Scotland west coast, Small Isles & Outer Hebrides trip - tips please!
Replies: 16 - Last Post: Jan 6, 2013 8:52 AM Last Post By: portreeslim
Nov 25, 2012 11:25 AM
My partner and I are planning a month long trip to Scotland west coast, Small Isles & Outer Hebrides for April/May next year and I have been busy sorting out an itinerary. I am hoping you guys may be able to offer further tips on places to visit at some of the locations. Itinerary is below with bits in bold where there are queries on what to do. Also any advice on what we already have planned would be very welcome.
The plan is to travel light by public transport (with one sneaky car hire on Lewis/Harris). We love walking (happy with a bit of scrambling), wildlife and photography - so any tips along those lines would be great.
With regards the itinerary... we had a week on Skye last year, have also already visited Canna and are planning another trip in 2014 to go to the Inner Hebrides... hence these not being included this time around.
Many thanks for any tips you can offer.
Overnight sleeper train Euston To Corrour
Walk up nearby peak. Overnight Rannoch Moor Loch Ossian SYHA
Walk around Loch Ossian. Overnight Rannoch Moor Loch Ossian SYHA
Train Corrour to Fort William. Overnight friend’s House, Onich
Walk Ben Nevis via CMD Arete. Overnight friend’s House, Onich
Train Fort William to Mallaig, Ferry Mallaig to Eigg. Afternoon / evening walk ?
Overnight Eigg, Glebe Barn
Day on Eigg, walk An Sgurr. Overnight Eigg, Glebe Barn
Ferry Eigg to Rum, walk to Kilmory & Red Deer Study Area?
Overnight Rum, Kinloch Castle
Day on Rum, walk Rum Cuillin?
Overnight Rum, Kinloch Castle
Visit Rum Otter Hide, afternoon ferry Rum to Mallaig, then ferry Mallaig to Inverie.
Overnight Knoydart Foundation Bunkhouse
Day on Knoydart, walk …? Overnight Knoydart Foundation Bunkhouse
Morning ferry Inverie to Mallaig, train Mallaig to Fort William, bus Fort William to Uig Skye.
Overnight Skye SYHA Uig.
Morning ferry Uig to Tarbert on Lewis, bus Tarbert to Stornoway, 3 day car hire from Stornoway Ferry Terminal. Visit Calanais Standing Stones, Gearrannan Crofting Village, Butt of Lewis, Eilean Chaluim Chille near Loch Eireasort.
Overnight Harris Drinshader Hostel near Tarbert
On Harris, visit Harris beaches inc Luskyntyre Beach, visit Scalpay & Eilean Glas Lighthouse Overnight Harris Drinshader Hostel near Tarbert
MON 06/05 (BANK HOLIDAY)
On Harris, walk up Clisham. Overnight Harris Drinshader Hostel near Tarbert
Drop off car in Stornoway, bus Storoway to Leverburgh, explore around Leverburgh.
Overnight Harris Am Bothan Leverburgh
St Kilda Trip from Leverburgh - 1st possible day - walk up Conachair On Hirta, St Kilda? Overnight Harris Am Bothan Leverburgh.
St Kilda Trip from Leverburgh - 2nd possible day - visit St Clements Church on alternative day and walk? Overnight Harris Am Bothan Leverburgh
Ferry Leverbugh To Berneray, 3 day bicycle hire from Rothan.com based in Howmore who can deliver bikes to Berneray. Cycle day on Berneray / N Uist, places to walk/visit?
Overnight N Uist, Berneray SYHA
Cycle day on North Uist, visit West Coast, Scolpaig Tower, RSPB Reserve Balranald ? or walk Eaval on East Coast ? Overnight N Uist, Moorcroft Bunkhouse, Carinish (N of Grimsay)
Cycle day on Benbecula / South Uist, places to walk ? visit ? Return bikes to Howmore
Overnight S Uist, Howmore SYHA, Tobha Mor
Bus Howmore to Eriskay, explore Eriskay? ferry Eriskay to Ardmhor, bus Ardhmor to Castlebay. Overnight Barra, Dunard Hostel, Castlebay
Bus to Vatersay, walk beaches, bus back. Ascend Heaval at sunset.
Overnight Barra, Dunard Hostel, Castlebay
Explore Barra Beaches, visit Kisimul Castle, evening ferry Castlebay to Oban.
Overnight Oban SYHA.
Train Oban to London
Edited by: Cathy_M
Nov 25, 2012 11:10 PM
1You seem to have done your homework and got it well planned and looking good. Not much to add except why Mallaig to Uig via Fort William? Why not go via Armadale? Couple of nit picking factual errors. Eigg and Rum are part of the Inner Hebrides. Ferry Uig to Tarbert on HARRIS.
Nov 26, 2012 2:08 AM
2It sounds like an amazing trip, very jealous. Couple of points:
Climbing Ben Nevis at the end of April will generally still mean snow and possible avalanche risk, so you'll need serious equipment (and experience) and check avalanche risk and weather forecasts before you set set of. It sounds like you have experience with hiking but while this is a fairly easy mountain in summer it is not in the winter, so do be careful
as per #1 above, going via Armadale makes more sense and works well with public transport, there is also some great walking around Mallaig, nothing strenuous just very good scenery, if you find you have a couple of hours to spare, use them (in case you get stuck there due to unforeseen circumstances, the youth hostel is great as well)!
Your first day on Lewis (with car) is quite full, you may not manage it all and you're missing out the Dun Carloway Broch which is well worth a visit as you will be in the area.
Have a back up plan for St Kilda, I've spend 5 days waiting for a crossing before and never made it across. If you do make it across, climbing Conachair and visiting the village will more than keep you occupied for the day. you can visit St Clemens church from Leverburgh by foot or by bus, it's a pleasant walk if you plan to walk it. Buses in general are fairly good on Harris and Lewis, so you do not have to be confined to the Leverburgh area if you can't go to St Kilda.
On North Uist the herritage centre at Lochmady is well worth a visit, as is the beach at Sollas. If you can get your hands on a tide table, ask for advice locally and you might be able to walk out to the isle of valley at low tide. It's very atmospheric (ruined mansion) but as you need to get out and return before the tide comes back in, make sure you have all the info you need before you go!
Eriskay is lovely and has some pretty beaches, but there isn't that much there, you might be better of taking an earlier ferry to Barra and have some more time there.
Nov 26, 2012 3:04 AM
3Just one other point - remember that daylight hours will still be relatively short in April, so, eg afternoon / evening walk on Eigg on 27 April will need to take account of sunset about 8pm.
You may already know that Rum is pretty rough underfoot - the only road is between harbour / castle / village, with only a few tracks beyond, so you need to be confident navigating and walking on trackless rough terrain. However, if you pick the right place & time, you may see otters on the rocky shore.
Nov 26, 2012 7:21 AM
4Looks well planned. Only a couple of comments Be Nevis via CMD is a super route. I have been along it in April and have been glad of ice axe and crampons which I would not want to carry round on the rest of your tour. It will be rather weather dependant. Some years though it will be clear.
I have not checked the rerry times but allow for some flexibility in case of stormy weather that can still affect even the larger Calmac ferries.
I love the basic Gatliff Trust hostels (and affiliated to SYHA). As long as you aware they are pretty basic. Old fashioned hostelling and no harm in that!!
Best wishes. Sounds a good trip with plenty of variety.
Nov 26, 2012 9:41 AM
Nov 28, 2012 1:21 AM
6Thanks for the replies - some v good suggestions which I will look into.
Apologies for minor errors, my brain addled from studying too many ferry/bus timetables!!
Yes Ben Nevis via CMD will be weather dependent as we won't be carrying gear for ice/snow, so may have to do lower level alternative walk. Have only ever done the tourist route though, so keen to do CMD if possible.
With regards ferry Mallaig to Armadale & up to Uig through Skye - this is clearly the more direct route yet I had troubles finding online bus times Armadale to Portree, so couldn't confirm if we could make that ok or not. Times would be 0830 boat Inverie to Mallaig 0855, 0930 Calmac ferry Mallaig to Armadale 1000... then?? I also wondered whether we could make the 1800 ferry Uig to Tarbert... but decided that might be a bit risky if any transport delays - hence night in Uig. Can anyone direct me to Armadale to Portree to Uig bus times?
I have heard back from Kinloch Castle that hostel is closed indefinitely but there will be temporary bunkhouse next year, so am on list for that - but no guarantees. Are there any alternatives?? Happy with basic but we won't be carrying any camping gear or sleeping bags (sleepsheets only) which kind of rules out the campsite and bothies.
Nov 28, 2012 4:31 AM
7The armadale - Uig route should not be a problem, but as the summer timetables are not available yet, this is a bit hard to guarantee. Generally there is a bus at Armadale that meets the ferry (and will wait if the ferry is delayed), it will take you to Portree. From Portree there is a bus that meets the Ferry to Tarbert. You will have quite a bit of time in Portree, but there will be plenty of things to do around there to keep you entertained (and stock up for a night in Uig/Tarbert).
No timetables yet for April though, so you would have to check closer to the time. Having lived on Skye (without a car) though, there has always been a bus to meet the ferry, so I assume there will be one next summer as well.
Nov 28, 2012 5:23 AM
8There's no need to carry bedsheets / sheet sleeping bags - unless you are visiting SYHA hostels at Loch Ossian and Glen Affric. However, you should carry at least one bivvy bag (plastic of waterproof eg Goretex fabric) for emergency use in case of injury or benighting in wild areas. You might feel safer carrying a sleeping bag in addition during walks in remote areas, which means you would have chance to use camping barns, bothies etc, some of which have fireplaces, fire wood, cooking pots etc, although there is no guarantee, so if you don't carry a stove, then make sure you carry some food that doesn't need cooking before eating.
Oatcakes (savoury - rough / smooth / cheese etc) and tablet (sweet) are much more widely available in Scotland that other parts of UK, and are ideal robust (can survive long periods in rucksacks, being squashed etc, at least until you open the packet)
Nov 28, 2012 6:26 AM
9Yes I thought there must be a bus from Armadale, so that will be the better plan & I'm sure I'll be able to check the timetables nearer the time.
We need the sleepsheet for Loch Ossian SYHA at the beginning of the trip but probably won't need it again. Not too much trouble to carry though. I was debating taking our emergency bivvy bag & think it would be best to, just in case - so thanks for that advice.
I've also kind of planned in where we will be able to stock up on food but we'll carry a few emergency bits also. Shop at Loch Ossian SYHA is supposed to sell basic food bits - anyone have idea what? Bread, milk? - be good to have some idea what we need to take on train for first two nights.
I'm hoping to get bargain berth sleeper tickets via Scotrail & have been reading up on tips about how to get them - go on sale 12-13 weeks before, midweek travel is better etc. If anyone has any other tips on this please let me know.
Sorry for all the questions! All advice been v useful so far.
Nov 28, 2012 6:34 AM
10What is called "basic food" in hostels is mainly pot noodles, candy bar and instant coffee stuff..There will probably be leftover noodles/rice in the hostel kitchen (the classics...) but do not count on it.
Spaghettis or rice and savoury instant soups, garlic and onion can make you a nice, filling and cheap dinner. As are cereals and powder milk. Things you can grab before in any supermarket, so it's not a bad idea to make a shopping stop somewhere before heading into the wild....
Nov 28, 2012 12:56 PM
11Current Amadale to Portree timtable:
Summer version will be same or enhanced.
Food at Ossian is very limited and expensive . Bread, milk unlikely to be fresh. Since traveling by train no reason not to bring all your own food.
Nov 29, 2012 12:06 AM
12Basic food in hostel "shops" (often basically locked cupboards, unlocked by warden) is pretty much all tinned / dried / UHT or powdered milk etc - things with long keeping dates. If there's a freezer, then bread may be available by the slice.
So, worth taking some fresh food, eg vegetables etc to add to dried pasta / cous cous / soup etc, plus some fresh fruit to eat neat. Also, take your own cereal / porridge and drinks (tea bags / coffee / hot chocolate / sugar etc) as it's much cheaper to buy whole packets from supermarkets than individual sachets at hostels.
Rather than carrying bedsheets round Scotland after your stay at Loch Ossian, I'd consider posting the items home, to save weight / bulk - worth packing up & weighing what you intend to take to check the weight / bulk / postage cost.
Nov 29, 2012 7:05 AM
13Re Loch Ossian - You could use M&S Simply Food at Euston before boarding sleeper for convenience.
Armadale / Uig coach is regular and will drop you at Uig YH. You have probably noted the hostel is the opposite end of the village to the pier ..but it is downhill!
Try http://www.stagecoachbus.com/PdfUploads/Timetable_29410_South%20Skye%20(55,%20152,%20155,%20164).pdf. for timetables. The bus operator Rapsons which may be noted in older guidebooks books and who we have used is now part of Stagecoach.com. From its homepage look for Skye in the dropdowns (not Armadale). There are various options. I got to the above by choosing South Skye. Service 152 and 601 may be of use.
I assume you are treating yourselves to car hire to get round a lack of buses on Sunday since otherwise there are bus options although limited.
Nov 30, 2012 8:52 AM
14Thanks for bus & food advice!
Just realised we'll need the sleepsheets for the SYHA affiliated hostels at Berneray & Howmore, so unfortunately no posting them back. We'll definitely have to do a test pack of pack of our bags a few weeks before to check bulk/weight.
Yes car hire on Lewis/Harris was mainly due to lack of buses on the Sunday & also presumably the bank holiday Monday, as didn't want to end up stuck for two days.
Been looking into visiting Vallay Island & ruined mansion as suggested above & keen on that - my other half enthusiastic about the atmospheric photo opportunities!
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