The Ultimate Outdoor Hebrides Adventure
Every now and again even perpetual travellers like myself form an attachment to a place. Something deeper than the customary appreciation that your average destination can deliver. Sometimes the attraction is clear and obvious. Often it's misty, something you can't quite put your finger on. It can be credited to deep and evocative natural beauty, or maybe it's owed to manmade wonder. Beautiful landscapes and imagination-inspiring relics or memories of local warmth, creativity, craft and passion. But when it hits you, and you know you're visiting somewhere really special, that's golden.
I honestly don't think anywhere in the world has had quite the level of personal impact that the Outer Hebrides has had on me. Littered with history and mystique, founded on ancient rocks exposed and hanging on perilously amidst careening Atlantic waves and home to its very own way of life, I've been coming here as long as my wee legs would permit me. These island jewels are completely unique and I'm certain that the allure of these Western Isles, and the attachment I have for them, is not something that I'll ever see diminish.
My most recent visit to the Outer Hebrides sees me arrive with fellow Scotland travellers and social media enthusiasts to take on an action-packed week of outdoor adventures. Working with Outer Hebrides Tourism, our group would engage in a diverse array of sports and activities that are perfectly suited to this part of good old Scotland. Enjoy our video and read on about our outdoor adventures.
Biking, Coasteering and Camping on the Isle of Harris
Harris has shot up the charts of most-visited Scottish destinations in the last few years as word of its stunning beaches has spread far and wide. Instagram-worthy sands and crystal-clear turquoise waters have drawn innumerable comparisons with beaches in more tropical locales - and they are worth every bit of the hype.
This segment of our trip sees us join up with the Scaladale Centre as we charge around North Harris by mountain bike, giddily bumping our way along rough terrain made all the more solid by this dry summer we've faced. Including part of the Hebridean Way - Scotland's new long-distance trail that spans these glorious islands - this is a spectacularly memorable way to appreciate the wise old peaks and lunar landscapes that make up this most sparsely populated section of our itinerary.
But the beaches were always going to feature heavily on Harris and our overnight stop at Hushinish is one that will live with me forever. From clambering in and out of the water, coasteering along the jagged coast of Harris' western limits, to a jaw-on-the-floor sunset moment overlooking outlying Scarp, it's been a day of high adrenaline and beautiful memories. A barbeque on the beach, a quick drone flight in immaculate conditions and a tent pitched directly overlooking the beach completes it. Scarp has always been a place of fascination for me - watch the bizarre The Rocket Post and you'll see what I mean - and I reflect on how much of a privilege it's been to experience the views over to this island in this dramatic way.
Beaching it on North Uist and Benbecula
It was on North Uist's beaches that wee me did finally haul himself upright to face the world. So determined was I to run and frolic with gleeful liberty all day long in my early auditions for a role in Baywatch. My family has been coming here for decades - in the days before international travel was much of a thing and piling the entire family and most of our possessions into a car for a 20-hour drive and numerous boat trips to seemingly the ends of the earth was no biggie. So I am beyond thrilled to return for both an immersive education in the artwork inspired by the islands from the inspirational Ellis O'Connor and for some beach horse riding in Benbecula with the Uist Community Riding School. The medley of colours and the natural drama of these parts has understandably brought Ellis to live here to practice her work as a professional artist and bouncing around gracefully atop a rather, shall we say, free-willed horse is yet another of those surreal experiences that neither my mind's eye or my backside will be forgetting any time soon.
Kayaking and Snorkelling on the Isle of Barra
Cute little Barra has often been credited as having the various leading assets of the Outer Hebrides on one island. The north and west coasts boast long stretches of golden sands, inland contains rugged and lonely hills and local passing wildlife includes seals, birds of prey and otters. Throw in a beach airport and one of Scotland's most photogenic castles and you've got yourself a holiday destination! And speaking of the latter....I'd always had my eye on an iconic kayak experience around picture-perfect Kisimul Castle, the MacNeil seat that stands so proudly in protection of Castlebay village. This trip delivers and we are treated to another immortal experience by Clearwater Paddling. There is just enough time for a snorkel in the vicinity of a pod of seals before our journey back up the bejewelled island chain commences.
Wildlife Cruising Around the Isle of Lewis
Our boat trip with Hebrides Fish n' Trips (I know, right?) is simply the perfect end to the week. Lewis Mackenzie, the absolute embodiment of Hebridean fabulousness, treated us to a tour of Lewis' outlying islets and lonely coves as we go in search of sea eagles, local lobsters, more seals and....sugar kelp. Incredible entertainment, a humbling education in the life cycle of the local bird and sea life and a long-awaited introduction to that key ingredient in Harris Gin was maybe the best thing yet in my love-affair with the Western Isles. That the day should end with a sea eagle kamikaze-ing its way to the waterline to pluck a craftily pre-arranged fish supper for itself (Lewis knows his stuff) was one of those moments when us lot didn't know whether we should be trying to photograph, video or just stare in spellbound delight at one of nature's great wonders.
Both my childhood and adult memories of the countless trips I've had to the Outer Hebrides are very, very important to me. I feel so grateful that I was inducted so early and so incredibly privileged that I can visit as an adult and travelling writer to experience them in new ways each and every time. It underlines how proud I am to be Scottish and the sense of personal belonging is incredibly powerful. It's always very difficult to leave the islands and return to the city maelstrom but I'm always reassured by the certainty that I'll not be long away from my next Hebridean adventure.
View the full video of this exciting islanfd hopping adventure to the Outer Hebrides https://www.visitouterhebrides.co.uk/oh
If you are inspired to create you're own Island hopping adventure to the Outer Hebrides view our Hebridean Island Hopping Adventure
Neil Robertson is a Scotland travel blogger and digital marketer asTravels with a Kilt. Based in Glasgow, his travels are focussed primarily on the outdoors, history and whisky but his love of Scotland will see him take on almost any challenge in the search for adventure. This particular one came in partnership with Outer Hebrides Tourism and you can watch the video documenting their shared Hebridean journey here. All images have been supplied by and are copyright of Neil Robertson.