North & South Uist - Eriskay - Benbecula
Western Isles / Outer Hebrides
This part of the Western Isles has a charm all of its own. The islands seem to be split down the middle: boggy moors and craggy hills rule the east, whilst the west is softened by a sandy coastline and green pasture. If it's beaches you want, there are plenty of them to choose from. If you want to go hiking, remember that it can be very wet underfoot, but there are tracks in some places. In fact it's hard to tell whether the moorland is sprinkled with lochs or the sea dotted with islands. On a sunny day, the landscape is truly sparkling.
The Uists don't get as many visitors as some of the other islands. Around 3000 people live here. The road signs are in Gaelic and the food supplies depend to a certain extent on the ferry.
The main road runs down the middle of this chain of islands from Lochmaddy to Lochboisdale. There is a local coach service and post bus. It is also a great place to cycle - start in the south and pedal your way north up the islands.
North Uist and South Uist both have nature reserves and are full of ancient monuments - many dating back thousands of years. Benbecula is a small island sandwiched between the Uists and linked by a stone causeway. Its main claim to fame is the airport and Army rocket range.
The North Uist Highland Games are usually planned for mid July, followed by the South Uist Highland Games. Agricultural Shows take place on North and South Uist around late July or early August. North Uist hosts the Twin Peaks Race in early August too.
The annual Ceolas (Gaelic music festival / summer school) is held in South Uist in July.
To enjoy the Uists at the nice slow pace they deserve, you really need several days to absorb the full flavour of the islands. After that you will have fallen in love with the islands and will probably want to return for a week or more on your next visit! Combined with the islands of Harris and Lewis to the north and Barra to the south, you could easily spend 2 weeks here and still not want to go home.
Books & Maps
If you intend to go hiking, particularly in the hills, you will need the scale of maps provided by the Landranger series produced by the Ordnance Survey which is the official map agency of the UK. These can be purchased via Amazon in the UK:
Uists and Barra
Lovely colour guide with over 100 pages of photos devoted to these islands. Covers local heritage and culture, nature, the landscape, places to visit, etc. Written by Francis Thompson. Even if you don't get chance to buy it before you go, you will certainly want a copy for a souvenir when you have visited!
Available from Amazon.co.uk