We depart from our designated pick-up points and head north, stopping en-route for refreshments. We will continue to Ullapool in time to catch the early evening Caledonian MacBrayne ferry to Stornoway, which takes approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes. On arrival in Lewis we will transfer the short distance to our comfortable accommodation where dinner will be served on arrival.
Subject to favourable weather conditions, we will visit St Kilda today. After an early breakfast this morning we will be transferred to Loch Roag on the west coast of Lewis, where we join our 42-foot motor cruiser, the MV Lochlann, and sail for the archipelago (passage time 4 hours approximately). Licensed and equipped for 12 passengers, there is a W.C. and tea and coffee making facilities. Seating is arranged to allow passengers to relax and enjoy the trip, with lifejackets being supplied to all passengers while on board.
On arrival on the main island of Hirta, we will be met by the resident warden who will give us an introduction to the islands and outline a few dos and don’ts. Thereafter, we will have around three hours to explore the island at leisure. The most visible sign of the now-vanished human population is the Village, which was laid out by the minister, the Reverend Neil Mackenzie, in the 1830s and consists of a crescent of houses with associated cultivation plots, all within a head dyke. The houses built in the 1830s were typical Hebridean black houses, single-roomed, the cattle being accommodated in them in winter. In the 1860s new houses were built. These were of a standard Hebridean design with an entrance lobby, small closet behind, and two main rooms. By the mid 19th century there was increasing contact with the outside world. A steam yacht visited St Kilda in 1838 and from 1877 the SS Dunara Castle and others began regular summer cruises to St Kilda. The gradual loss of self-sufficiency and morale had begun - this was to end with the evacuation of the islanders in 1930.
If your interest lies in the birdlife of the islands, you have the opportunity to view the thousands and thousands of birds that nest here – colonies of gannet and fulmar along with other species such as puffin, Manx shearwater, storm petrel and Leach's petrel. Also of interest is the flock of wild Soay sheep, perhaps the most primitive extant form of domestic sheep.
In the afternoon we return by boat to Lewis, arriving early evening.
Please note that the facilities on the island are extremely limited with little shelter and rough terrain (although there are toilets), so you must be well prepared and suitably dressed. You must also be capable of getting from the motor boat into the small dinghy which takes you ashore. Packed lunches will be available from the hotel (not included).
After a leisurely breakfast, we depart on a tour of Harris and Lewis. We travel first to the west coast of Lewis for a visit to the 5,000 year old Standing Stones of Callanish. Undoubtedly the most remarkable antiquity in the Western Isles, this collection of almost 50 stones forms a well-marked megalithic avenue, comprising 19 monoliths, ending in a circle of 13 stones, with a great cairn at the centre. Entry to the new Visitor Centre is included. We continue to the exceptionally well-preserved and imposing Carloway Broch, a circular, dry-stone fortified tower, dating back some 2,000 years. During our tour of the island we will also see the old crofting Black Houses. Returning to Harris later in the afternoon, we pay a visit to St. Clement’s Church at Rodel, one of the finest in the west of Scotland.
Dinner will be served at your hotel in the evening.
After breakfast we check out of the hotel and and travel south to Harris, which in contrast to the rolling moorland of Lewis is more mountainous – this is apparent within minutes of crossing the ‘border’ into Harris with a magnificent mountain vista to the right as the road climbs over the hill. We then catch the morning ferry from Tarbert to Uig. We travel through Skye, crossing back to the mainland by the bridge to Kyle of Lochalsh. We return to our original pick up points where we will arrive during the evening.
Please note that our visit to St Kilda is entirely subject to weather conditions and the final decision of the boat owner. Should the sailing not be possible on Day 2, we will have the tour of Harris and Lewis instead and try again to visit St Kilda on Day 3. If the visit is not possible on this day either, we will have an inshore wildlife cruise (with lunch included) on board the MV Lachlann, with a partial refund being made as appropriate. Should no cruise be possible, passengers will be refunded the full cost of the St Kilda cruise and an alternative land-based excursion will be provided. Please note that the number of participants on each departure is limited to 12 passengers, the maximum capacity of the purpose-built vessel. Facilities on St Kilda are limited and the terrain can be rough, so a good degree of mobility is required.