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The Outer Hebrides 
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Scottish island hopping holidays in the Outer Hebrides

At the edge of Europe, with next landfall the Americas, you’ll find that the magical, mysterious Hebridean islands are an area of great contrast.

Peaceful holiday places touring in the Hebrides

The Outer Hebrides archipelago is mainly contained within a crescent shaped arc stretching some 130 miles from south to north, at a distance from the Scottish mainland that averages around 40 miles. There are at least 70 named islands in the group, of which 15 are permanently populated - total population around 26,500.

During the course of a Hebridean Hopscotch holiday, it's possible to visit all of the populated islands by car - on the entire journey from Vatersay (which adjoins Barra) in the south and Lewis in the north, it's necessary to make only two ferry crossings, as all the other islands are linked by causeways or bridges.

You'll find more detailed descriptions of the main populated islands by following the links at the left of this page, but following is a brief outline.

Lewis (pop 18000) is the largest and most northerly, with imposing sea-cliffs to the north east and the west.  There are magnificent beaches, especially to the north and west, some of which are excellent for surfing.  Inland there are extensive areas of moorland, which rises to the dramatic Clisham mountain range at the border between Lewis and Harris (which are actually a single landmass). 

The main town of Stornoway (population including local villages about 12,000) is the 'capital' of the Hebrides and has shopping, hotels, restaurants and most other facilities you would expect to find in a small county town. Outside Stornoway, the villlages and townships are small - typically, towns have a few hundred inhabitants amd villages less still.

Tarbert Isle of Lewis Hotel HebridesThe Isle of Harris (pop 2000) is not actually a separate island to Lewis - the boundary between the two runs over land between Loch Shiphoirt  and Loch Reasort. 

Harris is a mix of mountainous terrain, rising to 799 metres close to its northenmost point, and further rocky interior in the south.  The west coast has some of the finest shell-sand beaches in the Outer Hebrides, while the east coast has many inlets and hamlets. 

The only townships of any size in Harris are Tarbert and Leverburgh.

There is a one hour crossing to the Uists on the ferry which winds its way through the many outcrops in the shallow Sound of Harris.

Hotels in the UistsYou land at the idyllic island of Berneray (pop 135), which measures about 3 miles by 1.5 miles and is well worth exploring.  Cross then via a causeway to North Uist (pop 1300) , a fertile island dotted with many inland lochs and having sandy beaches on the west coast. The hills here are more rolling and the RSPB maintains a reserve at Balranald. It's often possible to see otters on the east coast.  Main township is the ferry port of Lochmaddy.

Continuing by causeway by way of the tiny island of Grimsay to Benbecula (pop 1200), the land becomes flatter.  The green farmland is flanked by machair and shallow bays to the west and the main town, Balavanich, has an airport with flights to/from Glasgow, Barra and Stornoway.

Holidays in the Isle of BarraAs you cross the causeway from Benbecula to South Uist (pop 1800), you become aware of the land rising again down the spine of the island, where the highest point is 620 metres.  Virtually the entire Atlantic coast is now boredered by machair and shell sand beaches.  Passing the ferry port of Lochboisdale, you arrive at the south coast with stunning views across the Sound of Barra, as you drive from Polochar to Eriskay, the last island of this linked group. Eriskay is a mass of wild flowers in late spring and summer. and was the location at which the SS Politician sank, shedding much of its cargo of whisky. 

A further ferry (40 minutes) takes you to Barra (pop 1100). This is another idyllic island, which some say offers every aspect of the Outer Hebrides within its 7mile length by 3 mile width - you'll certainly find enchanting shell beaches, machair, steep hillsides, historic features and charming, hospitable people.

Holidays in the Hebrides Isle of SkyeSkye may be reached by ferry from Tarbert  or from Lochmaddy (North Uist), depending on your direction of travel through the Hebrides.  Quite different to any of the Outer Hebridean islands, Skye is very mountainous, with several peaks up to almost 1000 metres.  There are considerably more forested areas, so the area more closely resembles the Highlands. Much of the coastline includes towering cliffs, though there are a number of sandy beaches.  Accessible from the mainland by ferry from Mallaig or via the Skye bridge from Kyle of Lochalsh, you can start or finish a Hebridean Hopscotch holiday in Skye, or visit en-route through the Outer Hebrides.

Read more about Lewis >>>

Read more about Harris >>>

Read more about Skye >>>     

Read more about The Uists >>>

Read more about Barra >>>     


Art - Birdwatching - Boat Trips - Ceilidhs - Crafts - Culture - Cycling - Dining Out - Fishing - Golf - Guided Tours - History - Just sitting, admiring the view - Music - Nature Reserves - Photography - Pony Trekking - Swiss Ball - Tennis - Theatre - Touring - Walking - Whisky tasting - Wildlife - Yoga

Relaxing holidays for stress relief, convalescence, inspiration in Western Isles of Scotland

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