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Special interest holidays
|Price range||From £695|
|Travel partner||Brightwater Holidays|
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A Grand Tour of the Outer Hebrides
Our odyssey begins with the ferry crossing from Ullapool to Stornoway. From our base here at the Cabarfeidh hotel we explore the rolling moorland of Lewis, with visits to the Standing Stones of Callanish, the little Norse Mill at Shawbost and the Black Houses at Gearannan. We then travel south through the mountain scenery of Harris and by ferry to North Uist, continuing via the causeways that link the islands to Benbecula, our base for the next three nights. After a visit to the Kildonan museum and some free time to soak up the island atmosphere we visit the islands of Eriskay; Vatersay with its sandy beaches, and Barra, including visits to Kisimul castle and Cockleshell beach, used as the island’s airport. Our return route takes us by ferry to the Isle of Skye, and its' mist-covered mountains.
- Five nights accommodation on dinner, bed and full breakfast basis: two nights at the Cabarfeidh hotel, Stornoway and three nights at the Dark Island hotel, Benbecula All rooms have private facilities
- All coaching and ferry transfers Visits to the standing stones of Callanish, the Gearannan Black Houses and the Norse mill, Lewis; Kildonan visitor centre, South Uist; Kisimul castle, Cockleshell beach and Vatersay
- Services of a Brightwater Holidays tour manager
We depart from our designated pick-up points and head north, stopping en-route for refreshments. We will continue to Ullapool in time to catch the early evening Caledonian MacBrayne ferry to Stornoway, which takes approximately two hours and 45 minutes. On arrival in Lewis we will transfer the short distance to our comfortable accommodation where dinner will be served on arrival.
This morning after breakfast we will travel to the west coast of Lewis for a visit to the 5,000 year old standing stones of Callanish. Undoubtedly the most remarkable antiquity in the western isles, this collection of almost 50 stones forms a well-marked megalithic avenue, comprising 19 monoliths, ending in a circle of 13 stones, with a great cairn at the centre. Entry to the visitor centre is included. From here we move on to the Black Houses at Gearannan, typical of the crofting settlements which until relatively recently were found throughout the western isles. The final visit on our circular tour is the Norse mill at Shawbost, where barley grain was ground into meal by Viking settlers. A short walk past a small lochan leads to two beautifully restored little thatched buildings with a fine view to the ocean beyond. Dinner will be served back at our hotel in the evening.
After breakfast we check out of the hotel and travel south to Harris, which in contrast to the rolling moorland of Lewis is more mountainous – this is apparent within minutes of crossing the ‘border’ into Harris with a magnificent mountain vista to the right as the road climbs over the hill. There are further outstanding views as we travel along the coast, including the island of Taransay of ‘Castaway’ fame. Continuing to the southern end of Harris we visit St Clement’s church at Rodel, built on top of an earlier structure in the 16th century by Alasdair Crotach, 8th chief of the Macleods of Harris and Dun Bheagan. The church tombs are among the most spectacular in Scotland. We then take the mid-afternoon ferry from Leverburgh to Berneray on North Uist, and continue over a series of causeways (keeping a careful eye out for otters) to Benbecula, the ‘stepping stone’ between the Uists. We are based for the next three nights at the Dark Island hotel, a modern, comfortable hotel with a peaceful location. Dinner is served in the evening.
After breakfast today we cross the causeway to South Uist, the second largest island in the western isles and a stronghold of Gaelic culture and traditions. Included here is a visit to the Kildonan museum. The museum has at its heart a collection of items from and about South Uist collected by a local parish priest, Father John Morrison, during the 1950s and 1960s. It also sets out the background to an island that is incredibly rich in archeological remains dating from the bronze age to the Viking era. Some of the exhibits are set out thematically: tools from a blacksmith's shop for example. Others are contained within the rooms of a recreated croft house. Nearby, we shall also see the birthplace of Flora MacDonald who famously assisted Bonnie Prince Charlie after the Battle of Culloden in 1746. Later we return to the hotel where the rest of the day is free to relax in the hotel and joy the peace and quiet of the Hebrides. Alternatively, for the more energetic, join us as we return to North Uist for a visit to the RSPB reserve at Balranald. A circular trail of around three miles in length takes us through sandy dunes and flower-strewn machair which supports a wide range of birds such as turnstones, lapwings, corn buntings and the rare corncrake, whose rasping call should be a distinctive feature of our walk. Dinner is served in the evening.
After our full Scottish breakfast we will depart for Barra, travelling via the little island of Eriskay, just three miles long and two miles wide, with a great sandy beach known as Prince Charlie’s Bay – Bonnie Prince Charlie having landed here in July 1745. From Eriskay we make the short ferry crossing to Barra and have a tour of the island, including a visit by boat to Kisimul castle, the only surviving medieval castle in the Western Isles and the seat of the Clan MacNeil. The castle features a great hall, kitchen, chapel, dungeon and 60-foot tower, together with a shop. We will also visit Cockleshell beach, the unique runway whose use is governed by the tides. On approaching the airport keep an eye out to the left for the much loved former home of Sir Compton Mackenzie, the author of ‘Whisky Galore’, which is forever associated with the island. In fact, it was on the neighbouring island of Vatersay, which we will visit by means of the causeway linking the two islands, that the classic film adaptation was made. In the course of our tour today we also hope to see some of the hundreds of species of wild flowers that grow on the island, particularly on the machair, the fertile, grassy pastures that lie between the moorland and the sea. We return via the Eriskay ferry to our hotel, where dinner is served in the evening.
This morning we check out of the hotel and take the morning ferry from Lochmaddy in North Uist to Uig on Skye. On arrival on Skye we will drive across the island, enjoying the views of the Cuillin hills whose jagged peaks are often wreathed in mist, and cross to the mainland via the Skye bridge and continue our homeward journey, arriving back at our original pick-up points during the evening. The 3 August tour returns to the mainland by way of the morning ferry from Lochboisdale (South Uist) to Oban, giving the opportunity to extend your holiday by linking up with our Mull, Iona & Staffa tour on 8 August 2014, which you would join at the ferry terminal in Oban at 15.00hrs.
*Our 30 August tour will stay at the Caladh Inn instead of the Caberfeidh hotel.
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