- Explore the extraordinary Callanish standing stones on Lewis, more than 5,000 years old and rivalling Stonehenge in importance
- Visit the Harris Eagle Observatory and scan the skies for the rare and beautiful Golden Eagles which make the island their home
- Learn about the history of the Macdonald clan on Skye and visit the ruins of a castle where Flora Macdonald, who helped Bonnie Prince Charlie escape to the island was married more than 250 years ago
- Enjoy an evening of traditional Scottish food and music and get some tips on the Gaelic language.
- Stay in a 17th century former hunting lodge, still owned by the high chief of the Macdonald clan
The procession of islands, islets and reefs that form the remote Western Isles, off Scotlands northwest coast boasts some of the most wild, beautiful and contrasting landscapes in Britain.
Turbulent seas boil around dramatic coastlines and here hardy islanders still pursue the age-old activities of crofting, fishing and weaving.
Each Hebridean island retains its own special character, from Lewis heather-blanketed rolling moorland with its scattering of small grey cottages to Harris, land of high mountains, with an interior moon-like landscape.
On Skye the stark rise of the jagged Cuillin ridge drops to a surprising soft sand beach. Here, it seems, time has stood still and the splendid isolation means that wildlife and nature have been able to flourish.
We discover mysterious ancient stones, learn some Gaelic, sample a dram or two of whisky, scour the skies for elusive Golden Eagles, and learn about the bloody history of this part of Scotland, which sent so many islanders to the New World to forge a new life.
Sunday Overnight: Borve House Hotel
Rendezvous at Stornoway Airport, with a pick-up also offered at the pier. We travel north from Stornoway, the isle of LewisÃ¢â¬â¢ only town. Our hotel is situated towards the most northerly point of the Ã¢â¬ÅLong IslandÃ¢â¬Â, as Lewis and Harris are sometimes called. Welcome meeting and dinner at the hotel.
Monday Overnight: Borve House Hotel
We head out towards the dramatic, northerly, extremity of Lewis. An area, some claim, that is the windiest spot in the UK. We walk towards the landmark red-brick Butt of Lewis lighthouse. We stop for a mid morning break at Louise and Pete's island home where we will be returning later for an evening of delicious local food and music. We resume our walk passing the eerie and remote cemetery where over ten thousand Lewis folk are buried. We lunch at the Ness historical society and learn about the guga (gannet) hunt and get some tips on speaking Gaelic. After lunch we walk on past the attractive little port of Ness to the remains of an iron- age fort and glimpse a cave said to have contained a very active and illegal whisky distillery still in years gone by. We enjoy a cup of tea and local cake in a cafe overlooking the port of Ness before returning to our hotel for a wash and brush up and then back to Ness for supper and some singing!
Tuesday Overnight: Harris Hotel
Today we head southwards towards Harris, but before we leave Lewis, we stop to explore the standing stones of Callanish - one of the most important prehistoric sites in the UK. It consists of a stone circle, a central monolith and five radiating rows of stones, which form an avenue, aligning true north linking with Stonehenge and Avebury. We drive on to our second walk of the morning and start walking close to the boundary of Lewis and Harris following the Harris walkway, that takes us past Lochannan Lascadail through the wonderful hills, glens and lochs of Harris. We lunch at our next hotel where Matt, the ranger for North Harris, awaits to tell us all about golden eagles. After lunch we drive the short journey to the Harris Eagle Observatory. The mountains of Harris are home to 20 pairs of these eagles. Matt will help us scan the skies for these magnificent birds soaring over the ridges on either side of the glen.
Wednesday Overnight: Harris Hotel
This morning we venture into South Harris to enjoy a walk of extremes: from the wild barren rock of the east to the fertile machair and white sands of the west. The brutal highland clearances of the 19th century displaced the population to the barren, rocky, poor soil in the east. However, when one of the islanders died their bodies were carried to be interred in the deep soils and consecrated ground of the west. We will be following The Coffin Walk taken by the funeral parties. Views are enjoyed over to the machair lands, white beaches fringed with fields of wild flowers. We will lunch in the Harris community centre where locals hold ceilidhs.
Thursday Overnight: Kinloch Lodge
Today itÃ¢â¬â¢s over the sea, to Skye, but not before we enjoy our final hike on Harris and discover a small loch and the abandoned village of Direacleit, from where we can see our ferry arrive. We lunch on board the ferry and on arrival in Uig we drive to the island's main town Portree with its multi-coloured houses and bustling port. We walk a coastal circuit with extensive views of the harbour finishing with a cream tea. We then embark on the final leg of our journey, an hour's drive through the Cuillin Hills, the most spectacular and challenging mountains in Britain and a mecca for rock climbers, towards our hotel in the fertile Ã¢â¬Ågarden of SkyeÃ¢â¬Â.
Friday Overnight: Kinloch Lodge
We walk from our hotel through the woodland that surrounds it and enjoy stunning views of the Sound of Sleat. We see another abandoned village, this one cleared by the ancestor of the Macdonalds who own our hotel! It was home to families of woodcutters most of whom sought a new life in Nova Scotia. After lunch in the wonderfully positioned Gaelic Inn of the Eilean Iarmain hotel on the promontory of the isle of Oransay, we explore the gardens and estate paths surrounding the ruins of Armadale Castle. The Castle was home to the Macdonalds, chiefs until 1925 when it was left to the wind and the rain. Flora Macdonald who helped Bonnie Prince Charlie escape to Skye was married here in 1790. There is a fascinating museum to explore after our walk. It documents 1500 years of history, culture and bloody battles. We return to our hotel for our Farewell Dinner.
After breakfast, it is time to bid farewell to the Western Isles.
(Single Supplement $565.00)
Departure: Sleat, Isle of Skye
Hotels - Where we stay
Borve House Hotel
Situated in an idyllic location on the stunning west coast of the Isle of Lewis, the Borve House offers elegant and modern accommodation, with a traditional island welcome. The nine comfortable bedrooms offer state-of-the-art TV's with national and international TV and radio stations, WiFi internet access and tea and coffee making facilities. The well-stocked bars offer a range of local and international beers, wines and a tempting selection of malt and blended whiskies from throughout Scotland. Award winning Head Chef Alan MacRitchie uses the finest local produce to deliver a range of classic and creative dishes in the restaurant.
A warm welcome awaits you at this well-established hotel, which has been family owned and run for more than 100 years. Harris Hotel was built in 1865 by the 7th Earl of Dunmore, and was originally called the Tarbert Hotel. At the time, he owned the North Harris Estate and built the hotel as a "sporting retreat" for anglers. The original visitor books, stretching back to the 1880s, are still kept on the premises, and show a number of famous guests have stayed here over the last three centuries. J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan, signed the visitor book in 1912, then at the height of his fame as a playwright. He even took the time to etch his initials on the dining room window, which can still be seen today. All rooms have flat-screen televisions, hair dryers and hot drinks tray. The downstairs areas have free WiFi access for mobile devices. The menu offers an extensive choice of dishes using the freshest of local ingredients, including fresh fish, shellfish, lamb, beef and venison served with a modern and contemporary flair.
Charming and cosy, Kinloch Lodge is nestled at the foot of Kinloch Hill on the shoreline of the sea-loch Na Dal in Sleat and was cited as one of the world's top 25 small hotels in Conde Naste Traveller Magazine. Kinloch Lodge is the highland home of noted cook Claire Macdonald and husband Godfrey Macdonald, and is steeped in heritage and history. Bedrooms, individually decorated in colours and textures chosen to reflect Skye's distinctive landscape, have superking-size beds, flat-screen television and DVD player, direct-dial telephone, a hospitality tray with fresh coffee, homemade shortbread and fresh milk, and a selection of books (both antiquarian and contemporary) from Lord Macdonald's library. The ensuite bathrooms have bathrobes and LÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Occitane toiletries. There is complimentary WiFi access. Marcello Tully, resident head-chef provides a daily changing menu, using the very best of local and seasonal produce, including local poultry, game and shellfish, locally grown salad and herbs.
Start planning your trip
What Is Included in the Price of My Vacation
- Full-time services of two staff - a Walk Leader and Walk Manager
- A backup vehicle for resting walkers and moving luggage
- Comprehensive Travel Information Package and Reading List
- Diverse itineraries with an emphasis on history, geography, culture, peoples, flora and fauna
- Demonstrations, wine tasting, admissions to museums and historic sites
- All ground transfers (ferries, cable cars, trains, etc.)
- Maps and unique souvenirs to commemorate your trip
- First-class accommodations with cultural and historical interest
- All meals - with choices - (Special dietary requirements? No problem!)
- Wine with dinner
- On-trail snacks and refreshments
- All gratuities at hotels and restaurants