Hebridean Journeys Part 1

This page clearly isn't about climbing hills but is a related interest of mine - travelling by train, bus and ferry in the Scottish Highlands.

As a change from our usual overseas holidays, in May 2009, we embarked on a journey around the Outer Hebrides. The journey started with our arrival at Oban railway station on the train from Glasgow.

The modern station at Oban rather lacks the charisma of the original structure, but is probably more appropriate for today's traveller.

The train from Glasgow.

McCabe's tower and the harbour front at Oban.

The harbour at Oban with some of the fishing boat fleet.

Since our last visit, a brand new terminal building and a second link span have been constructed.

The "Isle of Mull" arrives from Craignure on Sunday morning; time for a visit to Craignure before embarking on the afternoon ferry to the Outer Hebrides. The photos below show the ship arriving.

The view from above the link span as loading is completed.

In contrast to the Mull ship, the Lismore ferry is the tiny "Eigg", here seen at her berth before working the 11.00 sailing.

Below are three more views of the ferry terminal and station.

Hardy looking passengers are braving the cold, wind and damp conditions.

Heading out to Mull from Oban harbour.

"The Isle of Mull" leaves Oban.

Tour buses await the ferry at Craignure.

We returned to Oban and embarked on the late afternoon sailing of the "Clansman" to Castelbay (Barra) and Lochboisdale (South Uist).

Sadly, my camera's memory card malfunctioned and the next stage of our journey has no photographs. However, there are several photos taken on our second journey through the Sound of Mull in part two of our Hebridean Journeys.

The shipping forecast was awful, with winds of Force 6 and 7 forecast and the sea described as rough or very rough.  Luckily, the waves were coming from the South so what this meant was that the ship, whilst moving about considerably in a longitudinal direction, wasn't also rolling from side to side.

Initially, the passage through the Sound of Mull was calm and very pleasant, as well as being largely in sunshine. This makes the loss of the photographs I took even more annoying. Once beyond Ardnamurchan Point and out into the Minch things changed considerably. Fortunately, neither of us was seasick, although the same can't be said for others, including one of the stewardesses.

Eventually Barra and its surrounding islands appeared out of the mist and the ship arrived on time at 20.50 in Castlebay. The welcome in the Castlebay Hotel was typical of all the hotels we stayed at on the islands. Despite the late hour we were offered a meal - rarely has onion soup tasted so good!

The map below shows the first stage of our journey through Barra and the Uists to Harris.


As we arrived the former Caledonian Macbrayne ship "Columba" - now the "Hebridean Princess" cruise ship, was anchored in the bay. After the "Clansman" had departed for Lochboisdale, it came alongside the pier to berth overnight. Here it is in the morning.

Early morning at Castelbay looking towards the west end of the town. The hill is Beinn Tangabahl - 332m high.

Below are three views of the ferry terminal and the bay.

Kisimul Castle on its island and Castlebay's lifeboat.

Below are a series of photos of the "Clansman" arriving from Lochboisdale on its return voyage to Oban.


A short distance beyond the village the A888 road climbs before heading along the west side of the island. In the distance is the Atlantic Ocean with nothing between the Island and North America.

Looking back towards Castlebay from the summit of the road.

Castlebay's Catholic church. 

From Castlebay we took the bus along the west side of the island to reach the ferry terminal at Aird Mhor.

The "Loch Alainn" arrives at Aird Mhor slipway for the crossing to Eriskay.

The uninhabited island of Fuday seen from the ferry, with the hills of Eriskay and South Uist in the distance.

Looking back to Barra.

Another view of the hills in Barra. As we left the island an aeroplane came into land on the island's beach airport!

Eriskay and the hills of South Uist. Beinn Mhor in the distance is over 2000 feet above sea level.

The ferry terminal at Eriskay is the next link in the "Overland" route from Barra to Lewis. The Postbus was waiting but we'd decided to walk up into the village of Balla and wait for the next service.

The "Loch Alainn" berthed at Eriskay.

By now the sun had come out so the clarity and colours of the sea were quite spectacular.

Looking back down to the Eriskay slipway and Barra across the Sound of Barra.

The village of Balla on Eriskay, with South Uist across the Sound of Eriskay.

Another view looking across the Sound of Eriskay to South Uist. The causeway that links the two islands is hidden behind the hill on which the village sits. Eriskay is, of course, famous for the wartime ship wreck of the "Politician" carrying whisky.

The next stage of our journey was by bus along the entire length of the Uists. From Eriskay the bus took us across South Uist, Benbecula, Grimsay and on to North Uist. All four islands are joined with causeways. Confusion with bus timetables saw us having to spend over an hour at Clachan awaiting a Postbus connection to Lochmaddy.

Having arrived at the Lochmaddy Hotel we were rewarded with this view from our bedroom...........

Later that evening the "Hebrides" arrived from Uig, on Skye, and remained berthed overnight.

It's often difficult to take photos of the ships berthed, but the size of the "Hebrides" is obvious.

A beautiful early summer's evening at Lochmaddy.

Next morning it was on by bus to the next island of Berneray over the causeway. This is a view looking across the Sound of Harris with the hills of South Harris in the distance.

In the opposite direction is North Uist.

North Uist and the causeway seen from Berneray.

Probably the best bit of road in the Uists! The causeway across to North Uist.

The map below shows the next stage of our journey from the Uists to Harris and Lewis and then on to Skye.


The Sound of Harris ferry, the "Loch Portain", seen at the slipway on Berneray.

Awaiting boarding.......

The vehicle deck with the stairs to the comfortable passenger lounge above.

Harris can be seen across the Sound.

Heading out from Berneray; the crossing is notorious for the frequent changes of direction to avoid the reefs. The entire route is marked by buoys and lights.

Looking back towards Berneray.

Two of the marker buoys for the channel that the ship uses. Usually, the green buoy was on the port side and the red on the starboard side.

The hills of Harris rise above Leverburgh.

Arriving at the slipway at Leverburgh.

On the day we travelled the sailing that we had originally intended to use had been cancelled due to the state of the tides. Here "Loch Portainn" is about to retreat to Berneray before the tide goes out.

At Leverburgh we were taken up into the village by the bus driver, who declined payment!! Because of our earlier than intended arrival at Leverburgh we decided to take the local bus to Tarbert via the "Bays" route on the east side of South Harris. This must be THE most spectacular (and potentially dangerous!) bus route in Britain. One hour of the most narrow and twisting roads imaginable all done at breakneck speed.

In the photo the start of the road can be seen climbing out of the village.

The next two photos show Leverburgh and Loch Steisevat.

The two photos below are looking across the Sound of Harris towards North Uist and Berneray.

It was something of a relief to arrive in Tarbert and even more of a pleasure to stay in the Harris Hotel.

The photo below shows the village looking west from the Scalpay road.

The road to Scalpay crosses the typical Harris rocky hillsides.

East Loch Tarbert seen from the edge of the village of Tarbert.

The linkspan at Tarbert with the island of Scalpay in the distance.

Rainbow over Trabert

Three evening views of the "Hebrides" after arrival from Uig.

The next day saw us heading north to Stornoway on the spectacular A859 main road, which cuts through the mountains and along Loch Seaforth before crossing the invisible border onto the isle of Lewis.

Stornoway is, of course, a large town and something of a shock after the quiet islands and villages further south. Nevertheless, it's a pleasant enough place.

Below are two photos of Caledonian Macbrayne's lorry ferry the "Muirneag", which sails each night for Ullapool.

Stornoway harbour.

The "Isle of Lewis" just arrived from Ullapool.

The inner harbour at Stornoway seen from the grounds of Stornoway Castle.

The two Calmac ferries in the outer harbour.

Our Outer Hebridean journey end with a pleasant two hour sail across the Minch from Tarbert on the "Hebrides".

Below the photo shows the ferry leaving Tarbert with the low isthmus of land between East and West Loch Tarberts clearly visible.

The rocky mountains of Harris loom above Tarbert.

Heading out down East Loch Tarbert the Sound of Scalpay can be seen with the graceful new bridge high above the water.

The wake of the "Hebrides" curves as the ship turns down the loch to the open sea.

Passing the tip of Scalpay.

The coast of Skye with the Cullins visible in the distance.

The entrance to the bay at Uig with the cliffs of Ru Idrigill.

Along the south side of Uig Bay high cliffs dominate the scene.

The quayside at Uig.

The linkspan with the bus to Portree ready for passengers from the ferry - integrated transport!

The stern door goes down onto the linkspan.

The "Hebrides" waits departure back to Lochmaddy.

Uig Bay

The map shows the next stage of the journey on Skye.

The next day the weather was cloudy and drizzly. The next photo shows the "Hebrides" gathering speed outward bound to Tarbert.

The next stage of our journey was around the Trotternish peninsula to Portree and then a return bus journey to Dunvegan. The weather conditions made photography pointless.

Fortunately, our last day had superb weather. This is the view from our bedroom window in Portree before breakfast.

We took the Inverness bus to Sconser and then waited for the ferry to Raasay. Below the island can be seen across the Narrows of Raasay.

The "Loch Striven" approaches the Sconser slipway in the next four photos.

The vehicle ramp is lowered....

.....the cars can drive off.

From the ferry Glammaig (775m) towers above Loch Sligachan.

More of the Red Cullin mountains come into view.

Looking south east with Salpay on the right and the hills above Broadford in the distance.

"Loch Striven" at the slipway on Raasay.

The old pier that was used by the iron ore quarry.

Looking north up the Narrows of Raasay.

The disused iron ore loading facilities.

looking up Loch Sligachan at Sconser.

Sconser village and slipway.

I just had to get in a photo of a Citylink coach, seen here at Broadford.

Broadford's old pier.

The island journey is over and we are back at Kyle of Lochalsh, with the bridge in the background.

Military survey vessels tied up at the pier.

Three views of Kyle of Lochalsh railway station before our journey back to Inverness.

Click here to go to Hebridean Journeys Part 2