Travel guide to the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.
The Outer Hebrides is a group of beautiful islands off the west coast of Scotland. They are the perfect place for a relaxing getaway, and are home to some of the most stunning views in the country. Golden sandy beaches with crystal blue water, sprawling mountains and much wildlife can all be expected with a trip to the Hebrides.
There are 119 islands in the Outer Hebrides. Many of them are uninhabited. There are 5 main inhabited islands which all make for a great time. These are Lewis and Harris, North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist and Barra.
How to get to the Outer Hebrides
You may think it would be difficult to reach the islands, especially since they are hailed as a fabulous ‘remote’ paradise- but it’s actually easier than ever. There are fights to Stornoway airport (located in the Outer Hebrides) from many of the UK’s major airports- such as Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Or perhaps you will want to experience the only scheduled flight with a beach landing, in the world! Loganair’s services connect Glasgow and Barra, and use the 2 mile stretch of Traigh Mhor beach to serve as the island’s runway, just have to make sure the tide is out! This makes the islands really accessible.
If you’re already in the area, you can use the Western Isles ferry service which connects the islands to mainland Scotland. By taking a ferry, you can bring over your own car to the islands- but make sure you book in advance to prevent disappointment. You can catch a ferry over to the Western isles from either Mallaig, Oban, Uig or further north from Ullapool.
- Mallaig to Lochboisdale.
- Oban to Castlebay.
- Uig, Skye to Lochmaddy.
- Uig, Skye to Tarbert.
- Ullapool to Stornaway.
Best to double check the timetable, as they change from season to season – https://www.calmac.co.uk/stornoway-ullapool-lewis-ferry-summer-timetable
Things to do and see
There are so many things to see and do in the Outer Hebrides. Whether you’re an outdoorsy hiking type or a lover of home comforts, there’s bound to be something you enjoy on the islands. Here are just a few suggestions of what you can get up to during your trip.
Drive the golden road.
The golden road is a name that sounds heavenly and angelic, and the name isn’t far off of the views you’ll see driving down it. The golden road leads to the south end of the Isle of Harris. The views are magical, and the surrounding areas serene. There are old abandoned settlements of long-gone inhabitants dotted along the road, a great sight for any history buff. Make sure you take enough time to stop by at the small galleries and outlooks along the way.
Take to the seas
Tour companies such as Seatrek offer boat trips around the Isle of Lewis, Uig coast and other parts of the Hebrides. This is a great way to sit back and relax whilst taking in the views. Taking to the water allows you to see the isles from a different perspective- and peek into the various mysterious cliff caves. You’ll see some outstanding wildlife which would be much harder to spot from land- most notably puffins. Now that’s something you don’t see every day.
Learn something new
With the Outer Hebrides having so much history attached to it, there are plenty of museums to visit. Museums are a great option for families or couples wanting to learn more about the history of the area. At The Blackhouse, Arnol, you can gain a unique insight into how island life once was- by taking a look inside a real, fully furnished thatched house from the 1920s. There are lots of art galleries, such as the Holmasaig Gallery and Westside Gallery- you’re spoilt for choice!
It’s not hard to see why the beaches on the islands are included in so many of the ‘best beaches in the world’ lists. They sure do give beaches in the Caribbean a run for their money. If only the temperature was a little higher, but perhaps they wouldn’t be so quiet, which makes them even more special. To see some of the magnificent beaches in more detail, check out our ‘Wander the Highlands top ten beaches on the Outer Hebrides’ if you would like to see more, well worth it, truly stunning!
To take away
There is so much more to the Outer Hebrides which I cannot even begin to cover in this short article. With stunning outdoor landscapes, there are plenty of outdoor activities going on such as kayaking, waterfall walking, swimming and hiking. The isles are a great place for bike fanatics- and have lots of quaint independent cafes for when it’s time to unwind. Lighthouses, castles, brochs, the 5000 year old Callanish standing stones, the oldest neolithic structures in the UK. With the islands easier to get to than ever, why wait around, get booking!