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Islands on the edge- the Outer Hebrides

Islands on the edge- the Outer Hebrides

Old Oct 19, 13, 11:11 am
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Islands on the edge- the Outer Hebrides



I love long haul travel but I do recognise that it is a mistake to miss some of the amazing places to visit closer to home. I live in the South East of England and feel privileged to live in such a beautiful country. One such part of the UK which holds a special place in my heart are the islands of the Outer Hebrides in Scotland. I have been travelling there for many years and thought I would share some pictures of a recent trip which I took this summer.

The Outer Hebrides lie off the North West Coast of Scotland and are islands on the edge in many ways. They lie directly in the line of frequent weather fronts coming in off the Atlantic and are often wild, stormy places. They feel very remote to the rest of the UK and many communities are very isolated. As a traveller this only adds to the appeal however, and there are many activities (weather permitting) to keep you occupied. Examples include visiting ancient historical monuments, amazing bird watching and other wildlife, walking, and very good fly fishing which is the thing which has kept me coming back again and again.

The islands lie in a chain from Lewis in the north to Barra in the South. On the current trip I visited the Uists, as well as Harris and Lewis. In my opinion Harris is the most beautiful island of the whole group and one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to.

The trip
This trip was planned as a fishing and general activity holiday, going with my Dad and a group of other friends. I couldnít get quite as much time off work as the rest of the party so I flew up independently and met them there.

To get to the Hebrides either involves a ferry journey or a flight. The ferries are interesting but get cancelled fairly frequently due to the weather. I chose to fly to save time, and the majority of flights are from Glasgow using SAAB 340 turboprops flown by Loganair under a FlyBE franchise. It is a source of great frustration to me that BA dropped the franchise in favour of FlyBE as it makes the whole booking/miles thing just that more diffuclt.

I flew from LGW to GLA in the evening and spent the night at the Holiday Inn GLA which is a very convenient 5 minute (or less!) walk from the airport. It has been well described by HIDDY in past trip reports! The next morning I hit the airport, spending some time in the very bog-standard Servisair lounge. After relaxing for a bit I boarded the plane for the short flight to Benbecula, the central island of the three Uists.

BA lounge in LGW



737-400 up to GLA



Servisair GLA lounge



Airbus 310- I didn't realise these were still being flown commercially!



SAAB 340



On board



Flying into Benbecula





BEB- Benbecula airport



Inside BEB



From Benbecula I caught a lift down to Lochboisdale, a small community and ferry terminal on the island of South Uist. Many of the islands are connected by causeway enabling a direct drive.

I spent a couple of days at the friendly Lochboisdale hotel. The hotel has a fantastic view over the Minch (the stretch of water separating the inner and outer Hebrides) and on a clear day you can see the mountains on the island of Rhum, many miles away. The hotelís bar is a great place to socialise with the islanders and many a dram was consumed until the early hours of the morning!

Lochboisdale Hotel bar



View from the hotel to the mountains of Rhum



The Uist islands have a great charm and many lochs (lakes) holding Salmon, sea-trout and trout. Fly fishing is a popular pastime here. South Uist is also the island where Bonnie Prince Charlie fled to in 1746, pursued by government forces. He was hidden by the local population, and there is plenty of history to see here for those with an interest.

Bronze age burial mound (called a Bharp)



Lochs and outlets, South Uist





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Old Oct 19, 13, 11:26 am
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The next part of our journey was to drive up through the Uist islands and catch the ferry over to the next island, Harris. All the ferries on the islands, and to the mainland are run by a company called Caledonian MacBrayne, and tickets can be bought in advance on their website.
The trip up through the Uists was straightforward, meeting some interesting fellow travellers on the way.



The ferry between the islands travels a short distance but follows a zig-zag course to avoid shallow banks and rocks. The ferry itself is a fairly basic affair, but perfectly adequate for the short journey.









The scenery on the way, and looking across the Sound of Harris between the Hebridean islands







Our destination in Harris was Amhuinnsuidhe castle. For those not speaking Gaelic, this is actually pronounced aman-suey.

The trip up through South Harris is absolutely sublime on a fair day (as we had today) with stunning wild scenery. I will let the pictures do the talking:







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Old Oct 19, 13, 11:36 am
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Amhunnsuidhe is a castle built in 1865 and now set up to receive guests. It is not a hotel in the conventional sense. Only certain weeks are open to individual guest bookings (the whole castle is otherwise rented out to parties) and everyone eats a set dinner and breakfast together at a large dining table. This actually makes for a very sociable stay as everyone participates in the dinner party conversation and a friendly rivalry developed around the full-size snooker table after dinner. The castle overall is luxuriously appointed.

Amhuinnsuidhe castle











Dinner











After dinner snooker

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Old Oct 19, 13, 11:59 am
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Many people come to Amhuinnsuidhe to fish, but this in not obligatory and there is so much amazing scenery and walking to do that it should not put you off if you donít fish. If you are so inclined however, the fishing is great, and going off to spend the day on the lochs exposes you to some of the best wildness and scenery in the area.









On the Sunday, no fishing is allowed. The islands of Harris and Lewis are fiercely protestant and there is only one garage open on the two islands on a Sunday, let alone any general shops! We spent the Sunday travelling up to Stornoway (the pleasant main city of Lewis, and the biggest of the Outer Hebrides by a long way) and then to the standing stones of Callanish. Lewis and the other Hebrides have many ancient stone circles, and they are a lot less crowded than Stonehenge. The stones at the settlement of Callanish were erected between 2900 and 2600BC.

Callanish stones









Stornoway



Here are some pictures of the rest of the week:



Looking down to Sron Ulladale- a stunning spot









Fishing- my Dad having some success!






My journey home was not so great due to a cancellation of my flight from GLA-LGW (I posted about this on the BA board) but that did nothing to spoil my enjoyment of another trip to one of my favourite places. I would highly recommend it.

Regards

Zanskar

Stornoway airport



Excellent BA lounge in GLA- I spent much longer in it than intended!



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Old Oct 19, 13, 12:32 pm
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Nice report and some stunning pics of the scenery up north. I agree with you re the lounge in GLA - it's a great place to spend a few hours. The whisky snug is a lovely idea.
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Old Oct 19, 13, 3:00 pm
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Thanks for your report and photos. We love the Outer Hebrides and your report was well received. We would love to stay in that castle! Maybe next time.
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Old Oct 19, 13, 3:19 pm
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nice report closer to home

hopefully some day we will also see flights reinstated to the isle of skye
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Old Oct 19, 13, 5:16 pm
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Stunning pics! What a wild and wooly place.
Would love to get up there.
I think you were a little generous with your description of "Protestants" keeping pretty much everything closed on Sunday. Aren't they known as the 'wee Frees'? Free Presbyterians - about as austere as they come.
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Old Oct 20, 13, 11:09 am
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Wonderful report - having moved back to Edinburgh I'm keen to explore 'proper' Scotland, and the beach landing on Barra has long been on my wishlist. Looks like I should consider a longer trip to take in the full run of the Hebrides!
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Old Oct 20, 13, 2:12 pm
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Great trip report. I loved your photos!
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Old Oct 20, 13, 2:31 pm
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Very nice report. It brought back memories of some of the Scottish Island DOs Jenbel used to organise.

Thanks for posting.
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Old Oct 20, 13, 8:43 pm
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This looks like it was a delightful trip. Thanks for taking the time to post. The report is very well done.
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Old Oct 20, 13, 8:52 pm
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Well that's made me homesick. Great to see a report on the Hebrides especially when it's about the fishing.

Your images captured the scenery to best effect. Much appreciated zanskar I really enjoyed it. ^
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Old Oct 21, 13, 12:37 pm
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Thanks very much for all your comments everyone!

Originally Posted by jacobitetraveller View Post
nice report closer to home

hopefully some day we will also see flights reinstated to the isle of skye
Yes, I remember getting Loganair to the Isle of Skye when I was about 10 for a family holiday but it perhaps seems likely that we will see commercial flights again

Originally Posted by UAPremExecflyer View Post
Stunning pics! What a wild and wooly place.
Would love to get up there.
I think you were a little generous with your description of "Protestants" keeping pretty much everything closed on Sunday. Aren't they known as the 'wee Frees'? Free Presbyterians - about as austere as they come.
Yes they are mainly indeed 'Wee Frees' as you say

Originally Posted by TheFlyingDoctor View Post
Wonderful report - having moved back to Edinburgh I'm keen to explore 'proper' Scotland, and the beach landing on Barra has long been on my wishlist. Looks like I should consider a longer trip to take in the full run of the Hebrides!
That would be great, I have never done the Barra beach landing and would love to see a trip report about it, so please post if you do go!

Originally Posted by HIDDY View Post
Well that's made me homesick. Great to see a report on the Hebrides especially when it's about the fishing.

Your images captured the scenery to best effect. Much appreciated zanskar I really enjoyed it. ^
Thanks HIDDY, I love the wilder parts of Scotland and fishing (obviously!) BTW I have done some great fishing in Argentina too (in Tierra del Fuego) a while ago, that is a pretty harsh place too although beautiful. Have you been fishing in Patagonia?
I liked your recent TR about Scotland as well it showed the country at its best
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Old Oct 21, 13, 4:23 pm
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Originally Posted by zanskar View Post
Thanks HIDDY, I love the wilder parts of Scotland and fishing (obviously!) BTW I have done some great fishing in Argentina too (in Tierra del Fuego) a while ago, that is a pretty harsh place too although beautiful. Have you been fishing in Patagonia?
Best sea trout fishing in the world down on the Rio Grande.....you're very fortunate if you fished there. I've fished in the more gentler northern Patagonia for rainbows.....tame in comparison but good sport nonetheless.
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