We are recently back from a very good trip to the Outer Hebrides. The area offers an excellent tour for small groups of Sevens. We had excellent sunny weather, which made for a very pleasant trip.
The Outer Hebrides are sparsely populated and parts of them feel very remote. Many times we found ourselves virtually alone on beautiful sandy white beaches. The tourist season is short, and caters mostly for cyclists and walkers. The flora and fauna is rich and varied, and the roads are pretty empty and well maintained. Overtaking is easy. Our favourite Isles were Harris and Barra.
The restaurant prices are fairly high, but we found that the service was cheerful and the seafood is really very good.
Here is a brief account, which maybe of use to others...
Our first night was in the Inveraray Inn – a good stopover with cheap Sunday night dinner deals.
The next day we drove to Oban to catch the ferry to Castlebay, Barra (at the southern end of the Hebrides). Oban is an interesting town and certainly worth a look around as you wait for the ferry. Head for the Oban Chocolate company for tasty cake and coffee (and chocolate).
We stayed in the Barra Beach Hotel – which was comfortable, clean and friendly. It is also right next to a beautiful and isolated beach. We tried our hand at surfing on the hotels kayaks – and loved it. We also visited Barra Beach Airport – which is only used when the tide it out. They have a good cafe where you can watch the incoming aircraft whist you munch on cake and coffee. We also climbed the tallest hill, Heaval; a short but steep walk with great views.
Next we caught the ferry from Ardmhor to Eriskay and stayed at the Polochar Inn. Polochar is a comfortable, no nonsense, type of place right on the seafront. We had good food (like everywhere we stayed). We drove to Benbecula and on the way we picked up hot smoked Salmon from Salar Smokehouse for lunch. We also took a short hike up Rueval to take in the views.
The following day we blatted onto North Uist (via Hebridean smokehouse). We had a quick scout around the RSPB reserve and were harassed by Arctic Turn – it seems the bird population of the Western Isles is not keen on visitors. This was not an isolated event.
We then went to a huge, beautiful and deserted beach on the North end of Berneray.
Our next island was an unexpected highlight. The Isle of Harris is mountainous and beautiful. We headed to the east of the island after arriving at the Leverburgh ferry port (and it looked like a complicated navigation for the ferry captain from Berneray). The eastern road is also called the ‘Golden Road’. It was virtually empty and twisted and turned through the hillsides – ideal and enjoyable blatting for a Seven.
We then did the faster Harris road (A859), and this was good too. Harris is a nice place.
After a quick look in Gin Distillery in Tarbert (thank you for soup and toilets). We headed off to look at Scalpay bridge. This is worth doing for the excellent blatting roads and views.
Our accommodation for the next few nights was in Seacroft, Aird Uig (we stayed in the Seapods on the cliffedge). Aird Uig must be one of the remotest places in the UK, and the site of a dilapidated radar RAF station from the cold war. The hosts were welcoming and it was a lot of fun (and great seafood). Aird Uig is beautiful place but it is slightly alternative – I loved it (although I also like Zombie films). It is good – go there.
We then explored the Northern end of Lewis, including the Butt of Lewis and the ancient Callanish Standing Stones. It was OK, and it completed our journey, but it could not compare to what we had seen on the the other islands.
We caught the ferry from Stornaway to Ullapool and stayed in Ardvreck B&B. Word got though to the local bird population that we were visiting, and they also decided to let us know their thoughts while we tucked into fish and chips (b*****ds).
Finally on route back we decided to have a look around Skye (and stayed in Seafar). Unfortunately we missed the best of this island (due to low cloud and drizzle), but we had fun on the excellent mountain road B885 across from Portree to the western side and popped into the Talisker Distillery.
This was probably our favourite tour of recent years (and quite a long one at 2100 miles). The excellent roads, weather, remote and beautiful scenery, great seafood and company really made it.
Simon (and also Alice, Rob and Sally)