EPIC Adventures in Europe
Island Hopping in the Outer Hebrides
Island Hopping in the Outer Hebrides , Scotland 185 miles, 10 Causeways, 4 Ferries
Lewis - Harris - Berneray - North Uist - Benbecula South Uist- Eriskay - Barra - Vatersay
The Outer Hebrides are a windswept, wild, sparsely populated, semi-circular chain of more than 70 islands off the West coast of Scotland. Also referred to as the Western Isles, the archipelago does not always feature prominently on the radar of many travellers, but pristine beaches, stunning mountain scenery and the remnants of a distinct and vibrant Gaelic culture might soon turn the islands into a must-see destination. Yet visitors must be content with a fierce climate. Summer temperatures rarely reach 20 degrees, the winds can be excessive at times and cloud coverage, mist and rain are frequent. Come prepared: bracing the elements is part of the experience.
More conventionally, Caledonian MacBrayne ferries https://www.calmac.co.uk/offer several links. If you are bringing your own vehicle, prior booking is absolutely essential. Northern Isles: Ullapool to Stornoway (Isle of Lewis). 2 hours. Uig (Ilse of Skye) to Tarbert (Harris) 1.45 hours.
Central Isles: Uig (Isle of Skye) to Lochmaddy (North Uist) . 1.45 hours
Southern Isles: Mallaig to Lochboisdale (South Uist): 3.5 hours.Oban to Castlebay (Barra): 4.75 hours
Carlos suggested a location for our first overnight stop. During lockdown he had become a fan of bookstore proprietor Shaun Bythell’s podcast, had read his hilarious autobiographical stories and started to follow him on Facebook. That’s why we found ourselves in Wigtown, Scotland’s ‘national book town’ and somewhat conveniently located along the way in the underpopulated western part of the Scottish Lowlands about 2 hours south of Glasgow. ‘Town’ is a slightly ambitious description, as the place spreads around a market square lined with a couple of bookstores, cafes, and art galleries: pleasant and pretty, but certainly not on the tourist trail just yet. Of course, being Shaun’s #1 fan, Carlos dragged me into his bookshop. We got lost in some rather obscure sections, when a chirpy lady handling the tills shouted, ‘I need some help Shaun’. Lo and behold, the man himself appeared, inquired about the origin of our funny accents, and happily engaged in some banter. Hey, we even got him to pose in front of his shop and promised to send a postcard once we made it to the Isles. Carlos was very happy.
Harris felt much more developed than the southern islands of the archipelago. Hardly any single-file tracks which are so common on Uist. The houses seem bigger, smarter, and newer. And trees! We haven’t seen those in a while. A quick stop in Talbert: new public buildings including a school, a health centre, and a gym. Some commerce, shops, supermarkets, pubs, and restaurants grouped next to the ferry terminal which whisks you to the Isle of Skye in under two hours.