The wildest & most sensational mountain walking! An all inclusive holiday with a rich mix of wildlife, culture & increadibly beautiful scenary
Highlights: deserted white sand beaches on Harris; hills of North Harris including Huiseabhal Mor, Tiorga Mor and An Clisham, the highest peak in the Western Isles; chances to see golden eagles and otters; views of Britain's largest overhanging cliff; the flowering machair; the 12th Century church of St Clements; a visit to the jewel in Scotland,s prehistoric crown, the 3000 year old Callanish Standing Stones and an Iron Age broch.
Western Isles Wilderness is a hiking trip with a strong sense of place and culture. Harris is the home of some strong Scottish traditions (like the making of Tweed - long the fabric favoured by field sports enthusiasts, the fashion industry and of course Sherlock Holmes) and a wonderful well-preserved ancient and more recent history, examples of which are prevalent throughout both Harris and Lewis. We'll also have the opportunity to experience some of the best cuisine the islands have to offer on our night out at one of the top quality local restaurants.
"Thank you both for another superb holiday and magnificent meals!
I think this itinerary was really excellent. It had obviously been the result of a lot of thought and planning, to give a nice balance of hillwalking, coastal aspects and historical interest. I think it will be well worth repeating" - Mick Wansborough, June 2013
Price is inclusive of accommodation and all meals from time of arrival to departure plus guiding and transport to the walks plus transfers to Ullapool from Inverness airport or Aviemore station. Return ferry to Stornoway is included in the price of the holiday.
Private expenses such as alcohol and souvenirs.
The activities planned on this trip are not suitable for children who can not manage a full day's walking including significant ascent and descent. Please do not bring pets.
For a suggested packing/kit list, please see our gear advice page.
Single room occupancy is not available on this trip. You must be prepared to share your room but we will not mix you with a person of the opposite sex.
Day of arrival: You’re met at your point of arrival whether that’s Aviemore train station (arrive latest 2pm) or Inverness Airport (arrive latest 3pm) before driving through the Highlands to the pretty fishing town of Ullapool in readiness to catch the 6pm ferry to Stornoway. Once aboard with seaward views back to the distinctive mountains of the NW Highlands there’s a chance to buy an evening meal. We arrive on Lewis in the soft light of a mid summers evening before the beautiful drive south over the moors and hills to Tarbet with the setting sun.
Day 1: The day starts with the stunning drive to Harris’s North western corner. If, like me, you thought by far the best feature of the BBC 'Castaway' series was the scenery – well this is it. Otters abound on this stretch of coast. On the right the rugged towering heights of the mountains and on the left the glorious seaward views across Loch a Siar to the uninhabited island of Tarasaigh (Taransay). Passing right past the front door of spectacular Amhuinnsuidhe Castle we make our way to the road end and the tiny crofting hamlet of Huisinis, beautifully set above its own white sandy beach. The mountain hike starts with a walk though the flowers of the machair before the path takes us on a short cliff top walk for breathtaking views across turquoise waters to the now un-inhabited island of Scarp and to the deserted golden sands of Traigh Mheilein. Our route now heads into the mountains along the loch edge and deep glaciated U of Glen Cravadale before rising to a high pass from which the ridge-walk begins. Huiseabhal Mor is our aim as we ascend with ever expanding breathtaking views back across to Harris’s many over peaks and out over the Atlantic.
Day 2 is an ascent of the Western Isles highest peak An Clisham. It provides a magnificent horseshoe outing on relatively narrow ridges linking another three summits around a very inviting skyline at the head of Gleann Sgaladhail. The view from the summit is of typical Hebridean splendour; the whole of Harris and Lewis is laid out before you with seascapes back to Skye and the West Highland mainland. On the far western horizon on a good day you can spy the mountainous archipelago of St Kilda some 60 miles distant. This mountain walk is a serious contender as one of the Scottish classics and with a good chance of spotting one of around 20 resident pairs of Golden Eagles it has the making of a superb mountain day.
Day 3: All the peaks on this trip are magical view points and as the western-most high summit, Tiorga Mor is no exception. This complex mountain with its steep slopes and pyramidal summit immediately draws the eye. After a short walk in, it’s a straight ascent (with breaks of course) along it’s south east ridge all the way to the top at 680m (2200ft). With ever expanding horizons, we steadily rise high above lochans caught in the high corries of this fine looking mountain. Our descent off the back is a little more gentle and as the ridge broadens and levels we make our way to the finest view point of Sron Ulladall – Britain’s largest overhanging cliff. With an incredible 180 ft overhang it’s developed a mythical status amongst rock climbers. We then make our descent to a fisherman’s hut before making our way along a gentle track down Gleann Chlostair back to our start point. On the way back we have a look around the remains of the long abandoned Bunaibhinneader Whaling Station.
Day 4 is a chance to explore for yourself and a chance to rest the legs. There is the option of arranging a once in a lifetime boat trip out to St Kilda or alternatively join us on a 45 mile tour around the southern half of the island. The landscape is in complete contrast to north Harris but yet again a “must see”. Many describe it as a moonscape; some of the oldest rocks in the world ground and rounded by colossal weight of ice. Glorious golden beaches with their accompanying rich machair line the Atlantic coast. Waves sweep in create perfectly formed breakers above a turquoise sea. You would be forgiven for thinking you had touched down in the Caribbean. There is the opportunity to stretch the legs at An Taobh Tuath (Northton) and pop into the excellent Sellam Centre to learn about the history of the Islands or make the short walk across the machair to climb the prominent but small hill of Chaipaval. At Roghadal we visit the 12th Century St Clements Church, one of the most impressive religious buildings in the Hebrides before heading along the golden road. So named due to its cost, this twisting single track road runs through a bizarre and striking moonscape as it links one township with another.
Day 5 sees us heading up the Gleann Mhiabhaig. Wild and open, the journey is broken by popping into the newly opened Eagle Observatory before then passing beneath the great prow of Sron Scourst – a superb vantage point for any self-respecting Golden Eagle. A short distance beyond, our route starts to make a steady climb to gain the ridge high above the hanging valley of Gleann Uisleitir. Ever gaining height, our gaze is drawn to the distinct twin peaks of Teileasbhal and Uisgneabhal Mor, the Hebrides second highest summit. Our goal is to make a grand traverse of the impressive summits to then make a more gentle arching seaward descent back to our start point. Cake O’clock beckons!
Day 6 sees us heading over the tiny township of Losgaintir. The single-track road cuts through a fringe of rich machair. On the left is a vast expanse of bleached white sand washed by a turquoise sea, on our right, our aim, Beinn Losgaintir, rearing up increasingly steeply. This hamlet is home to John Mackay who, amongst others, makes the world famous hand crafted Harris Tweed in his tiny workshop. Our route is a traverse from the west to the east shore of south Harris taking in the spine of this fantastic mountain. From the road end we make a steady climb up onto the mountain flanks before a steepening sees us arrive at the summit. From here and with turquoise and azure sea on either side, we drop down to a broad and gentle meandering ridge. The views back to the North Harris hills and down precipitous flanks and deep gullies to the white sands are sensational. You couldn’t get a better positioned hill.
Day 7 After packing up we head back in the direction of Stornoway but not before visiting the Calanais Standing Stones. Built between 1500 and 3000 BC they are of equal pre-historical importance to Stonehenge, their imposing physical presence and spectacularly beautiful setting make them one of Britain’s most atmospheric and evocative places. Not to be missed. A little further along the road is one of Scotland’s best preserved Iron Age brochs, Dun Charlabhaigh. This 2000 year old dwelling is beautifully situated commanding spectacular views across Loch Carloway. We head over to Stornaway for lunch in preparation for the ferry sailing back to the mainland and a night at Fraoch Lodge near Aviemore in preparation for your departure the following day.
Day of Departure: What ever time your plane or train is we will get you there for it. Most folks depart after breakfast leaving requests for Rebecca’s recipes or vowing to maintain their elevated standard of living!