with the island. In fact, it was on the neighbouring island of Vatersay, which we will visit by means of the causeway linking the two islands, that the classic film adaptation was made.
Late afternoon we make the reverse journey back to Benbecula and our hotel, where dinner is served in the evening.
After breakfast we check out of the hotel and take the mid-morning ferry from Berneray to Leverburgh at the southern end of Harris and visit St Clement’s Church at Rodel, built on top of an earlier structure in the 16th century by Alasdair Crotach, 8th chief of the Macleods of Harris and Dun Bheagan. The church tombs are among the most spectacular in Scotland. There are outstanding views as we travel along the coast, including the island of Taransay of ‘Castaway’ fame, and the wonderful beaches at Horgabost, Borve and Scarasta. We will pause for refreshments (not included) in Tarbert, before continuing through the mountainous countryside of Harris which eventually gives way to the rolling moorland of Lewis. We continue to the island capital of Stornoway and our comfortable accommodation at the Cabarfeidh Hotel.
This morning after breakfast we will travel to the west coast of Lewis for a visit to the 5,000 year old Standing Stones of Callanish. Undoubtedly the most remarkable antiquity in the Western Isles, this collection of almost 50 stones forms a well-marked megalithic avenue, comprising 19 monoliths, ending in a circle of 13 stones, with a great cairn at the centre. Entry to the Visitor Centre is included.
From here we move on to the Black Houses at Gearrannan, typical of the crofting settlements which until relatively recently were found throughout the Western Isles.
The final visit on our circular tour is the Norse Mill at Shawbost, where barley grain was ground into meal by Viking settlers. A short walk past a small lochan leads to two beautifully restored little thatched buildings with a fine view to the ocean beyond.
Dinner will be served back at our hotel in the evening.
This morning we check out of the hotel and take the morning Caledonian MacBrayne ferry from Stornoway to Ullapool which takes approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes. Breakfast is served on board. We then continue our homeward journey, arriving back at our original pick-up points during the evening.