A Solo Traveller's Guide to the Hebridean Islands

Explore the magnificent scenery of the Hebrides when you head to Scotland on a solo trip
Explore the magnificent scenery of the Hebrides when you head to Scotland on a solo trip | © Chris Clor / Getty Images
Joel Rabinowitz

Scattered off the west coast of mainland Scotland, the Hebrides are split into two archipelagos – the Inner and Outer Hebrides – both brimming with dramatic scenery and cultural intrigue. They’re surprisingly easy to reach despite their ostensibly remote location, either by road (to the Isle of Skye), flights (to Stornoway or Benbecula) or ferry to any of the islands – an ideal solo escape for hiking, cycling and admiring some of Britain’s wildest landscapes.

What’s the vibe in the Hebrides?

Mellow, mist-wreathed and atmospheric: Hebridean landscapes range from jagged mountains and dazzling white-sand beaches to sweeping moorlands dotted with lochs. A unique blend of prehistoric, Norse and Gaelic influences shapes a rich cultural heritage, which is reflected in numerous archaeological sites and coastal villages. The most popular islands include Skye and Lewis and Harris – and over several days, you can easily tick plenty of them off thanks to the excellent ferry connections.

Where to stay in the Hebrides

1. Portree Independent Hostel, Isle of Skye


Portree Independent Hostel
Courtesy of Portree Independent Hostel / Expedia

This colourful hostel is in a converted post office in Portree, the main town on the Isle of Skye. It’s an ideal budget base for exploring the Inner Hebrides. You’ll have access to a cosy lounge area, laundry facilities, and a spacious kitchen and dining room with sea views. Plus, there’s a good chance you’ll make a new hiking buddy while you’re there.

2. Royal Hotel, Isle of Lewis


Royal Hotel (Stornaway)
Courtesy of Royal Hotel (Stornaway) / Expedia

Expect warm Hebridean hospitality at this traditional waterfront hotel looking out across Stornoway Harbour towards Lews Castle – one of the most impressive landmarks in the Outer Hebrides. The on-site Boatshed Restaurant specialises in freshly caught local seafood, while the HS-1 cafe-bar is a popular meeting spot for locals and visitors alike. All rooms include complimentary luxury toiletries and flat-screen televisions.

A two-night stay in the Royal Hotel on the Isle of Lewis is included as part of Culture Trip’s exclusive small-group Hebridean Isles trip.

3. Cuillin Hills Hotel, Isle of Skye


Cuillin Hills Hotel
Courtesy of Cuillin Hills Hotel / Expedia

Admire magnificent views of the Cuillin Hills from this secluded hotel, surrounded by private gardens overlooking Portree Harbour. Elegant rooms come with fresh fruit and shortbread on arrival, while the restaurant serves refined, flavoursome dishes based on seasonal Isle of Skye produce. Choose from over 130 Scotch whiskies at the Malt Whisky Embassy – the perfect evening relaxation space.

Eat and drink in the Hebrides

4. Bog Myrtle Cafe, Isle of Skye

Cafe, British

This cosy family-run cafe is a prime spot for home-made soups, hearty sandwiches, freshly baked cakes and excellent coffee, conveniently situated between Neist Point Lighthouse and Dunvegan Castle – two of the Isle of Skye’s most impressive landmarks. The haggis panini (also available in vegetarian form) is an especially popular choice, best enjoyed alongside a bottle of local craft beer.

5. Uig Sands Restaurant, Isle of Lewis

Restaurant, Seafood

Uig Sands Restaurant
Courtesy of Uig Sands Restaurant

Gaze out across the wild landscapes of Uig Bay while treating yourself to some of the best food in the Outer Hebrides at this Scandi-chic gem on the west coast of the Isle of Lewis. Freshly caught seafood from the surrounding area dominates the menu, but if fish isn’t your thing, fear not – there are delicious meat and vegetarian alternatives.

6. The Three Chimneys, Isle of Skye

Pub, British

The world renowned gastronomic five star restaurant The Three Chimneys on the Isle of Skye
© Tim Graham / Alamy Stock Photo

Housed within a traditional crofter’s cottage on the shore of Loch Dunvegan, the Three Chimneys has built up a reputation for innovative, immaculately presented food which combines ancient Nordic and modern Scottish cooking. For a truly immersive experience, book the Kitchen Table dinner and watch the chefs prepare a seven-course tasting menu showcasing the best Isle of Skye ingredients.

What to do in the Hebrides

Hike up the Old Man of Storr

The Isle of Skye boasts a vast array of hiking routes, ranging significantly in length and difficulty. One of the most renowned is the 2.4mi (3.8km) trail running up and down the Old Man of Storr – a pinnacle of menacing peaks on the Trotternish peninsula. It’s the ultimate vantage point for spectacular panoramas overlooking the island’s lochs, hills and moors.

Go wild swimming in the Fairy Pools

Fancy taking the plunge and giving wild swimming a go? The Fairy Pools, at the foot of the Black Cuillin mountains on the Isle of Skye, is an idyllic spot to do so. These natural rock pools are fed by several waterfalls, and while the water is perpetually chilly, a quick dip is bound to leave you feeling reinvigorated.

A hike to the Fairy Pools is one of the highlights of Culture Trip’s specially curated seven-day Hebridean Isles adventure – led by our Local Insider.

Tour the Isle of Harris Distillery

Whisky has been woven into Scotland’s cultural heritage over many centuries, and there are numerous distilleries around the Hebrides offering a variety of tours and tasting experiences. Talisker (Isle of Skye), Abhainn Dearg (Isle of Lewis) and Laphroaig (Isle of Islay) are all worth visiting; if you’re into gin as well, take a trip to the Isle of Harris Distillery.

Staying safe in the Hebrides

The only trouble you’re likely to run into when travelling solo in the Hebrides is a patch of bad weather. When hiking, take plenty of care around sheer ridges and cliff faces – especially during high winds – and avoid peat bogs, which can be deceptively troublesome. It’s also essential to check which beaches are safe for swimming and kayaking, as currents can be extremely strong and weather conditions often change rapidly. If in doubt – or you plan to tackle a particularly remote stretch – go with an experienced guide.

Getting around the Hebrides

Some of the islands are linked by bridge, such as North Uist and Benbecula (via Grimsay), and Benbecula and South Uist. But to hop between islands further apart from each other, you’ll need to take the CalMac ferry line, which offers reliable daily services throughout the year. You can pay at the time for some shorter connections, but it’s always sensible to book in advance – particularly if you plan on visiting during summer, when popular routes can get booked up.

Drive the causeway from Benbecula to North Uist and you might just spot some local wildlife

Once you’ve reached dry land, the quickest and most flexible way to get around is by car – consider hiring one in advance if you don’t have your own. Larger towns and villages are mostly connected by bus, but it’s difficult to access remote, rural parts of the islands if you’re relying solely on public transport.

If you’re up for a challenging but hugely rewarding adventure, you could even cycle along the Hebridean Way, which begins on Vatersay at the southern tip of the Outer Hebrides, continuing for 185mi (279km) all the way to the northernmost point of the Isle of Lewis.

Fancy some company on your next getaway? Join Culture Trip’s specially curated seven-day Hebrides adventure to experience the serene beauty of Britain’s last frontier with a small group of culturally curious travellers and a Local Insider.

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.?>

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

Culture Trip Spring Sale

Save up to $1,656 on our unique small-group trips! Limited spots.

Edit article