I had looked at a route from Huisinish on Harris to Mealasta on Lewis for some time. This trip started in Uig on Skye and ended at Stornoway eight days later with connections to both ends by public transport. This is the first half from Tarbert on Harris to Ardoil on Lewis.
I should be clear that I always hike with my dog, so public transport options have to work for her too. The trains are fine, but buses can be hit and miss. Anything run by Stagecoach or First works well, but some of the smaller bus companies won’t take dogs including all on the Outer Hebrides. This makes getting Uig on Skye only possible between May and October when the buses connect from Kyle of Lochalsh. If you aren’t taking a dog then the Citylink coach runs all year.
We went in mid September. We took the 0833 Saturday train from Edinburgh to Inverness, changed there for Kyle of Lochalsh and then the three bus journey up to Uig (bus connections on Skye look tight but always work). We were dropped off at the ferry terminal just after 6pm and headed up to Creagile above Idrigill for the night. The easiest access is the path from the horseshoe on the A855.
The ferry goes out to Lochmaddy first on Sunday so we took an afternoon crossing to Tarbert soaked in late summer sunshine. From Tarbert I’d planned an overnight stop near Miabhaig on the B887. It’s all road walking but once the ferry traffic has gone the roads are really quiet. The weather was turning so we took shelter in Gleann Miabhaig.
It was a stormy night that continued for half of the following day. We made quick progress along the road to Abhainn Suidhe where we took the estate track to Glen Uladail. The section to Loch Chliostair would take a truck and then it switches to a playful footpath winding around the lochs and up to the head of Glen Uladail. This must be spectacular but we were in low cloud for most of it. We dropped down under the cliffs of Sron Uladail and had lunch by the loch. I’d paid no attention to the burn crossing so we had to retrace for a while before heading across country towards Dirascal and the old shieling path. This is completely indistinct in parts but you are just following the coast around to the head of Loch Reasort. There are a couple of locked estate buildings here, but the spot for camping is magical.
The next morning summer had returned. We forded the burns and started the cross country hike to Tamnabhaigh. This ground is bog from start to finish. It took us most of the day to travel little over 5 miles. Navigation is simple and we plotted a path towards Loch Gruineabhat. Whilst the going is difficult, the setting is stunning. Dropping down to the loch you’ll see the hunting lodge at Tamnabhaigh. We overnighted by Ceann Chuisil.
The estate road out of Tamnabhaigh is well made and quick going. I had considered heading over to Mealasta and I’m certain this is doable although I’d be tempted to gain as much height as possible on the estate road and heading over at the head of Loch Reonasgail. We headed forward to Ardroil where there was an afternoon of rest planned. I’d sent a parcel ahead to the Uig Community Shop at Timsgarry and they’d kindly held it.
A word about services on Harris and Lewis. Nothing happens on a Sunday, including buses. There are options at Tarbert to resupply and at Leverburgh. There is the Uig Community Shop at Timsgarry which runs like a small co-op. There is talk of a similar enterprise at Carloway but it is not running yet. There is a small shop on Great Bernera. There are few restaurants or cafes and opening hours vary. The hotel near Carloway serves food on Sunday. There is a cafe at Garenin and the next option is Barvas. If you are hiking you need to consider being self sufficient for a number of days. If you have transport there are two supermarkets in Stornoway.
Buses run from Uig to Stornoway several times a day and tend to be timed around schools. They may not run at all or to a different timetable on school holidays. Unhelpfully few of the bus shelters carry a timetable so download it before you go. Mobile phone signals are patchy and may not always offer data.