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Outer Hebrides; should I visit?

I'm doing a driving vacation in Scotland for 4 weeks in July 2018. If I visit the Orkneys, Skye and Mull/Iona, is there any reason to make a special effort to add Lewis/Harris/North Uist to my itinerary. Are they "travel worthy" enough that I shouldn't miss them?

If I skip them, I could eliminate a number of car ferry passages and the need to seek (scarce) lodgings on the Outer Hebrides in July. I could go from the Orkneys to Ullapool, through the Wester Ross and across the bridge to Skye if I pursue this alternate plan.

Looking for some sage advice as I realize I'm already tardy with regards to finding good lodging on Skye/Lewis/Orkneys even though it's not even yet February!!

Posted by
2127 posts

I have not been to North Uist, but I loved Lewis and Harris. They had a much different and more remote feel than Skye. We did not stay overnight. Instead, we took a day trip that at the time I believe only ran on Saturdays. We took a ferry from Uig (a village in Skye), which landed in Lewis and then we caught a bus that traveled down to Harris, where I believe we caught the ferry back to Uig. It was a long but very enjoyable day. I would love to go back and stay overnight for a night or two.

As to whether you should go, that is hard to say without seeing your agenda and knowing what you enjoy. The Orkney mainland will certainly give you the experience of a very remote island with some blockbuster sights, so I would not say you have to go to Lewis and Harris. Skye is just stunning, so I would not suggest shortchanging your visit there. It's really up to you.

If you do Mull and Iona as a day trip, I would suggest doing the three isle tour that includes Staffa. It will add a couple of hours to your day, but it is so worth it.

I hope you have a fantastic trip. You are very smart -- and fortunate! -- to be planning four weeks in Scotland.

Posted by
1192 posts

For another idea have you thought a live aboard cruise that visits a selection of Scottish islands during the tourist season? I found some on line that looked interesting. This would save time and would be convenient; no ferries to catch and no accommodation reservations to make. On some of the escorted land tours accommodations are made separately at an additional cost. These cruises did not post the price; probably because they want to hear from you. Does anyone have info on these cruises. I think that you would have to book early.

Posted by
1047 posts

I was there 30 years ago and I am trying to plan a visit this August. I have great troubles finding places to stay, so if you decide to visit I recommend you get all your accommodation reserved quickly.

Posted by
327 posts

My husband and I spent four days on Lewis and Harris. Lots of good hiking, and there were beaches that had water so light blue and sand so white you'd swear you were in the Caribbean (except for the cold wind). We shared a walk on the beach one sunny afternoon with some sheep...only in Scotland! LOL. We found B&Bs to stay in on Harris and Lewis.

Posted by
518 posts

We visited Lewis and Harris in 2011. We really enjoyed both islands. The ancient standing stones, the black house village, and the remote feeling of the islands was well worth the effort to get there. We took the ferry from Ullapool to Stornoway on Lewis, then from Tarbert on Harris to Uig on Skye. The ferry from Skye to Tarbert is much shorter than the one to Stornoway. We spent 2 nights on Lewis-Harris and 2 on Skye. Skye is beautiful. We stayed at a hotel on Lewis named Doune Braes Hotel. It was one of our favorites, not because it was fancy, but because it was in a beautiful spot and sort of quirky. The restaurant was really good. We’ve been to Skye twice. We stayed in Portree for a central location. Reserve early. We didn’t and ended up staying over a pub. It was OK, but not great.

That said, with 4 weeks, I’m not sure I’d go to both the Orkney Islands and Lewis-Harris as well. I would definitely go to Skye.
Most importantly, I would reserve several days to enjoy western Scotland. The highlands of western Scotland has to be one of the most beautiful places in the world, and worth time to enjoy. I would be sure to include the area from Inverness to Fort William, including Glencoe, and on south to Loch Lomond. The beauty will take your breath away. The A-82 from Inverness to Fort William to Loch Lomond is one of the best scenic drives we’ve ever made.
This year we are going to go to the Orkney and Shetland Islands, so I can’t yet tell you how they compare to Lewis. I’ll know more after July. Just be sure to give ample time to the Highlands.
Best regards,