Sunday 26 March 2017
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 45 minutes. On arrival in Lewis we will transfer the short distance to our comfortable accommodation at the Cabarfeidh Hotel, where dinner will be served on arrival.
Monday 27 March 2017
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.
Tuesday 28 March 2017
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.
We then take the morning 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 three nights at the Dark Island Hotel, a modern, comfortable hotel with a peaceful location. Dinner is served in the evening.
Wednesday 29 March 2017
After breakfast today we cross the causeway to South Uist, the second largest island in the Western Isles and a stronghold of Gaelic culture and traditions. Included here is a visit to the Kildonan Museum. The museum has at its heart a collection of items from and about South Uist collected by a local Parish Priest, Father John Morrison, during the 1950s and 1960s. It also sets out the background to an island that is incredibly rich in archeological remains dating from the bronze age to the Viking era. Some of the exhibits are set out thematically: tools from a blacksmith's shop for example. Others are contained within the rooms of a recreated croft house. Nearby, we shall also see the birthplace of Flora MacDonald who famously assisted Bonnie Prince Charlie after the Battle of Culloden in 1746.
Later we return to the hotel where the rest of the day is free to relax in the hotel and joy the peace and quiet of the Hebrides. Alternatively, for the more energetic, join us as we return to North Uist for a visit to the RSPB reserve at Balranald. A circular trail of around 3 miles in length takes us through sandy dunes and flower-strewn machair which supports a wide range of birds such as turnstones, lapwings, corn buntings and the rare corncrake, whose rasping call should be a distinctive feature of our walk.
Dinner is served in the evening.
Thursday 30 March 2017
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 the Castlebay Heritage Centre, where there is a treasure trove of local artefacts and photographs on display, from traditional spinning wheels to pottery from the Stone age. 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.
Friday 31 March 2017
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.