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mudlush Sep 16th, 2010 07:08 PM

6 day driving tour of Outer Hebrides (not Skye)
We will be making a pilgrimage to ancient sites in mid May of next year. Probably starting with Callanish on Lewis and working our way south (Barra?) as far as the sites take us. I am just starting the research so am open to any & all suggestions on how to best use our time and energy. We are a retired, well traveled, curious, outgoing, sturdy couple who enjoy good conversation along with creature comforts. Suggestions as to route, itinerary, not to be missed locales, hotels or inns (we are not fond of B & Bs) or really interesting places to stay, people to meet, good pubs & restaurants. Anybody know anything about flying off of the beach at Barra? Puffins, I want to see rookeries of puffins. Is it possible to do this trip in mid May without reservations so as not to be tied down. Thanks for your help.

sheila Sep 17th, 2010 02:35 AM

Oh yes....

I'm at work and scanning this meantime. I can give you some detailed stuff, but it'll take a wee while

mudlush Sep 17th, 2010 11:04 AM

Thanks, can't wait. Do you know if it is possible to pick up a car in Stornaway and drop it on Barra at the air strip?

sheila Sep 17th, 2010 12:10 PM

That might be tough. Car Hire Barra? Hmmm?

I've found local car hire in both places. One way might be a bit of an issue.

I'll check it out for you.

So far I've got puffins and stones as your interests. What else would you add?

yanumpty Sep 17th, 2010 12:52 PM


Where are you flying from and in to?

anyegr Sep 17th, 2010 02:01 PM

I did a trip in June 2008, going the other way. Starting in Castlebay on Barra, staying a couple of days in Lochboisdale on South Uist, Lochmaddy on North Uist, Leverburgh on Harris (only one night there) and Stornoway on Lewis. Total eleven days (actually thirteen, but I don't count the time in Glasgow as part of the Hebrides trip).

I don't drive, so I had to rely on buses and ferries. I bought something called a Hopscotch 8 ferry ticket. It included four ferry trips. Oban - Castlebay, Barra (Ard Mhor) - Eriskay, Berneray - Leverburgh and Stornoway - Ullapool.

I actually thought the pace of the trip was a bit too slow. Some of that may have been because of the weather. The nature of the islands is very beautiful, but walking in heavy rain is not fun. I had prebooked the rooms, so I was sort of stuck with the itinerary.

Castlebay is rather small. Lochboisdale and Lochmaddy were actually smaller. Stornoway is much larger.

In Castlebay I stayed at a small B&B.

In Lochboisdale I stayed at Lochboisdale Hotel
It was nice, clean and reasonably priced. In walking distance of both the Tourist Office and a ferry (can't remember where that one went to).

In Lochmaddy I stayed at Lochmaddy Hotel
It's in walking distance of a museum. It was also nice, clean and reasonably priced. It wasn't their fault that it rained the entire Sunday and I was bored half to death.

In Leverburgh I stayed at a hostel and hated it. The beds were really bad and the rooms were mixed gender.

In Stornoway I stayed at another hostel that was much nicer.

I don't have a complete trip report on the computer, unfortunately. I did write a diary, with pen and paper, but I'm not sure where it is right now.

During the first parts of the trip it was very obvious that the tourist season had barely started. The ferries were less than half full, the buses were almost empty etc.

anyegr Sep 17th, 2010 02:23 PM

Links to some websites I found useful at the time (I had some more, but they were dead links when I checked them now)


Transportation links:

This is a VERY small exhibition
a Castle on a small island

South Uist:
a Museum

North Uist:
the Museum across the street from Lochmaddy Hotel


An Arts Centre in Stornoway
A Blackhouse village

mudlush Sep 17th, 2010 05:00 PM

Most likely flying in from Glasgow to Stornoway. We would like to make the road trip south & return to the mainland from the southern islands. How do people do this, surely we are not the first? If we are unable to drop the car in the south, how long would it take to drive directly back north to Stornoway from Barra?
Interests are mainly the neolithic sites, good food and drink, scenic roads, myths and local music, birds and people.

janisj Sep 17th, 2010 05:09 PM

"<i>How do people do this, surely we are not the first?</i>"

Usually they rent a car on the mainland (or drive their own vehicle) and ferry across to the islands and back. One-way rentals are usually only available in major towns/cities/hubs . . . Inverness, Glasgow, GLA, EDI etc. Remote/rural rental companies are almost always one-off's - independent small companies that don't have other locations

W/o driving back to your starting point to drop a locally rented car, you could to fly into Inverness and collect a car there -- drive across and take a ferry to the Hebrides. Then ferry back to the mainland and drop the car at another location.

hopingtotravel Sep 18th, 2010 09:12 AM

Sounds fascinating. Unfortunately, I won't get the benefit of any report you make. IF we get to go, we'll be in the same area late May.

mudlush Sep 23rd, 2010 08:06 PM

Still putting things together. I did find a company that allows vehicle pickup and drop off on either end but they only allow starting on Thursdays. Curious. They are not interested in customizing either. So, we will be starting in Stornoway, ending in No. Ouist, and hightailing it back to Stornoway for the flight to the mainland.

What I am working on now though is a place to stay as close to Callanish as possible. I have found a smattering of guest houses and B&Bs but nothing appealing. Does anyone know of anything?

janisj Sep 23rd, 2010 08:35 PM

This one is nice and quite close to the Stones.

mudlush Sep 24th, 2010 11:08 PM

Thanks Janisj, That is a possibility.
Has anyone had any experience with the Leumadair Guest House? It is a croft very near to Callanish.
Also re lodging on Ouist: Langass or Tigh Dearg?
& on So. Harris? Any favorites?

& puffins----I understand that they may be in residence in late May. Any favorite locations on No. Ouist for seeing them? Many years ago in the Orkneys I happened upon a huge colony whilst hiking on the cliffs, completely accidently. A viceral memory. I would love to see them again.

sheila Sep 27th, 2010 01:03 PM

Mudlush, if I had to do that (and this may be a personal thing) I'd get my car and get to Barra as fast as possible, then drive leisurely back.

Do you know what day of the week/ time you arrive in Stornoway?

Have you booked the car yet? I will ask my Outer Hebridean consultants for advice on this car thing.

What you will want is the boat from Eriskay to Barra (or depending on the timing you can hop on the Oban boat out of Lochboisdale).

I've not been, but you might find this handy:-

The two things I would be going for on Barra would be beaches and the castle. And I'd probably go to the toffee factory:)

sheila Sep 27th, 2010 02:11 PM

So next up is Eriskay. Ferry from Barra. the closest I've ever got to Eriskay is South Uist where the causeway now crosses. In those days there was no causeway. Eriskay, you need to see ponies, St Michael's church (inside), and the beaches. And you should watch an old copy of Whisky Galore before you go

sheila Sep 27th, 2010 02:17 PM

Oh, and I forgot to say you can do Vatersay from Barra by causeway too.

sheila Sep 28th, 2010 12:38 AM

So, next on the journey is South Uist. (BTW, you asked about routes. Pretty much you will find there is one road going from anywhere to anywhere, There may be side roads to visit specific places, but, essentially, there's only one road)

South Uist, I DO know. I love the Polochar Inn which is just where you get off the Eriskay Causeway. If the timings work, it would be a nice place to stay.

Take a trip along the west side for the best beaches and the machair. The machair will be stunning in mid-May.

There is a little memorial to Flora MacDonald's birthplace (most people think the "over the sea to Skye" was from the mainland, but it wasn't. It was from Uist.)so you should know your Jacobite history.

Everywhere in the Uists has great loch fishing. Look out for the monumental statue "Our Lady of the Isles". South Uist is predominantly Catholic still.

I found this page about wildlife I thought was quite amusing:-

zippo Sep 28th, 2010 04:53 AM

Good place to stay near Callanish is in Tolsta Chaolis, the old post office, 1 large bedroom, good kitchen. Google it. (Chaolis is pronounced hoolish)
There are 3 main sites around Callanish. Also the broch at Dun Carloway is a must-see. There is a hotel (the Doune Braes)nearby which is usable for a night.
Harris - buy woollen goods. Climb. Golden Eagles. No soil just rock.
The Uists are very quiet but have amazing wildlife, otters, bird reserves, beaches, loch fishing.(and an airport in Benbecula), Visit the museum on South Uist, just off the main road, if only for the home baking.
The Polochar Inn is on a beach of white sand looking over to Barra and Eriskay. Great food.
Barra is a small chocolate box of an island - people don't even cut peat there anymore, seem to be too interested in having fun. Great beaches, try to see "The Vatersay Boys" if in Castlebay on a Saturday. Unforgettable. A party island.
Planes go daily from Barra to Glasgow, Benbecula and Stornoway. No airstrip, times depend on the tide, noisy but fun.
If saying in the Castlebay Hotel (best place, great food) book room 1,2 or 3.
Puffins can be seen on Mingulay - private boat from Barra, a chap from Bruernish, £35 (?) for a day trip. I think his boat is the Boy David.
Mingulay is a now uninhabited isle south of Vatersay. Pristine.
Best way to get local information is to use the local buses.

zippo Sep 28th, 2010 05:10 AM

More - on North Uist the best Hotel is the Langass Lodge, an old hunting lodge by a loch, deer in the garden in the morning, a stone circle a few hundred yards away ("Finn's people" I think), good food. You said you were interested in monuments - if coming from Lochmaddy you pass Bharpa Langass half a mile before the hotel turnoff, this is a big pile of stones on the hillside, you used to be able to get into the central chamber. Not far from the road but waterproof boots advisable.
There is also a group of iron age dwellings worth visiting north of Clachan.

sheila Sep 28th, 2010 11:34 AM

Next up- Benbecula. Now Benbecula is possibly the only dismal bit in this whole story. It is most famous for the air base; and all the awful stuff that goes with it- shoddy housing, concrete water towers, 1960s B&Bs.

the good news is it's 5 miles long so you don't have to stay long.

The biggest (and it's OK) hotel on the islands is the Dark Island Hotel is at Liniclate; and there's a good restaurant called the Stepping Stones at Balivanich

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