I can hear you all audibly gasp, at the horror of me suggesting you 'rush' this trip. Hear me out...
We live in the south of England, with three children, under the age of 10, who's sense of humour only lasts approximately 3 hours on road trips. Everyone is different, but we know for us, we are not going to make this 12 hour journey to Scotland for another few years, so we want to squeeze in as much as possible. In an ideal van life world, you take it easy, go with the flow, but on a trip like this, that doesn't apply for us.
When planning this trip, the one aspect I struggled with the most, was how and where to spend our time, how long should we spend on each island etc. We opted to spend the majority of our 10 days in the Outer Hebrides, in hindsight, I wish we had shortened this to 5 days and spent more time exploring mainland Scotland too. I so want to visit the Cairngorms, but I can't face the journey with the kids for a while now.
So I'm writing this for you, if you are in the same position and want to see (what I consider to be) the highlights of the Outer Hebrides, but are on a limited time scale.
Before I start, I won't apologise for this blog post to be mostly a tour of the beaches, because lets face it, they are the most beautiful beaches you will ever see! Also, shoot me down, but I found the inland driving on the islands to be quite boring, once you got over the initial awe of the landscape and the beautiful ruins of pre loved farm houses, its pretty much the same everywhere you go... unless, obviously, you happen across some highland cows (love!) or some trees (you won't realise you miss them, until you don't see them for nearly two weeks!)
So lets dive in... We'll start at the top as that's the route we took. We sailed from Skye (Uig) to Tarbet, I'm not going to go into ferry crossings as you can find all that info on the Calmac website https://www.calmac.co.uk
First I would head to Huisinis beach, (despite what I said above) its a beautiful drive, which takes you through some surprising grounds, and this is also where the Highland Cows seemed to hang out. There's an amazing park up, right next to the beach, for £10 a night, with really nice toilets and coin operated showers, take lots of £1 coins .
You'll notice I'm going to skip out the whole of the north of Lewis, we did stay one night on Traigh Mhor beach, which was absolutely stunning, but if time isn't on your side then this is the one I would skip, over the other two (obviously there are others, but this is based on our trip). Next I'd move onto THE beach, you all know the one, you've all seen pictures of it, it has probably been your main pull to the Outer Hebrides...
Luskentyre! Words and pictures cannot express how beautiful this place is, its other worldly, I absolutely adored it. There are a few places to park for the night nearby, the main carpark at the end of the road allows for overnight parking, however you can't get a view of the sea from here as its within the sand dunes. There seemed to be one park up (please do your own research if you're allowed to sleep here or not) on the side of Luskentyre road, which had the most incredible views, there were spaces for three/four vans here, so grab it if there's one free! Other than that overnight parking is limited around here. There were a few campsites but they were closed.
I've highlighted the beaches as places to sleep, during the day there's plenty of driving to do and visiting places of interest. You can drive to the top of the island within two hours so don't rule out a driving tour, even if you're not planning on sleeping that way.
So that's three days and two nights on Harris & Lewis, its time to move south to North Uist, this is definitely the most beautiful out of North and South (there's not a lot south, but the ferry terminal) I'd hop off the ferry and drive to West Beach for the morning, also go to the seal look out point! Then my park up for the night would be Clachan Sands (pic below) this is a £10 donation and there's a water tap on site. Another stunning beach to wake up to.
Take the next day to explore and drive down to Eriskay, to the ferry for a crossing to Barra. Spend the morning at the airport, if you're lucky you'll get to see some planes land! Spend the day exploring the island, you can drive the length of it in under an hour. I'd then head to Vatersay for the night, there's overnight parking next to the beach, for a £10 donation and a little cafe - but make sure you take cash, as they don't accept card!
The next morning catch a ferry from Castlebay to Oban, then explore mainland Scotland.
It's worth noting that the reason I have written this is because whilst on the islands we moved our ferries forward a few days, once we established the size of the islands and how quickly we saw everything, we realised we didn't need nearly as long there. I don't want this to reflect negatively on the islands, they were absolutely stunning and I'm so happy we went.
If there's anything extra you want to know, just pop it in the comments below.