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Outer Hebrides - Can I drive (using ferry) to South Uist? If so, best ferry route?

I'm in early planning for a golf trip to Askernish Golf Club on South Uist... it's a long way out there! Several questions:

  1. It appears there are ferries from Mull area & to North Uist from Ulg (via Isle of Skye). Do these ferries move cars to South & North Uist? If so, would you recommend enterring via the North Uist route? (We plan to visit Isle of Skye, and it appears this ferry is shortest...)

  2. Where would you recommend lodging on South Uist? I plan to travel in May/June timeframe - is this a good time to visit & play golf (I think days are longer, and precipitation is lower).

  3. We may bring spouses with us on our trip. Would we be best to leave family on mainland, or is there fun stuff to do on South Uist while we golf?

Many thanks!
Ron

Posted by
1771 posts

Ferries to North and South Uist are run by Calamc. You can find their interactive route of maps here.

https://www.calmac.co.uk/interactivemap?f=13280&f=13281&f=13279

You can travel from Oban to South Uist but that is about 6 hours ferry crossing time. The first bit is in sheltered water between sheltered water between Mull and the mainland. There is however quite a long stretch of open water.

You can also get a ferry from Mallaig to South Uist. This is a slightly shorter crossing

The ferry from Uig goes to North Uist. If you are already in Skye, then this is the most sensible route. North Uist and South Uist are connected by a series of road barriers and it is quick and easy to drive between the two. (I'm not quite sure what you mean by your comment " Do these ferries move cars to South & North Uist?")

NOTE, work is being carried out on Uig Pier at the moment but it sounds as if it should be complete by end of March and normal ferry service resumed from Uig...

https://www.calmac.co.uk/service-changes/uig-harbour-closure-faqs

Book your ferries well in advance as they do get busy.

May/June is a lovely time to visit. You get long hours of daylight, weather is usually good and it isn't too wet. You will also get the wild flowers.

Will your family have access to a car while you are playing golf? What do you mean by 'fun stuff '? If you are thinking night clubs, pubs etc then the answer is no. There's lots of wonderful scenery though. They could also get a ferry to Barra or even to Harris which is completely different to the Uists with a lot more mountainous.

Have a look at the map here and follow the links for ideas of things to do .

https://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/usmapindexes/westernisles.html

Posted by
1376 posts

Hi, Ron,

As Wasleys already mentioned, there is work going on at the Uig ferry terminal, which should be done by the time frame when you expect to be in Scotland. Fingers crossed! The Mallaig to Lochboisdale route on CalMac is actually 3 1/2 hours, which would be your best bet if Uig is still closed. You could take the Armadale to Mallaig ferry, then take the Mallaig to Lochboisdale ferry, if Uig is closed, and if you are visiting Skye first.

Your other option, if Uig is open, would be to take the Uig to Lochmaddy ferry, then drive down through North Uist and Benbecula before reaching your final destination. It's a very attractive drive, with the possible exception of the Benbecula portion.

Again, if the Uig pier is open, you could travel from Uig to Tarbert (Harris), check out some of the world class beaches there, then take the Leverburgh to Berneray ferry and travel down through North Uist and Benbecula, as above.

The ferry from Oban goes to Barra, so you'd still have to take a ferry from Barra to Eriskay, before driving on to South Uist. Oban to Barra (Castlebay) is the five hour ferry voyage which Wasleys mentioned. That route is also a bit more expensive than the shorter routes.

All of the ferries take cars. They are, after all, the lifeline to many of the Scottish islands.

We stayed at the Temple View hotel in Carinish, which is at the southern end of North Uist, and not too far from South Uist. Good location, and the food was quite good.

To be honest, there is not a whole lot to do on the Uists, unless you enjoy hiking and communing with nature. Thre are some absolutely gorgeous beaches, and the Balranald Nature Preserve on North Uist is more than worth the price of admission (it's free!). You could spend hours there. There are some ancient sites, including the ruins of early churches Howmore and Teampull na Trionaid. There's the Our Lady of the Isles monument on South Uist. But the best part of the Uists is hiking on the beaches and sometimes the machair. (The machair is very fragile - best not to walk where signs tell you not to)

The main population centers are Lochmaddy (North Uist), Lochboisdale (South Uist), and Balivanich (Benbecula). Of the three, Balivanich would probably have the most to do outside of nature activities. Lionacleit (Benbecula) has the only public indoor swimming pool (as far as I know) in the Uists.

If your spouses have access to the car while you are golfing, there are probably sites they may want to visit while you are out enjoying yourselves. In Scotland, golf is never "a good walk spoiled." The scenery at every course is magnificent!

Have a wonderful time in the Uists.

Best wishes for your safe travels.

Mike (Auchterless)

p.s.: As an addendum to the above, it appears that Transport Scotland and the Highland Council have agreed on March 13th as the initial end date for the first portion of the Uig terminal work. So if all goes to plan, you should be able to take the Uig to Lochmaddy ferry with no worries. So disregard all those other recommendations. Unless you want to take them, of course!

Posted by
1326 posts

You might want to get the Brandt guide to the Outer Hebrides. I found it very helpful for our trip to Barra.

Posted by
5955 posts

It looks like plans have changed a bit for the Uig harbor project. Now they are saying the project will be split into 2 time frames. The first outage will commence on 16 January 2023 until 13 March 2023, and the second outage will commence on 30 October 2023 until 11 December 2023.

Minister for Transport Jenny Gilruth said:
It was very clear in my meetings with Western Isles stakeholders earlier this year that the original plans for the Uig outage were not acceptable to island communities. Having convened a number of resilience calls with islanders and stakeholders, I am pleased that we have been able to reach this resolution, which is supported by additional funding from the Scottish Government.

https://www.transport.gov.scot/news/uig-harbour-works/

I am very happy to see this as now it's one less thing to worry about for my trip and I can make my plans for Harris and Lewis.

Posted by
66 posts

Thanks to everyone for the wonderful feedback... very valuable input! I will be driving, and I'm glad to hear that cars are transported. It sounds like I better monitor Uig project status.

If we leave spouses at Uig (without a car), are there tour buses for them to see scenic Skye/Trotternish for a day or two? The guys may play golf on South Uist for a day or two, leaving them behind...

Posted by
1376 posts

Hi again, Ron,

If you are planning on leaving your spouses (dare I say "golf widows"?) behind on Skye, I would not recommend leaving them in Uig. There is absolutely nothing to do if they don't have a car. There are public buses (Stagecoach 57A and 57C) from Uig which would take them in to Portree, which is where most of the action is. You (and they) would be much better served leaving them in Portree before you travel on to Uig.

There are several tour companies which operate day tours out of Portree. One of our regular contributors (Skyegirl) may chime in with a specific recommendation. Your spouses could take a different tour on each of the days you have abandoned them. :) Plus there is a lot more to see and do in Portree, all of it within walking distance.

Best wishes for your travels.

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
1616 posts

If you go to the Western Isles remember to take a good road map. Signing is done largely in Gaelic across the Comharle nan Eileann Siar area, and English and Gaelic orthography are not the same. 'Comharle' (council) is pronounced sort of caul-yer.

Also a bit of interest is South Uist and Barra have been called the 'Places the Reformation Did Not Reach'. They are unusually over 80% Catholic, so you will see in the southern Western Isles Catholic imagery along side the road. Such as Our Lady of the Isles here. If you have read the book Whisky Galore! by Compton Mackenzie, and alluded to in its first adaptation in 1949, the Isles are split between a Catholic south and a hardline Calvinist north, the Wee Frees. The latter being infamous for locking up children's swings and playgrounds on Sundays.

Posted by
1000 posts

Hi Ron
If I was a golf widow I would not really appreciate being left carless in Uig! As Mike says there is no prospect of them being able to see much there without a car. However, a really good company (small, and run by a husband and wife team) is Skye Jeep Tours. They offer full day tours designed in conjunction with their clients.

As regards the jetty upgrade at Uig, I will believe the completion date when I see the work completed with my own eyes.

Oh, and you need to book the ferries, including a spot for your rental car.

There's very little excellent accommodation on the Uists, but a reasonable small hotel near Askernish golf course on South Uist is the Borrodale Hotel.

best wishes
Jacqui (Skyegirl)