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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 comfortable Cabarfeidh Hotel* we explore the rolling moorland of Lewis, with visits to the remarkable Standing Stones of Callanish, the tranquil little Norse Mill at Shawbost and the distinctive Black Houses at Gearannan. A captivating journey follows as we travel south through the magnificent mountain scenery of Harris and by ferry to North Uist, continuing via the causeways that link the islands to Benbecula, South Uist and Eriskay, pausing now and then to admire the superb scenery of mountain, moor and machair. Another short ferry crossing takes us over to the Isle of Barra and the hotel of that name, with its outstanding location on Tangasdale Beach and stunning ocean views. We visit Kisimul Castle and the neighbouring island of Vatersay with its fantastic sandy beaches and have a day to relax and soak up the island atmosphere before returning by ferry to Oban. *The tours departing on 15 July and 23 September are based at the Caladh Inn in Stornoway, the sister hotel of the Caberfeidh. For an even grander tour, you then have the option of extending your holiday by linking up in Oban with our 10 August departure to the Isle of Mull with Staffa and Iona or our 7 September departure to Islands of the Firth of Lorn (see last day of the itinerary for details).
- 5 nights’ accommodation on dinner, bed and full breakfast basis: 2 nights at the Cabarfeidh Hotel in Stornoway (Caladh Inn on 16 May & 6 June) and 3 nights at the Isle of Barra Hotel. 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 2 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 set out on a breathtaking journey that will take us virtually the entire length of the island chain known as the Outer Hebrides. We 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 take the late-morning ferry from Leverburgh to Berneray on North Uist, and continue over a series of causeways (keeping a careful eye out for otters) via the ‘stepping stone’ of Benbecula 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. We continue to 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 continue to our base at the Isle of Barra Hotel, superbly located on Tangasdale Beach with stunning ocean views. Dinner is served on arrival.
After our full Scottish breakfast we will depart for 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. Dinner is served in the evening.
After breakfast we have the day free to relax in the hotel or take a walk on the beach or the surrounding hills, an opportunity to enjoy the unique atmosphere of this charming little island. Local transport can be arranged and paid for individually as required. Dinner is served in the evening.
This morning we check out of the hotel and take the ferry from Castlebay (via Lochboisdale on South Uist) to Oban. The relaxing passage takes us across the ocean swell of the Atlantic, with views to Coll and Tiree to starboard and Skye and the Small Isles to port, along the Sound of Mull and across the Firth of Lorne to Oban. We then continue our homeward journey, arriving back at our original pick-up points during the evening.
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