Grand Tour of the Outer Hebrides | 5 Days
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Our flagship tour returns in a brand new incarnation for October, but this ever-so-slightly shorter trip is by no means short on the important stuff. Ocean sunsets, mysterious standing stones, fantastical castles seemingly floating on the waves, the unmistakable feeling of soft sand between your toes — it’s all present.
As we travel around this one-of-a-kind island chain, we gain a privileged insight into a way of life once common throughout the British Isles: mills, kilns, crofting settlements and other relics of ancient artisans make for enlightening and emotive visits. Elsewhere, there are strongholds of Gaelic tradition (as on South Uist), historic landing sites (as in the case of Prince Charlie’s Bay), and wildflower meadows (all the better for species spotting) to be discovered.
But a trip to the Outer Hebrides is by no means just about the sites — far from it. Here, the journeys themselves are just as much of an event. Enjoy a scenic southward drive from Lewis, punctuated by mist-cloaked hilltops, green expanses and steely seas; a serene early morning ferry ride on the Sound of Harris, and many more inspiring transfers besides as we explore these fascinating islands.
We depart from our designated pick-up points and head north-west, 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, and continue to Uig where we take the evening ferry to Lochmaddy in North Uist. Dinner is served on board. We continue over a causeway to Benbecula, the ‘stepping stone’ between the Uists, where we arrive at the base for the next two nights, the Dark Island Hotel, a traditional Hebridean hotel in a peaceful location.
After our full Scottish breakfast, we 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.
Following an opportunity for lunch*, we will visit Cockleshell Bay, 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 visit by means of the causeway linking the two islands, that the classic film adaptation was made.
We return via the Eriskay ferry to our hotel, where dinner is served in the evening.
After breakfast, we check out of our hotel and return to North Uist for a visit to the RSPB reserve at Balranald. A circular trail, around three miles long, takes us through sandy dunes and machair which support a wide range of birds. We can expect to see lapwings, golden plovers, greylag geese, hen harriers and peregrine falcons, and if we are lucky, we may even spy some otters! Please note this visit involves rough terrain and is fairly strenuous – suitable outdoor clothing and stout footwear is essential.
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) and 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 Caberfeidh 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.
This morning we check out early from the hotel for the early morning Caledonian MacBrayne ferry from Stornoway to Ullapool which takes approximately two and a half hours. We then continue our homeward journey, arriving back at our original pick-up points during the evening.
Included in the price
- 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)
- All coaching and ferry transfers
- Visits to the Castlebay Heritage Centre, 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 Brightwater Holidays tour manager
Not included (per person)
- Single room supplement: £100.00
- Insurance: £21.00 (under 65); £42.00 (65-74); £63.00 (75-90)
Subject to minimum numbers, the following pick-up will be served by feeder coach and passengers will join/leave in Perth:
Please note all pick-ups are subject to minimum numbers and all timings are approximate and may be changed. They will be confirmed when the joining instructions are sent out, approximately ten days prior to departure.