Area overview of the Outer Hebrides

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  • A rugged coastline on the Isle of Lewis
    The Outer Hebrides, often referred to as 'the last great wilderness of Europe', is a haven for climbing enthusiasts
  • Ben Langass Stone Circle, near Lochmaddy
    Ben Langass Stone Circle, near Lochmaddy
  • Traigh Sheileboist at Seilebost, looking towards Luskentyre from Seilebost, Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides
    The Outer Hebrides boasts stunning coastal scenery
  • A photographer takes inspiration from his surroundings at Liniclate beach, Benbecula, Outer Hebrides.
    Wildlife photography at the beach at Liniclate, Benbecula, Outer Hebrides.
  • Ponies at Loch Druidibeg National Nature Reserve
    Ponies at Loch Druidibeg National Nature Reserve

With gorgeous white sand beaches, turquoise waters, wild moors and jagged peaks, the Outer Hebrides is a place of striking contrasts. Journey around this region and discover the unique character and spectacular landscapes of each glorious isle. Travelling between the islands is relatively easy, with all the main inhabited islands accessible by ferry or causeway.

Lewis

The Isle of Lewis consists of miles of atmospheric moorland, sparkling freshwater lochans and stunning white sand beaches with giant sea cliffs and rocky outcrops. It is the most northern island of the Outer Hebrides, along with Harris, which is located in the south part of this island.

The island’s main settlement is Stornoway, a busy port and the largest town in the Outer Hebrides. Stornoway has all the amenities and industry of a small mainland town, as well as a lively and vibrant social scene. Every summer Stornoway hosts the popular Hebridean Celtic Festival which takes place at various venues in and around the town, showcasing local and international talent and celebrating the culture and history of the region.

Variety is in the very character of the Outer Hebrides and the dramatic landscape of Lewis makes it perfectly suited to adventure. The strength and consistency of the Atlantic swells on the north west coast provide world-class surfing and the beaches at Mangersta, Cliff and Dalbeg are considered some of the best of this island. The sheer cliffs of Lewis are perfect for abseiling and the clear turquoise water, complex bays, secret coves and offshore islands are a sea kayaker’s paradise.

Lewis is a dream destination for birdwatchers as it is abundant with wildlife. The Butt of Lewis is particularly excellent for spotting kittiwakes, fulmars and cormorants and with miles of beaches and cliffs, you may even spot whales and dolphins off the north coast.

Harris

The imposing peaks and rugged landscape of Harris provides a striking contrast to the low-lying moors of Lewis, in the north of this island. Formed from some of the oldest rocks on the planet, the mountains of North Harris are a fascinating natural attraction. Harris is the perfect place to explore all that is wild and wonderful in the Outer Hebrides.

The dark, jagged peaks of North Harris give way to a more gentle landscape where you will find brilliant white shell beaches, which you may even have completely to yourself. Visit the seemingly endless white sands of Luskentyre with crystal clear waters and a stunning backdrop of machair, the Gaelic word for the low-lying fertile plain which is typical of the Outer Hebrides. In the summer months, the machair comes alive with wild flowers, butterflies and birds.

The eastern face of Harris is a complete contrast with a lunar-like landscape. Here you will find the main ferry port of Tarbert with a small selection of great hotels and restaurants nestled in the rocky east coast.

With healthy stocks of salmon and trout, there is some excellent fishing to be had on Harris. Keen golfers shouldn’t miss the opportunity to tackle the stunning 9-hole course at Scarista beach. Harris is also the home of Harris Tweed, the famous and timeless luxury cloth that is handwoven by islanders using local wool.

St Kilda

The UNESCO Dual World Heritage Site of St Kilda is one of the premiere birdwatching sites in the world. The remote and majestic islands sit to the west of Harris and North Uist and attract visitors from all over the world looking to experience the isolated and almost untouched beauty. A boat trip to St Kilda is an exhilarating and thrilling experience and is a great way to combine adventure and nature in this wonderful part of the world.

North Uist

Only 13 miles from top to bottom, North Uist is a small island to the south of Lewis and Harris, characterised by long stretches of sand, peat bogs and countless fresh water lochs. In fact, more than half of the island is submerged in water.

The conditions here are perfect for nesting seabirds and the area is famed for its birdwatching credentials. Enthusiasts come from all over the world, keen to spot coastal waders and divers at the RSPB Balranald Nature Reserve. If fishing is your passion, North Uist’s well stocked lochs provide excellent salmon and trout fishing.

The main settlement on North Uist is Lochmaddy and it is here, at the Uist Outdoor Centre, that adventurers can challenge themselves to a wide variety of thrilling activities, including sea kayaking, scuba diving, rock climbing and power boating.

Benbecula

The island of Benbecula is situated between North and South Uist and is linked to both by causeway. Benbecula has beautiful west coast beaches backed by lush machair and is considerably greener and flatter than North Uist. Balivanich, the main administrative centre for the southern islands, is located here and the airport receives regular flights from the Scottish mainland and Stornoway.

South Uist

With more than 20 continuous miles of west coach beaches, backed by gigantic dunes, South Uist is an island with more contrasts. The eastern side of the island is populated with large sea lochs which cut into the mountain and moorland and provide the perfect habitat for all types of wildlife. The vast Loch Druidibeg Nature Reserve is a prime example of the contrast of habitat found on South Uist. Colourful machair grassland on the coast gradually gives way to moorland interspersed with lochans. Well-known for its breeding greylag geese, the reserve is home to wildfowl and waders. Golden eagles, hen harriers and merlins are often seen over the moor while corncrakes and corn buntings frequent the machair.

For an active break, why not discover the ‘lost’ golf course at Askernish, laid out by the legendary course architect ‘Old’ Tom Morris in the 19th century. The course was rediscovered and restored recently and is now a popular and challenging course with spectacular views.

Lochboisdale, on the east coast of the island, is the main village and port, which is serviced by regular ferries. Linked to South Uist by a magnificent causeway is the lovely island of Eriskay, where Bonnie Prince Charlie first set foot on Scottish soil before the Jacobite uprising of 1745. From Eriskay you can catch the ferry to Barra, the most southerly of the main islands.

Barra

The island of Barra lies to the south of the island group and is beautiful in the extreme, with spellbinding beaches, turquoise waters and a truly beautiful atmosphere. In fact, planes land directly on the cockle shell beach at Traigh Mhor, offering one of the most spectacular airport experiences on the planet. In 2011, Barra Airport was voted the world’s most stunning landing spot in a global poll of pilots and travellers.

Explore the main town in Barra, Castlebay, which is home to Kisimul Castle, the seat of Clan MacNeil. Situated in a spectacular setting, perched on a rock in the bay, this medieval marvel can be reached by taking the briefest of boat trips. The brilliant white sands of Vatersay are visible across the bay and this island can be easily reached by causeway.

Barra is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, nature lovers and thrill seekers. The turquoise waters are a haven for surfers and sea kayakers and there are seals visible on most rocky outcrops. The Sound of Barra, which separates Barra from Eriskay, is a spectacular place to see dolphins and porpoises. 

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