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Barra to the Butt
Dates: 10th - 17th September 2016
This popular tour starts at the southern end of the archipelago in Barra and works its way north to the very top of Lewis. We spend one night in Barra, visiting the lovely small island of Vatersay in the far south before making our way to Uist and Benbecula. We spend three nights here before continuing north through Harris and our base for the next three nights in Lewis. This is an excellent trip to get a taste of the islands as we explore some of the most scenic sites as well as others that are off the beaten track.
Vatersay is a pretty small but a walk on the machair at the southern end is a great introduction to the islands with golden beaches and flower-rich meadows. The bays hold flocks of Eiders and the odd diver whilst we need to keep an eye on the sky as there’s chance of both Golden and White-tailed Eagle. A spin around Barra’s single track roads takes us to the northern end and views across the Sound of Barra which we sail across with one of the regular Calmac ferries in the afternoon. The ferry itself is a good spot for seeing wildlife and we have a chance of seeing Black-throated Diver as well as various seabirds and Grey Seals.
The next leg sees us explore the islands collectively known as the Uists (North Uist, Benbecula and South Uist). We’ll visit the best sites during the two full days we have here and can expect to pick up a wealth of raptors including Hen Harrier which we won’t see further north. We’ll also search for otters and visit one of the best locations for Harbour Seals. On North Uist we’ll visit the RSPB reserve at Balranald where we hope to find some of the few remaining Corn Buntings and take a walk around the headland at Aird an Runair.
Leaving Uist we take the ferry to Harris making the most of the crossing to pick up any wildlife which may include Great Northern Diver, Great Skua and White-tailed Eagle. Once on Harris we’ll stop off at a couple of locations as we head north, including the very scenic Sound of Taransay. We should be able to locate Common Scoters here and have in the past seen Surf Scoter from the main road. The road to Lewis passes the Clisham (the highest point in the islands) and through the rocky landscape of north Harris until we reach the border with Lewis. We’ll pause here to scan the surrounding area as this is good spot for eagles. We now have two full days to explore Lewis with the first day taking us across the Pentland Road to the west side of the island where we’ll pop into a site near the Callanish Stones to look for Otters before taking various detours to visit sites along the northwest coast between here and Barvas. On the last full day we’ll reach are most northerly point at the Butt of Lewis where we’ll spend a bit of time looking over the sea from the lighthouse for passing seabirds and cetaceans before exploring Port of Ness and Loch Stiapabhat. Before we say our goodbyes on our final morning in Lewis we’ll take a trip to Tiumpan Head which is a key location for whales and dolphins. Calm conditions and patience are generally required to spot anything here and many of the cetaceans can be distant although have included various dolphins, Orcas and even Humpback Whale.
Short list of species: Whooper Swan, Common Scoter, Eider, Gadwall, Shoveler, Whimbrel, Golden Plover, Great Skua, Arctic Skua, Arctic Tern, Little Tern, Short-eared Owl, Golden Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, Hen Harrier, Peregrine, Merlin, Red-throated, Black-throated and Great Northern Divers. Manx Shearwater, Black Guillemot, Razorbill, Corn Bunting, Twite, plus many more. Red Deer, Grey and Common Seals, Otters. We may also see whales, dolphins or Basking Shark, especially off Lewis. If the weather’s calm enough we will set a moth trap to have a peek at some of the local night life. We should also find a rich array of flowers.
Dates: 10th - 17th September 2016.
Tour duration: 7 nights / 8 days on the islands.
Cost: £930 per person
Accommodation is provided in some of the best local guesthouses for 7 nights.
All meals are provided with evening meals taken in local hotels. If you have special dietary requirements please let us know when booking.
Group size: 8 (maximum)
Booking: Please email: email@example.com
Where to meet: The tour begins in Barra where I’ll be there to meet you whether you arrive by plane or as a foot passenger off the ferry. We’ll head straight to your overnight accommodation before an afternoon walk if you arrived by plane. On the last day we'll continue to search for wildlife in the morning dropping people off at either the ferry terminal or airport in Stornoway around mid-day. It’s also possible to return to Uist if you wish as I’ll be heading south to North Uist, arriving in the early evening.
Getting here: Flybe operate regular flights from Glasgow to Barra where the small twin-otter plane lands on the beach. If you prefer to sail it’s possible to take the ferry from Oban that calls in at Castle Bay in the evening. Leaving Stornoway there are regular flights to Glasgow and Edinburgh. It’s also possible to catch a ferry from Stornoway to Ullapool where there is a bus connection on to Inverness.