The Outer Hebrides are wild and remote, and even for those who live on them there are some locations that are hard to visit. This Summer we decided to take a gamble with the elements and explore some of those places – a couple of small islands which we have watched from our shores but have never set foot on, and two others that are much more far-flung. To do this we went on a wonderful 6 day adventure with Island Cruising on the MV Cuma, and you can see some of the results of our trip here.
After setting off from Uig on the Isle of Lewis we spent a rainy first night in Loch Resort, and then travelled down to the Isle of Taransay, where the gaps between showers showed the stunning colours of this small, uninhabited island. We have seen Taransay many times from Luskentyre beach on the Isle of Harris, but this was the first time we had set foot on it. As you can see, our Hebridean 2 Ply felt very at home on the rocks and shingle.
Our next stop was the Monach Isles which lie off the coast of the Uists and are a perfect jumping-off point for making the journey to St Kilda. They are unspoiled, low-lying islands with the sea on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. Whichever direction you look you will see every kind of light and shade on water and every shade of blue. Tying the shoreline together is a machair which is covered in wild flowers, and on a walk across it you hear nothing but the birds and the ethereal cries of the seals.
Planning a journey to St Kilda is made difficult by the weather. The capricious Atlantic Ocean can make landing on the island impossible. We were very lucky in that we not only managed to land, but we had the privilege of spending a night camping on the island. The St Kilda campsite is small and situated inside one of the old stone enclosures. If you are going to camp there it is essential to book in advance through the National Trust as there are only a small number of tents allowed at any one time. It is well worth the journey to wake up in the morning with Village Bay spread out before you.
The island (and the campsite) is filled with wild Soay sheep, which are tagged once a year and otherwise left entirely to their own devices. St Kilda is also filled with birds – the incredible gannet colony on Boreray and its towering stacks; the puffins that fish in Village Bay; the ever-present beautiful fulmars that quack gently throughout the night, and the Arctic skuas which will divebomb you when you walk up toward the cliffs.
Some of the birdlife we met along the way – a puffin taking off from Village Bay; an Arctic Tern carrying its dinner over Taransay; the high gannet-covered cliffs of Boreray, and a fledgling Sea Eagle hiding on a cliff on the edge of Loch Resort.
After our journey home we spent a second night in Loch Resort, and the following day exploring the colourful island of Scarp. This island lies off Hushinish Beach in Harris and is inhabited by a handful of people during the summer. The machair was looking particularly lovely and it was a great destination to ease back into home life.
If you want to have your own Hebridean adventure have a look at the Island Cruising website. The MV Cuma sails out of Uig in the Isle of Lewis from the beginning of May until the end of August.