The islands that make up Uist in the Outer Hebrides are famed for their amazing scenery, rugged landscape and spectacular beaches that give any holiday destination a run for its money. Accessible by a ferry journey that can take just two hours from the West coast of Scotland, Uist is the perfect place to experience a warm Hebridean welcome, Gaelic culture, delicious local food and enjoy the peaceful tranquillity of island life.
To help visitors plan their perfect getaway this summer and beyond, the Outer Hebrides Tourism Board and CalMac Ferries have compiled the top ten things to enjoy in Uist, whether it’s for a long weekend or a relaxing extended holiday, these are the best sights the islands have to offer.
1. Get closer to wildlife
The islands are home to some of Europe’s most diverse and magnificent wildlife. Dolphins, whales, owls, sea eagles, wild deer and horses, puffins, seals, gannets and otters can all be found on Uist and are just waiting to be photographed on land or on one of the many sea tours. The islands are also home to the UK’s smallest bird, the gold crest, which weighs the same amount as a 20p piece, as well as the largest bird, the elusive white-tailed sea eagle, so keep your eyes and ears firmly peeled if visiting in early summer! Otter spotting is also a firm favourite for visitors.
2. Try your hand at Gaelic
Historians believe that Gaelic (pronounced gallic) was introduced to the West Coast of Scotland by Irish settlers between the 4th and 5th Century. By the 10th Century, Scottish Gaelic had become the dominant language throughout northern and western Scotland, completely replacing Pictish. Today, more than half of the residents in Uist are Gaelic speakers – with around three-quarters of people in some areas speaking the traditional Celtic language. Luckily, you don’t need to learn Gaelic in order to enjoy a visit to the Western Isles, but you can always try reading some of the Gaelic signs or listening to live music in one of the local pubs. There are a few handy phrases to get you started on this webpage. Slàinte!
3. Walk barefoot along one of the many beautiful soft and sandy beaches
Who hasn’t dreamt about escaping to a remote tropical island? Uist has some of the most spectacular soft sandy beaches to rival any Caribbean destination so you are closer to paradise than you think. With so many beaches to choose from, the only question is how many will you be able to visit during your stay? If you time it right with the tides, you can also complete the 30-minute walk across mudflats and wet sands to reach the now uninhabited islands of Vallay – home to the impressive Vallay House, sandy bays and an ancient chapel.
4. Take a dip in the Wizard Pool!
Uist is home to several lochs, the most famous of which is Loch Skipport (or Loch Sgiopoirt in Gaelic), where the wonderfully named Wizard Pool can be found. There are few lochs in Scotland that stir the soul in the same way as the secluded, magical Wizard Pool. It is a great base to explore South Uist’s many beautiful bays, lochs, and unspoiled white sand beaches. But, even if all you want to do is relax, you’ll never forget a night star gazing with the mighty mountain Hecla’s serrated peaks silhouetted against the bright sky.
5. Seek out our Instagram hotspots
To help visitors find hidden beauty spots across the island, many of which are off the beaten track, CalMac Ferries and Visit Outer Hebrides recently created a bespoke Ordinance-Survey-style map to highlight the most Insta-worthy spots across the islands. The maps, split between North and South Uist, feature 20 places of exceptional beauty such as Seal Bay in Berneray (great for seal spotting) and Eriskay Football Pitch (FIFA-recognised scenic football pitch), so there’s plenty to take in and keep your social media followers happy while you’re soaking up island life.
6. Explore ancient civilizations
The Outer Hebrides have been settled for at least 8,000 years, so there is a long and rich history for an intrepid explorer to discover. Whether it’s Neolithic cairns, ancient churches or traces of the Vikings, discover Uist’s unique history for yourself.
7. Sit down and experience some wild food and locally sourced drink
Locals have produced their own foods since the islands were first settled and that custom remains today. The crofting way of life on the islands perfectly lends itself to developing unique and food and drink produce, so whether you’re searching for seafood freshly caught in the clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean; want to experience a taste of croft-life with locally produced foods or are looking for something a bit stronger – Uist has something for everyone.
8. Find your inner peace at one of the island’s health and well-being retreats
There’s an abundance of places aimed at health and wellbeing conscious visitors across Uist. Relax and treat yourself to a stay in a secluded cabin or take part in yoga classes with stunning sea views. If that isn’t your thing, why not try your hand at trout fishing in one of the 7,500 lochs or play a round at Askernish Golf Club, designed by renowned golf course developer Tom Morris and often described as a “jewel in the crown of world golf”.
9. Find your route across the Hebridean Way
Walk, run or cycle across one of the most dramatic landscapes across the UK. With a 156-mile-long distance walking route; a separate 185-mile-long-distance cycle network route, split over ten islands including North and South Uist; six causeways and two ferries the Hebridean Way is an epic adventure you’ve got to try.
10. Water sports
With clear, turquoise waters and sandy white beaches that would not look out of place in The Caribbean, Uist makes a great choice of destination for anyone who loves the ocean. The island seascape is great for everything from kayaking to night diving, all against the stunning backdrop of its spectacular Scottish island scenery!