Like many people during the lockdowns, we became interested in exploring Scotland’s more remote regions and, once we were free to explore at our leisure, a tour to the Western Isles was on the cards. Visiting in August 2022, our itinerary took us from Barra, north to Lewis and then home via Skye.

We set off from Hampshire and, on our first day, drove all the way to the Borders, stopping just before Gretna Green.

Next day, we enjoyed a very leisurely drive to Oban, where we stayed at Oban Camping and Caravanning Club Site. We made a detour on the way, following the B8074 along Glen Orchy. This is not only a most beautiful route, but also good practice for negotiating the single-track roads that are to be found throughout the islands.

The stopover gave us plenty of time to get to the Oban ferry terminal. Having checked in for the ferry, we enjoyed some amazing scallops at the nearby Oban Seafood Hut (aka the Green Shack).

  • If you’re thinking of embarking on a tour of this stunning country and are wondering where to stay, take a look at our guide to the best motorhome sites in Scotland.

Spectacular sunsets

After a gentle crossing, we arrived at Castlebay on Barra, where we disembarked to drive to our first stop, Borve Camping and Caravan Site.

All arrivals there are met by the owner, Donald, and shown to their designated pitch. Our spot overlooked the Atlantic and the views were simply stunning, promising spectacular sunsets.

Borve Camping and Caravan Site
Borve Camping and Caravan Site overlooks the Atlantic Ocean

The next day, we rode our bikes into Castlebay to take in the sights. Unfortunately, the splendid medieval castle of Kisimul (known as the ‘Castle in the Sea’) was closed for repair work, but we could see it standing proudly in the bay as we enjoyed tea and cake at the Deck Café.

The Barra Heritage Centre is well worth a visit, too – the helpful staff were very knowledgeable about the history of the region.

A drive around the island, as we made our way to Ardmhor for the ferry to Eriskay, gave us our first experience of driving behind flocks of sheep! Luckily, we had plenty of time to make the ferry. We enjoyed a bite to eat at the Ardmhor Food Truck, a popular lunchtime stop – I thoroughly recommend their Venison Reuben Melt.

Negotiating the causeways

Our destination was the Balranald RSPB Nature Reserve and campsite, where we planned to stay for the next three nights.

A longish drive over the causeways through Eriskay, South Uist and Benbecula, before arriving at Balranald on North Uist, introduced us to the ‘game of chicken’ with the local drivers, who appeared to gauge their speed to make sure we overtook smoothly in the passing places. I have to say it worked really well and most people gave us a friendly wave as we passed.

Balranald beach
White sands and turquoise waters at Balranald beach

The check-in at Balranald was most efficient. Although reception was closed when we arrived, a noticeboard informed us of our pitch number and we set up just in time to take a stroll back to reception as they were opening up to take our payment and explain the site layout.

The campsite is a little exposed to the elements and there were strong winds blowing for our stay, but the walk around the bay was stunning and the wildflower display simply beautiful.

This was our first experience of the machair, the Gaelic term for the unique low-lying grassy plains covered in wildflowers on the west coast of the islands (and Ireland), which is a truly spectacular sight.

We were at the RSPB reserve, so we decided to book a wildlife tour with a local guide, Steve Duffield of Western Isles Wildlife. Steve was very helpful in working out an itinerary for our tour and we enjoyed a great day out. We saw a lot of birds that we hadn’t seen before, including white-tailed eagles and other raptors. There were some heavy showers during the tour, but Steve worked out a route that kept us dry, and the time just flew by.

Heading north to the Isle of Harris

Now it was time to move north and explore the Isle of Harris. Our home for the next three nights was Talla Na Mara and the West Harris Trust Pairc Niseaboist site. Talla Na Mara, a community asset, has a highly regarded gallery and a café on site.

The Pairc Niseaboist campsite is small, with just seven pitches, but the facilities are clean and well maintained. A welcome email provided the codes for access and we set up with no difficulty.

We enjoyed walks along the beach and to the dramatic standing stone, McLeod’s Stone, which is a local landmark, as well as wonderful views across to Taransay. The weather was kind, if a little chilly. Thankfully, there were no midges, which was a constant throughout our tour.

With supplies running low, we headed for a local bakery, Croft 36, where the bread and cakes were superb. There’s an honesty box for payment, so cash is required. Alongside the bakery is a very small gift shop with a good selection of souvenirs.

Crossing to the Isle of Lewis

Moving to our next stay, on the Isle of Lewis, we took the circular route and stopped off at Grannie Annie’s, described quite accurately on Tripadvisor as “a quirky, curious little shop”. Another stop before we boarded the ferry was Shoreline Stoneware, at Locheport. The owner, Louise Cook, showed us around the gallery and explained the background to her work and that of the other artists on display. Their art was amazing and we packed our chosen treasures into the ’van with the utmost care.

The route gave us plenty of time to catch our next ferry, to Leverburgh. After disembarking, we enjoyed a (pre-booked) tour of Abhainn Dearg, a small distillery established in 2008.

The tour was very informative and a real change from large distillery tours we’ve taken in the past, as the process was clearly hands-on. The aroma in the barrel store was enticing: I couldn’t resist buying a bottle of the 10-year-old single malt. We were driving, so the tasting session was skipped, but take-away samples were also provided.

Our first stopover on Lewis was at the delightful Kneep Campsite, reached by a single-track road and managed by Fin Morrison, who is on hand to welcome most arrivals.

Kneep Campsite
Kneep Campsite is reached by a single-track road

The beach here is beautiful and there are plenty of excellent walks. We made a short stay before moving on to Stornoway and Laxdale Holiday Park. Stornoway is a lovely little town, with a 19th-century castle and a museum. Although Lews Castle is now mainly a conference venue, the museum and café are well worth a visit.

Taking a gentle walk to town, we found plenty of interesting little shops. For the famous Harris Tweed, the Lewis Loom Centre, off the Bayhead Road, is a good starting point. We also decided to try the highly recommended fish and chips from Cameron’s Chip Shop, which were delicious.

Crofting and community

The following day, we had booked a Historical Tour of Lewis with HEB360. Our guide for the day, Derek, recounted some of the recent history of the islands, explaining the involvement of the industrialist and philanthropist Lord Leverhulme, and outlining the crofting lifestyle.

This helped us to understand more about the many community-based ventures set up across the islands. On the tour, we visited the Callanish Stones, Carloway Broch, Gearrannan Blackhouse Village and Norse Mill and Kiln, where Derek’s extensive knowledge added to what were already uniquely memorable sites.

Our tour ended at the most northerly point of the islands, Butt of Lewis and Port of Ness. Here Derek described how crofting and communal grazing were making a comeback. His love of the islands and his birthplace was very apparent, and the information about how the islanders have diversified to meet the challenges of a changing economy was illuminating.

Port of Ness
Take a tour around Port of Ness with an expert guide

Another abiding memory of our trip to the Outer Hebrides was the number of beautiful and isolated beaches, where we were often the only people to be seen on the sands.

Our journey continued with yet more stunning scenery on the way to Tarbert, where we caught the ferry for Skye and two nights at Camping Skye.

Butt of Lewis
Butt of Lewis is the most northerly point of the island

Skye is a much busier island, with plenty of attractions, including the Old Man of Storr, Kilt Rock, Mealt Falls and the Fairy Pools. Two places on the A863 that deserve a special mention are the Bog Myrtle Café and Dunvegan Castle, with its beautiful gardens and splendid seal colony.

Seal spotting at Dunvegan Castle

All too soon, it was time for our return journey to Hampshire, again stopping overnight near Gretna Green. But it was a great trip and we were left with memories of stunning scenery, beautiful beaches and friendly islanders. Now to plan next year’s tour – to the Inner Hebrides!

  • Looking for more great trips to embark on in Scotland? Then check out our guide to the North Coast 500.

Tour essentials

Our motorhome

We had no problems driving our 7.5m-long Auto-Sleeper Cotswold (with bike rack) on the ferries or the narrow roads. The ferry line instructions were clear while we were on board, and the roads have plenty of good passing places.

When to go to the Outer Hebrides

Although we travelled in August, the machair is at its best during the months of May and June.

Where we stayed in the Outer Hebrides

Most sites open April to October and charge £25 to £30 with hook-up.

Find out more

Ferry services

All of our ferry crossings were on time, with helpful and friendly staff. Dogs are not restricted to the car deck, but pet tickets are advisable to access the various other decks.

 Food and drink

Although there are many cafés and restaurants across the islands, most required a drive. We took advantage of the numerous food shacks found near our route. The food they served was a definite step up from the ‘greasy spoon’! We preferred to stock up from local shops and enjoy meals while admiring the glorious scenery.

Lead image: Getty/Feifei Cui-Paoluzzo

If you’ve enjoyed reading this article, why not get the latest news, reviews and features delivered direct to your door or inbox every month. Take advantage of our brilliant Practical Motorhome magazine SUBSCRIBERS’ OFFER and SIGN UP TO OUR NEWSLETTER for regular weekly updates on all things motorhome related.