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The Hebridean Way

The Outer Hebrides - also known as the Western Isles - are traversed on this unique 253km walking route. The route begins on the island of Vatersay, and visits Barra, Eriskay, South Uist, Benbecula, Grimsay, North Uist, Berneray and Harris and Lewis, finishing in the capital, Stornoway.

The route features varied walking and terrain. There are truly magnificent beaches with perfect white sand, fertile grassland meadows known as machair, vast areas of peat moorland speckled with sparkling lochans, and hills whose arresting outlines give them far greater stature than their height suggests.

The islands also offer a unique culture, being the stronghold of the Gaelic language, and superb wildlife. Yet another attraction are the archaelogical remains found throughout the islands - a treasure trove of prehistory. All these things are seen along the way.

THE CHALLENGE

Although the trail reaches a maximum altitude of only 270m, it should not be underestimated. The interior of the Outer Hebrides is largely composed of peat, and there is a great deal of boggy terrain on almost all stages. Although mostly well-waymarked, there are several sections which are pathless, so navigation skills are needed. There are also easier sections, with a fair amount of roadwalking and sandy beaches.

The islands are exceptionally windy, and with little tree cover or shelter, much of the route is exposed to any bad weather. Be sure you have adequate clothing and equipment.

Stage descriptions Length Time Done
Stage 1: Vatersay and Barra 24km 7-8 hours  
Stage 2: Eriskay to Daliburgh 17km 4-5 hours
Stage 3: Daliburgh to Howmore 18.5km 4-5 hours
Stage 4: Howmore to Liniclate 25.5km   6-7 hours
Stage 5: Liniclate to Carinish 24.5km 6-7 hours
Stage 6: Carinish to Lochmaddy 18km 5-6 hours
Stage 7: Lochmaddy to Berneray 16.5km 5-6 hours
Stage 8: Leverburgh to Seilebost 21.5km 7-8 hours
Stage 9: Seilebost to Tarbert 23.5km 6-7 hours
Stage 10: Tarbert to Scaladal 15km 4-5 hours
Stage 11: Scaladal to Balallan 21km 5-6 hours
Stage 12: Balallan to Stornoway 29.5km 7-8 hours

ACCOMMODATION AND SERVICES ALONG THE WAY

Although the islands have a growing population of over 27,000, shops and accommodation are infrequent and the route needs careful planning, particularly for those who are not carrying a tent and stove. Note that even where there are shops and cafes, these are likely to be closed on Sundays, particularly on Harris and Lewis. Also many cafes and hotels are seasonal and some do not open until May - check before relying on them.

The route begins at the community hall on Vatersay, and the first stage leads across the island of Barra. There is one hotel - at Halaman Bay - en route, and some camping grounds nearby and a couple of campsites, there are no facilities at the stage end except for a seasonal coffee kiosk in the ferry waiting room. There are some B&Bs close to the route, or you could try to arrange pick up and/or drop off from Barra's capital, Castlebay.

After crossing the ferry, the second stage begins on the small island of Eriskay, which has a shop, bed and breakfast accommodation and a pub. A cafe is passed after the route leads onto South Uist, a campsite, and then an inn at Polochar. There is nothing right at the end of the stage, but Daliburgh (Dalabrog in Gaelic) is a short detour away and has a good shop, hotel and guest house.

The following stage ends at Howmore which has only a simple hostel and no other facilities; the stage is short and could be extended, or you could arrange an accommodation provider to pick you up and drop you off here.

Stage 4 leads onto Benbecula and ends at Liniclate, which has a hotel and some guest houses; there is also a supermarket en route, soon after arriving on Benbecula.

The fifth stage ends after the route has arrived on North Uist. There is a campsite - with pods available for those not staying in a tent - by the route, or you could arrange pickup, perhaps from nearby Carinish.

The following stage ends on the edge of Lochmaddy, and is 1km from the centre of this, the island capital, which has a shop, hotel and other accommodation.

The seventh stage ends at the ferry terminal immediately after reaching Berneray - you could either detour to the hostel, shop, cafe and/or guest houses on the island, or cross the ferry to Leverburgh - the start of the next stage - which has a shop as well as more accommodation, and a seasonal food van.

Seilebost has no facilities en route, although a guest house is reachable with a detour. The alternative is to arrange pick up and drop off, perhaps from the same accommodation you used in Leverburgh.

Stage 9 passes the (seasonal) Bays Centre Cafe part way through, and ends at Tarbet, the capital of Harris. This has a local grocery shop, cafe, hotel and bed and breakfast accommodation.

Stock up in Tarbet, as stage 10 ends at the tiny hamlet of Scaladal. There is a guest house here, and hostel accommodation at the Scaladale centre.

Stage 11 ends in Balallan, a long settlement strung out along the road. There's a seasonal cafe in the village hall, and bed and breakfast accommodation nearby.

The route ends at Stornoway which is by far the largest settlement in the Western Isles - it has all shops and services, though note most are closed on Sundays.

BOOKS AND MAPS

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PUBLIC TRANSPORT

If doing the complete Hebridean Way as a single trip, it's easiest to use public transport to reach it. Oban - the ferry port which serves Barra - is linked by rail and bus to Glasgow; there's then a local bus to reach the start on Vatersay. The route ends at Stornoway on Lewis, from where the main ferry returns to the mainland at Ullapool, which itself has good bus links to Inverness. Inverness then has onward bus and rail links for your return.

There are also local buses reaching the start and end points of all stages. The route itself also includes two ferry journeys - across the Sound of Barra and the Sound of Harris.

Timetables for all the routes can be found on Traveline Scotland.

Users' walk reports for the Hebridean Way

There are 91 Walkhighlanders who have completed the Hebridean Way. To record if you have completed the route, you must register and be logged in. Our users have contributed 6 public walk reports for the route. These are ordered below with the most popular ones first.

Title AuthorDate walked Likes
Inspirational Islands, sometimes wearisome walk  Stephcart 25/05/2022  20
The Hebridean Way Part 1  Guinessman 24/08/2017  10
Hebridean Way part 2  Guinessman 05/09/2017  8
Pirates of the Hebrides: The Hebridean Way in 9 days  SoRealCru 19/05/2023  6
The Hebridean Way  Knipperdolling07 12/04/2017  4
Grimsay to Eriskay on the Hebridean Way  LaurenAlexandraAgain 04/06/2019  2

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Walking can be dangerous and all walkers must take personal responsibility for their own safety. You should always carry a backup means of navigation and not rely on a single phone, app or map. Walkhighlands strives to provide accurate information but cannot accept responsibility for changes, errors or omissions.