All you need to know about the Hebridean Way walking route

Hebridean Way. Picture: Contributed

Hebridean Way. Picture: Contributed

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THE Hebridean Way represents a challenge to discover the islands of the Outer Hebrides under your own steam, on foot or by pedal power.

The dedicated long-distance walking route connecting the islands of the Outer Hebrides opened this week, offering visitors an exciting new way to discover island ‘Life on the Edge’.

The Hebridean Way Walking Route takes in 10 islands, six causeways and two ferry crossings and covers 156 miles of the island chain, which sits off the west coast of Scotland.

What is it?

The route, which was developed by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar with support from the European Regional Development Fund and Scottish Natural Heritage, is the only dedicated Hebridean walking trail to traverse the archipelago - providing walkers with an enticing new opportunity to discover all that the islands have to offer. The Hebridean Way is made up of two separate routes:

*A dedicated walking route from Vatersay to Lews Castle of 156 miles – launched this week at the Visit Scotland Expo in Glasgow.

And:

*A dedicated cycling route from Vatersay to the Butt of Lewis covering 185 miles –now adopted as National Cycle Network Route (NCR) 780.

The Hebridean Way Cycling route was launched in March last year when endurance cyclist and adventurer Mark Beaumont tackled the route in a Hebridean Way Cycling Challenge, completing the 185 mile route in just 24 hours.

Cycling and walking routes are different. Both are fully marked.

The routes lead walkers or cyclists through the ever changing landscapes of the islands of the Outer Hebrides and offer a chance for visitors to really immerse themselves in the island experience as they explore.

How to get around 

The Hebridean Way walking and cycling routes are just that – routes for walking and cycling. Visitors are advised to take bus timetables and numbers for local taxis in case they run into any issues along the route.

Direct scheduled flights to the Western Isles leave daily from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness and Aberdeen to land at Stornoway Airport on the Isle of Lewis. 

Alternatively, begin your visit with an unforgettable experience and take a flight to the Outer Hebrides landing at Barra Airport– where they use the cockle strand airstrip of Traigh Mhor beach, which is consistently voted one of the world’s top air approaches and where flight schedules are at the mercy of the tides.

Alternatively, you can travel to the Outer Hebrides using the Western Isles ferry services that connect our archipelago to the mainland and our island-groups to each.

There are also daily ferry crossings within the Western Isles from Leverburgh, Isle of Harris to the Isle of Berneray and the Isle of Eriskay to Ardmhor, Isle of Barra.

Can you walk it?

The walking route runs from Vatersay to Lews castle on a mix of connected waymarked routes, newly created paths, existing tracks, and stretches of quiet road.

The Hebridean Way walking route is broken down into 12 sections.

What gear would you need?

Check the weather forecast before you set out. Take appropriate clothing – this walk covers some rough, wet ground, so wear your boots.  Walking shoes are not suitable for this walk. Good quality waterproof jackets and trousers are essential.

Carry water and food with you – shops and cafés are few and far between in certain areas.

Always tell someone - such as your accommodation provider  - what time you expect to arrive or return. Always bring a map and compass with you – and know how to use them. A guidebook and GPS are a recommended essential too.

Take bus timetables and phone numbers for local taxis in case you have problems on the walk. 

Can you cycle it?

The Hebridean Way cycling route is separate from the walking route and is 185 miles allowing cyclists to go from Vatersay to the Butt of Lewis. The route has been officially adopted as National Cycle Network Route (NCR) 780.

Walkinig maps

Where can you hire bikes?

There are a number of providers of bicycle hire

in the Outer Hebrides.

Can you drive it? No

Where are the best views?

Amazing views all along the route – the key to the appeal of the Hebridean Way is the changing nature of the island landscapes as you walk or cycle; from stunning white shell sand beaches bordered by beautiful flowering machair plains to inland lochs in the shadow of majestic mountains. Chances to spot Hebridean wildlife along the route too.

Notable ones include Scarista, Horgabost and Luskentyre

Walkers can climb to the top of Ruabhal, the “hill of the fords” that gave Benbecula its Gaelic name Beinn na Faoghla, which is rewarded with one of the most sensational views in Scotland.

There is also Beinn Mhòr with fabulous views south over Lochmaddy and the watery landscape of North Uist.

Callanish Standing Stones, Isle of Lewis, is one of the most complete stone circles in Europe, which also has a visitors centre.

Butt of Lewis –northern tip of the Outer Hebrides, windiest place in Britain with a 121ft Stevenson lighthouse

Both Walkers and Cyclists

Look out for Golden Eagles overhead. Crossing the Sound of Harris – a strong contender for Britain’s most spectacular ferry journey

What are the foodie hot spots?

Anyone tackling the Hebridean Way should have a copy of the Eat Drink Hebrides

trail information with them so that they don’t miss any treats along the way.

Some on the route include the Hebridean Tea Store, Stornoway, which has more than 100 speciality loose leaf teas and is the smallest cafe in the islands.

There is also Stornoway smokehouse, heirs to 150 years of smoking tradition. There is also the Lobster Pot Tearoom, Berneray, which is walking distance from the Sound of Harris, with filled rolls, homemade soup and local produce.

Best place to stay for luxury

There is a number of accommodation locations on offer.

There is also Hotel Hebrides, Tarbert, Harris, and Borrodale Hotel.

Best place to stay for budget accomodation 

The Gatliff Hebridean Hostel, Berneray, is a traditional thatched island houses, recognisable by the otter modelled onto the top of the thatch costing £15 a night.

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