Grand Tour of the Outer Hebrides 2019
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- Four scenic ferry crossings
- 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
Late March is an exhilarating time of year to visit the Outer Hebrides when the westerly winds can whip up the ocean into a spectacular display of crashing waves and foaming surf.
This extended tour has proved extremely popular, offering as it does a unique opportunity to travel the length and breadth of the Western Isles. Our grand 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 as we travel across Skye and take the ferry from Uig to Lochmaddy on North Uist, continuing via the causeways that link the islands to Benbecula, our base for the first two nights. From here we visit the islands of Eriskay; Vatersay with its fantastic sandy beaches, and Barra, including visits to Castlebay Heritage Centre and Cockleshell Beach, used as the island’s airport.
A captivating journey follows as we travel by ferry from Berneray to Leverburgh and continue north through the magnificent mountain scenery of Harris to the Western Isles’ ‘capital’ 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. Our return route takes us by ferry from Stornoway to Ullapool.
We depart from our designated pick-up points and head north, stopping en-route for refreshments. We cross to the Isle of Skye via the Skye Bridge and drive across the island, enjoying the views of the Cuillin Hills whose jagged peaks are often wreathed in mist, to the ferry port at Uig. From here we sail to Lochmaddy in North 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 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.
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 return to North Uist for a visit to the RSPB reserve at Balranald. A circular trail 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.
We then take the early-afternoon 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, 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, where dinner is 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.
This morning we check out of the hotel and have some free time to relax in Stornoway. You may wish to visit the Lewis Loom Centre, which chronicles history of Harris Tweed, or the new Museum Nan Eilean at Lews Castle (entrances not included). We then take the early afternoon Caledonian MacBrayne ferry from Stornoway to Ullapool which takes approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes. We then continue our homeward journey, arriving back at our original pick-up points during the evening.
- Four nights’ accommodation on a dinner, bed and full breakfast basis: two nights at the Isle of Benbecula House Hotel (additional accommodation may also be provided at the nearby Dark Island Hotel) and two nights at the Caberfeidh Hotel, Stornoway. All rooms have private facilities
- All coaching and ferry transfers
- Visits to the Standing Stones of Callanish, the Gearannan Black Houses, Shawbost Norse Mill, Lewis; St Clement’s Church, Rodel, Harris; Castlebay Heritage Centre, Cockleshell Beach and Vatersay; RSPB Reserve at Balranald
- Services of a Brightwater Holidays tour manager
Supplements per person
- Single room supplement £140.00 pp
- 2019 prices TBC
Connecting flights, rail travel and accommodation before or after the tour available on request
26/03/2019 from £825pp
|Does not pick-up in Inverness||19:30|
Subject to minimum numbers, the following pick-up will be served by feeder coach and passengers will join/leave in Perth: