The Hebridean Way
Long-distance walking route through Scotland's Outer Hebrides
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Guidebook to walking the Hebridean Way, a 155 mile (247km) walking route along the length of the Outer Hebrides. From the island of Vatersay to Stornoway on Lewis, the waymarked route can be walked in 8 to 13 days and crosses a variety of terrain including shell beaches, rugged hills and wild moor. Also includes an extension to the Butt of Lewis.
- Best walked between April and October, when the days are longer; the weather is at its best and the ground underfoot is likely to be drier.
- Starting at Vatersay, the routes crosses Barra, Eriskay, South Uist, Benbecula, Grimsay, North Uist, Berneray, Harris and Lewis to its current end in Stornoway.
- The Hebridean Way is mostly a low-level, waymarked route that never ventures far from a road. However it requires careful planning as it crosses stretches of wild moor where there is no clear path and there are limited facilities near the route. As yet there is no baggage transfer provider.
- Must See
- 247km (155 mile) waymarked trail over rugged hills and along dazzling white shell beaches the length of the Outer Hebrides, from Vatersay in the south to Stornoway in the north, passing through 10 islands linked by causeways and ferries.
Launching in 2017, the Hebridean Way offers walkers the opportunity to experience the magic of Scotland's Outer Hebrides in one inspirational journey. The waymarked route stretches 247km (155 miles) from Vatersay to Stornaway, linking ten major islands of the archipelago by means of causeways and two ferry crossings: Vatersay, Barra, Eriskay, South Uist, Benbecula, Grimsay, North Uist, Berneray, Harris and Lewis. Suitable for most walkers with a moderate level of fitness, it can be completed in 8–14 days and is rich in natural, historical and cultural interest.
This guidebook presents the Hebridean Way in 10 stages of 16–35km (10–22 miles), plus two additional stages to extend the route to the Butt of Lewis in line with future plans. Detailed route description is accompanied by 1:50,000 OS mapping, stunning photography to whet your appetite and a wealth of information about local points of interest. The introduction offers an overview of the islands' geology, history, plants and wildlife as well as comprehensive practical advice for walking the route, such as when to go, how to get there (and back) and what to take. Accommodation listings can be found in the appendices.
The route is a celebration of the diverse landscapes of the Hebrides, from dazzling white shell beaches to wild moorland and flower-strewn machair. It visits Neolithic and Bronze Age remains, ruined forts and castles and monuments commemorating Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Highland Land Struggle. The islands are also a great location to spot seabirds, raptors and a number of migratory species. Informative and inspiring, Richard Barrett's guidebook is an ideal companion to discovering this captivating route.
How the Hebridean Way came into being
Planning your trip
Selecting a schedule
When to walk
First and last nights
What to take
Planning day by day
Using this guide
Phones and Wi-Fi
All about the Outer Hebrides
Plants and flowers
The history of the Outer Hebrides
The Hebridean Way
Stage 1 Vatersay to Ardmhor
Stage 2 Eriskay to Howmore
Stage 3 Howmore to Baile nan Cailleach
Stage 4 Baile nan Cailleach to Lochmaddy
Stage 5 Lochmaddy to Berneray
Stage 6 Leverburgh to Horgabost Township
Stage 7 Horgabost Township to Tarbert
Stage 8 Tarbert to Aline
Stage 9 Aline to Laxay
Stage 10 Laxay to Stornoway
Additional stages to the Butt of Lewis
Stage 11 Stornoway to New Tolsta
Stage 12 New Tolsta to the Butt of Lewis
Appendix A Useful contacts
Appendix B Accommodation
Appendix C Common Gaelic and Norse name elements
Appendix D Further reading
This book is designed to be small enough to carry with you and includes linear maps that are entirely adequate for following the route. However, they do not show much on either side of the route, such as where your overnight accommodation or the nearest shop is located, so it is advisable to carry separate maps that cover the route, together with a compass. Should you inadvertently miss a waymarker or stray from the path, you’ll then have everything you need to get back on track. If you have a hand-held GPS (global positioning system), so much the better.
The Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 Landranger Series provides the right level of detail for both walking and exploring the local area, showing useful information such as hotels and public houses where there may be food and refreshments, tourist information centres and considerable detail about gradients. Going south to north, the sheet numbers are 31, 22, 18, 14 and 8. For greater detail, seven Ordnance Survey Explorer maps cover the route at a scale of 1:25,000, on sheet numbers 452, 453, 454, 455, 456, 457 and 459.
Mailing maps and self-addressed envelopes to your overnight accommodation means that you only need to carry a few maps at a time. If you have mapping software such as Memory-Map or an online subscription to OS Maps, you can print out and then laminate relevant sections of the map, along with details of your accommodation, useful contact numbers and ferry, bus and rail timetables.Place names
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, the Western Isles Council, have adopted the pragmatic approach of labelling place names in both Gaelic and English, but even when they aren’t labelled in English you can generally work it out for yourself. Beàrnaraigh must surely be Berneray, and you can be certain that Loch nam Madadh is Lochmaddy – although it is not always so straightforward.
In this book, I have chosen to use the names as they are spelt on the Ordnance Survey maps, making it much easier to follow the route descriptions. This means that place names in the text may be in English, Gaelic or Norse, depending on the spelling used on the map. Where the map gives two spellings, for example the English spelling followed by the Gaelic, both are shown in the stage information boxes and at first mention within each stage, but any further references to the place within the stage show the first spelling only.
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Re Leverburgh to Seilebost –
Map p108 - Between about NG 999922 and 008930 the route has been signed towards the dunes behind Scarasta Bheag as an alternative to walking along the road.
The two small sections of boardwalk behind Scarasta (p110) are pretty deadly when wet and urgently require some wire netting on them. Until such time as this is done, they are better avoided, even if it does mean wet feet.
P111 - Approaching Gleann Horgabost the signed route is higher up the hillside than is shown as it rounds the spur of Bulabhall – more like at 100m asl. It doesn’t go near the pass.
Re Seilebost to at least Urgha –
The marker posts have a blue ring – none of the yellow topped ones seem to exist anymore - P120
Typo on p110 / line 5 – ‘solder’ should be soldier
There is no obvious sign to show where to leave the road to go up round Beinn Tangabhal at NL642 977. It might worth mentioning that it is just before a stream that is ~250m along past the quarry.
Signs peter out at around NF 701 046 with no obvious way to deal with the barbed wire fence by the roadside. Again there is no roadside sign to assist those going the other way.
South Uist –
The turn off at West Kilbride is not clearly signed, and people would be best advised follow the coast round to the left shortly after the café at the camp site.
At Loch Carnan community wind farm NF 820 421, the description is fine for going north. But for folk going south they need to know that the path across the moor is near the most easterly turbine.
Descending down the windfarm track to the road to turn left; the quarry is ~100m along not 250m. On turning right past the quarry, there are no signs between there and the next road; the track mentioned swings right to a lochan but walkers need to go straight ahead at that bend. This section is particularly soggy / boggy. Towards the end, on approaching an obvious house, it is important that people swing left to find a gate about 50m along, otherwise they will end up going through someone’s garden.
At Lionacleit the sign to the left is immediately after the Dark Island Hotel.
From the top of Rueval there are no waymarkers at the moment. In misty conditions people should follow a compass bearing of 350° which will take them towards the east end of Loch Olabhat, to pick up a rough track leading to a gate and onto the road. This is where the road-side sign is (NF 821 555) and not at the traditional thatched cottage.
North Uist –
On approaching Carinish, there is a road-side sign at ~NF 832 601, pointing right into a small wooded area. A signed path goes from there to intercept the other towards the NW end of the woodland shown on the map (but not yet all there in reality). So those folk who don’t need to go to Carinish can reduce the road walking by taking this option. At Carinish, there is no road-side sign pointing to the route described and once the route is found (by following the description) the signage is disintegrating.
At Balthaisbhal water treatment plant there are currently some works going on in the immediate surrounds of the plant. The high security fence prevents people easily accessing the signed route from there. If this is a temporary blockage, perhaps on your web updates, people could be advised to follow the high fence round to the left, carefully cross over the new fence that abuts it, and continue following the high fence until the waymarkers can be spotted. Signage from here across the moorland isn’t great and would be difficult to rely on in misty conditions. If it is very misty people could follow the road.
Thank for the updates from Margaret Porter at C-N-Do Scotland - www.cndoscotland.com
This book is essential reading for anyone contemplating walking the Hebridean Way
"The Hebridean Way: Long-Distance Walking Route Through Scotland's Outer Hebrides" by Richard Barrett is a superb pocket-sized guide to the walk. Most walkers will be familiar with the approach that publishers Cicerone take to guides like this, and it's probably sufficient for those familiar with their output for us to say that this book lives up to the extremely high standards we have come to expect from them. For those who have somehow missed Cicerone's extensive range of excellent guides, what you get is just about everything you need to walk the Hebridean Way in one small package.
The contents include an introduction, a stage planner, sections on practicalities and planning, and background about the Outer Hebrides. The bulk of the book comprises descriptions of the walk broken down into twelve stages. The first ten cover the current "official" route, which ends (assuming you are heading from south to north) in Stornoway. Anyone who knows the Western Isles will feel this is an odd ending point, as the Isle of Lewis extends considerably further north. This oddity is addressed by the inclusion of two additional stages in the guide that extend the route to a much more satisfying conclusion, the Butt of Lewis, which marks the true northern end of the archipelago. The result is to give the reader the option of a true "end-to-end" walk. The section about each stage includes a series of full colour extracts from Ordnance Survey 1:50K maps showing the route, plus colour photographs, a detailed route description and boxed sections on points of interest, ranging from places visited to flora and fauna. Appendixes cover useful contacts and accommodation. The whole thing comes in a waterproof slip-on jacket. This book is essential reading for anyone contemplating walking the Hebridean Way: and an essential companion for anyone actually doing so.
This book is a must for those intent on planning [to walk the Hebridean Way] or those who want a guide in hand.
Scottish Islands Explorer
Richard Barrett spent his working life as a professional marketer, but still found time for climbing, winter mountaineering and sea kayaking. He first visited the Harris hills as a teenager and became a regular visitor. He lived in North Harris for a number of years, where he and his wife ran a guest house and, although now a city-dweller, he still makes frequent forays to the Hebrides, reconnecting with the wilderness and catching up with old friends.View Articles and Books by Richard Barrett
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