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Outer Hebrides and north

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Jul 3rd, 2015, 12:44 PM
  #1
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Outer Hebrides and north

Finally realizing our goal for the Outer Hebrides next May-June '16. Tentative itinerary at this point includes: arrive GLA (rested, we now only travel to Europe through Iceland with a stopover), drive to Oban for an overnight. Ferry Oban to Lochboisdale on S. Uist, then on to N.Uist, Harris and Lewis. Ferry Stornoway to Ullapool, then north to Durness and onto Thurso. Our return is by car to INV, fly to LGW to visit friends before home. We intend 3-3/12 weeks. My questions:
What would be the best spacing for time on each of these Isles, eg., more time on Lewis than Harris?
Has anyone been to Cape Wrath? Looks really hard to get to but maybe unmissable?
Travel is moveable mid-May through all of June - any preferences?
Any chance of avoiding midges in this time period?

Thanks to all you helpful folks in advance.
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Jul 3rd, 2015, 01:56 PM
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ESW
 
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What a wonderful itinerary. You will love the Outer Hebrides. If you are wanting to see the wild flowers on the machair (the flat sandy soils on the west coast of the islands) you need to plan to be there mid June. Have a read here:
http://www.visitouterhebrides.co.uk/...-fauna/machair

The wild flowers really do have to be seen to be believed.

Also in June you will get incredibly long days.

You could cover all of South and North Uist from a central base on Benbecula or Grimsay. Similarly Lewis and Harris can also be covered from a central base as long as you plan to be near the A859 which is the main road between Tarbert (Harris) and Stornoway (Lewis). Distances aren't that great and roads are quiet. If you have one base, then you could always rent a cottage as there isn't a lot of B&B or hotel accommodation. It also saves having to pack and unpack.

With your allowance of 3-3.5 weeks, I would suggest you allocate a week to explore the Uists and another week for Harris and Lewis. Then spend the rest of the time working your way from Ullapool to Thurso.

This also allows slippage time in case either the Oban/Lochboisdale ferry or the Stornaway/Ullapool ferry is cancelled because of bad weather. It can happen!

We have been to Cape Wrath but it is rather a long time ago. It involves a short ferry crossing over the Kyle of Durness and then a minibus. It is a bleak windswept plateau with only sheep for company. You either love it or hate it. We loved it - but it does need to be done on a sunny day! It's not hard to get to, just needs a bit of planning. Have a look at the website here:
http://www.visitcapewrath.com/
If you have the chance go for it.

Also have you thought about the walk to Sandwood Bay, possibly one of the most beautiful beaches in the UK.
http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.u...e/sandwoodbay/
Full details here.
http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/suthe...wood-bay.shtml

There is also Smoo Cave just east of Durness which again is well worth visiting. You can also do an underground tour.
http://smoocavetours.weebly.com/

I would recommend you book accommodation in plenty of time before you arrive. There isn't a lot of choice and it is few and far between.
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Jul 9th, 2015, 09:33 AM
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Thank you, ESW for this informative reply. I'm so pleased to have the information about the wildflowers on the machair - that has really focused on the time we may plan for N. Uist -Harris. Just beginning my plans, but this trip seems detail-filled already. And I thought I only had to worry about the midges! Many thanks.
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Jul 9th, 2015, 12:31 PM
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ESW
 
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You've plenty of time to plan the trip and get it right for you. If you haven't yet found the Undiscovered Scotland website, it is well worthwhile spending some time with it as it has loads of ideas of places to go and things to see. I use it for planning all our Scotland holidays.
http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/index.html
Start with the map pages and follow the links.
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Jul 9th, 2015, 12:39 PM
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I definitely recommend you checking out a copy of Scotland the Best by Peter Irvine. It isn't a guide book as such, but more a gazetteer in book form that lists just everything for travelers in Scotland. Best Beaches, best scenic drives, best pubs, best view points, best hotels, best places to see wildlife, best islands, best lochs, best you name it . . .
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Jul 14th, 2015, 05:55 PM
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We've set our dates to leave here June 12 so hopefully we will be able to see those wonderful flowers of the machair mid-June. Yes, I discovered Undiscovered Scotland some years ago and it helped me craft our whole time in the Borders, abbeys and even into Northumberland two years ago. Janis, I am looking for the newest release of the Irvine book, which apparently came out in April. The cover photograph alone blew me away.
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Jul 14th, 2015, 06:30 PM
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FYI, many locals prefer being referred to as being from the Western Isles rather than the Outer Hebrides.
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Jul 15th, 2015, 09:49 AM
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Ah, thank you for that! In our state of Hawai'i it is NOT done to refer to a place as "back in the States" but more properly "back on the mainland."
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Jul 30th, 2015, 07:55 PM
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I've recently read Peter May's 'Blackhouse', and 'The Lewis Man'. They both seemed really evocative of the area. You might enjoy them on the airplane.
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Jul 30th, 2015, 08:04 PM
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There is a third book in the series, " The Chessmen". An excellent trilogy, but I suggest you read them before you leave.
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Jul 30th, 2015, 11:40 PM
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Just in case you're unaware of this you should look at Caledonian Macbrayne's Hopscotch tickets.

https://www.calmac.co.uk/article/264...t-Harris-Lewis

I did a similar trip two years ago where I sailed to Barra from Oban and then worked my up through the islands as far as the lighthouse at the Butt of Lewis. Stunning scenery all the way.
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Aug 24th, 2015, 01:04 PM
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Thanks all, for these recs. I've been away awhile. The trip starts June 9 from Denver through Rekjavik to Glasgow, thence to Oban for one night. CalMac Hopscotch to Lochboisdale, three nights in the Uists, three on Harris, two on Lewis. I've just been sent a wonderful booklet of all the cultural shops, galleries and museums in the Western Isles - BigMan, did you see the Uist Sculpture Trail? We leave on a Sunday back to Ullapool and north along the coast, stopping in Kylescu (thanks to undiscovered Scotland), to Durness, and then east to Thurso. There will also be a stop in Tongue. Four nights in Thurso which might seem extreme, except its only three full days on the north coast, to Castle Mey and John O'Groats. A second full day on a day trip to Orkney - we spent a week several years back, so it's a re-discovery. At then end we drive back to INV and EasyJet it to LGW and our friends in Kent. Many thanks for the book recs - something to do in what I suppose will be another crap winter.
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Aug 24th, 2015, 01:38 PM
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Thank you for posting. Sounds like a wonderful trip.
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Aug 24th, 2015, 03:53 PM
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What a lovely itinerary.
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Oct 3rd, 2015, 12:31 PM
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There has been a major itinerary change since last I posted here. Our friends in Kent have decided to sell their B&B, so we've elected not to go to England at all. Instead, the plan is the same through Thurso, and then we will drive back to Oban and pick up the 4 pm ferry to Islay. When we first created the plan, we had intended to start in Islay, but couldn't make the dates work, but now we will get that lovely long sail in anyway. Five days on Islay (yes, we've been before) probably a day trip to Jura, but the best is now the chance to do a round trip (Wed. only) to Colonsay and back. A whole day at the end to get back (three ferries) to Glasgow, to fly the next day. I can hear some of you clucking that this is backwards - and it is assuredly so, but we're making lemonade - and best of all our Kent friends may join us on Islay. Back through Reykjavik - so we'll collapse in the Blue Lagoon at the end. ESW, we'll see the machair for sure!
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Oct 3rd, 2015, 03:35 PM
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Since I love the Highlands and the Hebrides, I think your plan is absolutely fine. I have been to Colonsay but haven't had a chance to explore. Have always wanted to do Jura too.

Can't remember if an overnight stop in Ullapool is in your plans, but I can highly recommend the Arch Inn. Fabulous restaurant and it was my favorite room of any place I stayed during my two weeks in Scotland and that includes four nights at the Balmoral in Edinburgh!
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Jan 24th, 2016, 04:33 PM
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Good tips, thanks! We enjoyed our limited time in Scotland 2 summers ago(Edinburgh, Inverness, Orkney) and would like to see Western Scotland and Outer Hebrides this year, mid -June.
For those of you who have done this trip, did you enjoy it more than The lake district and the Cotswolds?
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Jan 24th, 2016, 04:45 PM
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>>For those of you who have done this trip, did you enjoy it more than The lake district and the Cotswolds?<<

Apples, Oranges and Papayas. All three areas are wonderful - and totally different.

Been to all three areas multiple times (and the Cotswolds and Hebrides MANY times) - don't prefer one to another -- depends on what I'm looking to see/do on a specific visit.
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Jan 26th, 2016, 07:48 PM
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Thanks janisj. In England, we've only been to London
(quick 2 day visit after the British Isles cruise). DH drove us very narrow roads in Ireland in 2000 and I navigated with a map around hundred of circles and stone shoulder roads-scary. We were in a van on tours sight seeing in Scotland 2 summers ago and were never on roads as scary as Ireland. Would rural England and the Highlands and Hebrides have fewer narrow roads than Ireland?
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Jan 26th, 2016, 08:02 PM
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PS We would be traveling the last 2 weeks in June-if that makes a difference in traffic, bugs, need for reservations in advance?
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