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Walks on the Outer Hebrides – and other gems

Written by Fiona

July 03 2024

The wonderfully wild and scenic island chain of the Outer Hebrides – also known as the Western Isles – offers many different walks for people of all experience levels and fitness.

Superb beaches, such as this one on South Uist at Boisdale.
Berneray machair. Credit: hazelisles

Why walk on the Outer Hebrides?

Walkers enjoy the get-away-from-it-all atmosphere of the Outer Hebrides, as well as the wide variety of landscapes.

The archipelago, including the major islands of Lewis and Harris, North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist, and Barra, as well as smaller isles such as Vatersay, Berneray, Eriskay and Grimsay, are situated off the north-west Scottish Highlands mainland amid the Atlantic Ocean.

The islands can be reached by several ferry routes – served by CalMac – such as Barra. South Uist, North Uist, Harris and Lewis. There are flights on an airline serving Stornoway, the main town on Lewis, and a small plane that lands on Barra’s unique beach runway.

Hebridean Way. Credit: LHOON

The Hebridean Way

A popular way to experience a range of different islands in one trip is to hike the long-distance waymarked trail, The Hebridean Way. (There is also a Hebridean Way cycle route).

The walking route of the Hebridean Way starts on Vatersay and travels north through nine more islands to reach Lewis. A highlight is the chance to visit the vast white sandy beaches along the long coast of the archipelago.

It is suggested that the 253km route will take around 10 days to walk.

Vatersay Bay. Credit: Barbara Carr

Walk on Vatersay

Vatersay is worth spending a little longer exploring. A walk of almost 7km visits beaches, machair – this is the name for low-lying grassy areas, often covered in wildflowers – an iron-age fort and standing stone, plus the remains of a village.

A competitor in the Heb Challenge on South Uist.

South Uist walk

Further north, on South Uist, an easy-going walk of about three hours at Loch Druidibeg National Nature Reserve reveals a wonder world of wildlife. Spot some of the 200 species of flowering plants, as well as numerous birds. 

The Heb Challenge is an annual event that is well worth entering and a great reason to visit the islands.

The Postie’s Path walk.
Views over Harris from Clisham.
Taransay from Luskentyre beach, Harris. Credit: Bob Shand

Walks on rugged Harris

While much of the terrain of the Outer Hebrides is fairly flat or undulating, Harris boasts some fantastic mountains including the tallest An Cliseam, at 799m. A challenging but rewarding hike of 14km follows the Clisham Horseshoe taking in a fabulous ridge. In good weather the views over southern Harris are superb. You can also walk a shorter out-and-back route of 6km to reach the summit of this mountain that features ion Scotland’s list of 222 Corbetts.

The Postie’s Path journeys a remote and highly scenic coastal path to reach the tiny settlement of Rhenigidale on the easy side of Harris. The 13km return walk is highly recommended.

There are many superb beaches to visit, too, including the vast white sands of Luskentyre.

Stunning Tolsta on the east side of Lewis.
The coast near the Butt of Lewis.
Dalmore beach.
Gearrannan Blackhouses are worth a visit.
Atmospheric Callanish standing stones.

Walks on Lewis

On Lewis, the most northerly of the islands, a linear walk travels a “Heritage Trail” some 22km from Tolsta to Ness at the Butt of Lewis. The walk combines historical highlights, such as the remains of Lord Leverhulme’s famous “Bridge to Nowhere” and the ruined chapel of Filiscleitir. 

A tall liughthiouse stands at the Butt of Lewis, too, and there is an excellent children’s playground.

Take a trip to Uig Sands, too, and walk for miles at the south-western edge of the island, or visit Traigh Dhail Mhor (Dalmore) beach and watch the surfers.

Lewis is also home to Gearrannan Blackhouse Village and Calanais (Callanish) Standing Stones.

With so much to discover in such a well-connected island chain, it’s a good idea to stay for longer than you planned to.

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