September is an exhilarating time of year to embark on our Grand Tour of the Outer Hebrides, when the westerly winds can whip up the ocean into a spectacular display of crashing waves and foaming surf.
This tour takes in all the beauty and diversity of this very special environment with eleven different islands and four ferry trips included. Two comfortable hotels ensure that this holiday is as relaxing as possible while at the same time offering great variety and the sense of a true journey of discovery which will live long in the memory.
Our odyssey begins with the ferry crossing from Ullapool to Stornoway. From our base here at the comfortable Cabarfeidh Hotel we explore the rolling moorland of Lewis, with visits to the remarkable Standing Stones of Callanish, the tranquil little Norse Mill at Shawbost and the distinctive Black Houses at Gearannan.
A captivating journey follows as we travel south through the magnificent mountain scenery of Harris and by ferry to North Uist, continuing via the causeways that link the islands to Benbecula, our base for the next two nights. We visit the islands of Eriskay; Vatersay with its fantastic sandy beaches, and Barra, including visits to Kisimul Castle and Cockleshell Beach, used as the island’s airport. Our return route takes us by ferry to the Isle of Skye, a romantic island of mist-covered mountains.
Grand Tour of the Outer Hebrides Highlights
- Blindingly white sandy beaches on South Uist and Vatersay
- The unique airport at Cockleshell Beach
- 5000 year old standing stones
- The tranquil location of the Norse Mill at Shawbost
- A view of the mist-covered Cuillins as you drive across Skye
- Four scenic ferry crossings
- Return coach travel from Aberdeen, Inverurie, Elgin, Forres, Nairn or Inverness
- 4 nights’ accommodation with dinner, bed and breakfast – 2 nights’ staying at the Cabarfeidh Hotel and 2 nights’ staying at the Stornoway Dark Island Hotel on Benbecula
- Visits to the Standing Stones of Callanish, the Gearannan Black Houses, Shawbost Norse Mill, Lewis; St Clement’s Church, Rodel; Kisimul Castle, Cockleshell Beach and Vatersay
- Comfortable coach travel throughout
- Ferry transfers as detailed
- Services of a professional tour manager
Single room supplement, if rooms available – £120. Offer is subject to availability.
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Grand Tour of the Outer Hebrides Itinerary
We depart from our designated pick-up points and head north, stopping en-route for refreshments. We will continue to Ullapool in time to catch the early evening Caledonian MacBrayne ferry to Stornoway, which takes approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes. Dinner will be served on board. On arrival in Lewis we will transfer the short distance to our comfortable accommodation at the Cabarfeidh Hotel.
Dinner will be served in the evening.
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 Gearannan, 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.
After breakfast we check out of the hotel and travel south to Harris, which in contrast to the rolling moorland of Lewis is more mountainous – this is apparent within minutes of crossing the ‘border’ into Harris with a magnificent mountain vista to the right as the road climbs over the hill. There are further 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. Continuing to the southern end of Harris we 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.
We then take the ferry from Leverburgh to Berneray on North Uist, and continue over a series of causeways (keeping a careful eye out for otters) to Benbecula, the ‘stepping stone’ between the Uists.
We are based for the next two nights at the Dark Island Hotel. Dinner is served in the evening.
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 by boat to Kisimul Castle, the only surviving medieval castle in the Western Isles and the seat of the Clan MacNeil. The castle features a great hall, kitchen, chapel, dungeon and 60-foot tower, together with a shop.
We will also visit 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.
In the course of our tour today we also hope to see some of the hundreds of species of wild flowers that grow on the island, particularly on the machair, the fertile, grassy pastures that lie between the moorland and the sea.
We return via the Eriskay ferry to our hotel, where dinner is served in the evening.
This morning we check out of the hotel and take the morning ferry from Lochmaddy in North Uist to Uig on Skye. On arrival on Skye we will drive across the island, enjoying the views of the Cuillin Hills whose jagged peaks are often wreathed in mist, and cross to the mainland via the Skye Bridge and continue our homeward journey, arriving back at our original pick-up points during the evening.