Day 1 - Saturday - Nethy Bridge to the Isle of Lewis
We depart after breakfast and head to Ullapool, where we board our ferry to the Outer Hebrides. The ferry is a large, stable ship, which offers an excellent platform for wildlife watching as we leave the northwest Highlands and head out across the Minch. Our journey through stunning scenery gives us good chances of connecting with skuas, Puffin and dolphins before we even reach the Hebrides! We arrive around lunchtime and enjoy a few hours birdwatching. Depending on the weather, this could be to Tiumpan Head for a seawatch, Broad Bay for a search for passage waders or inland to the peatlands for raptors. Overnight in Stornoway, the capital of the Outer Hebrides.
Day 2 - Sunday - Lewis
Lewis is a fascinating island, and a complete contrast to the rest of the Outer Hebrides. The majority of the interior is a vast peatland, an internationally important area for breeding species, including numbers of divers, Greenshank and a high density of eagles and other raptors. We take time to look through these desolate, open environments, and should locate some of the commoner breeders including Golden Plover. On the Atlantic side, the landscape changes, becoming much more rugged, with a narrow semi-fertile crofting strip where most houses are located.
We head to the northernmost point, at the famous Butt of Lewis, with the Atlantic Ocean on three sides. A superb seawatching spot for cetaceans and birds, 'The Butt' is about as rugged and windswept a spot as you can find in the British Isles. We check the local area for passage migrants before working our way down the west coast, calling in at several empty beaches amid stunning scenery. In the afternoon we visit Dun Carloway broch and the Standing Stones of Callinish, key archaeological sites and a must-see for any general tour of the Outer Hebrides. Recent sightings considered, we may head to a small nature reserve which occasionally holds Red-necked Phalarope - a truly special bird! Overnight in Stornoway.
Day 3 - Monday - Lewis
We head to the remote south western corner of Lewis, completely different to the flat peatlands of the day before. This rocky, rugged coastline, indented with sealochs and some stunning beaches, is an unexplored gem. We take minor roads down to Uig, a superb spot for Golden and White-tailed Eagles. Here we will take to the water in a RIB to explore the coastline and sealochs thoroughly. With luck we may connect with cetaceans and perhaps our first Otter and Seals. Superb wildlife amid some of the best scenery in the British Isles! Overnight in Stornoway.
Day 4 - Tuesday - Harris
Harris is a scenic gem, rightly lauded as one of the most beautiful islands in Europe. Although conjoined with Lewis and not a true island, Harris definitely has a different feel to Lewis, and offers a full range of rugged habitats and long sweeping beaches and dune systems. We spend a full day exploring, including a walk on the famous picture postcard beach at Luskentyre. A haven for Golden Eagles, we should see them well today, and also have good chances of Raven, Peregrine and perhaps a fleeting Merlin. Overnight in Harris.
Day 5 - Wednesday - Harris and Berneray
Today we head by ferry to the southern half of the Outer Hebrides. Our ferry takes a slow journey through islets in the Sound of Harris, a superb spot for White-tailed Eagle and divers. We spend the rest of the morning on Berneray, which offers many of the famous white beaches associated with the Outer Hebrides, and we hope for a sunny day to bring out the full colours of the glorious landscape. This will be our first encounter with true machair, which is essentially low intensity agriculture on a sandy substrate. Management has changed little over the centuries, and the flora reflects this. We head south in the afternoon, stopping at a few key sites in North Uist before reaching our hotel late afternoon. Overnight on Benbecula.
Day 6 - Thursday - North Uist and Benbecula
We take our time today to fully explore some of the best natural locations of the Outer Hebrides, especially Balranald RSPB reserve. Famous for its nesting waders, rich machair and seascapes, this is a true gem and is frequently mentioned as the favourite stop in many of our Hebridean adventures. Benbecula also offers a good range of habitats, with more wetlands and bays, offering good birding, and the chance of a scarce passage wader or tern species. A superb day out at one of our favoured wildlife locations. Overnight on Benbecula.
Day 7 - Friday - South Uist and Eriskay
We work our way down South Uist today, featuring crags, glens and sealochs on the east coast, and within just a few miles, rich croftland and pasture right down to an unbroken twenty mile sandy beach. World class scenery with great wildlife throughout! We have chances of Corncrake, though are more likely just to hear them. If we have not seen Otter so far, then South Uist offers lots of opportunities, and it is probably the most reliable spot for Hen Harrier too. In the afternoon we continue south to Eriskay, another stunning island, now joined to South Uist by causeway. Home of the real 'Whisky Galore', we take a wander to explore the history and flora of this stunning place. Overnight on Benbecula.
Day 8 - Saturday - Benbecula to Barra and Mingulay
We take the morning ferry from Eriskay across the broad Sound of Barra before boarding our chartered boat for our trip to Mingulay. This is a very weather dependent trip, with the aim being a circumnavigation of the spectacular cliffs and seabird colony followed by a landing and gentle exploration of this remote island, housing just a seasonal warden and volunteers. This trip is superb for seabirds and general scenery, this promises to be an exciting afternoon on the water and a highlight of the trip. Overnight on Barra.
Day 9 - Sunday - Barra and Vatersay
A gentle exploration of two very different isles, connected by causeway. With a circular route around the island, Barra offers shelter and interest whatever the weather, and is truly stunning. The rich white sand backed by vibrant green croftland dotted with outcrops of rock make this one of the most photogenic destinations in Scotland. Overnight on Barra.
Day 10 - Monday - Barra to Nethy Bridge
After breakfast we take the ferry from Barra across the Minch, extremely rich waters with good chances of Minke Whale or perhaps a Basking Shark en-route. The ferry heads in to the Inner Hebrides and close to Mull before arriving in Oban mid-afternoon, from where we head back to Nethy Bridge, arriving early evening.