Want to visit the Outer Hebrides and have the islands to yourself? The islands of Uist, between Berneray and Eriskay, is exactly what you’re looking for: Endless beaches, rough mountain landscapes, machair and moors bursting with life, and locals who are proud to share their little slice of paradise with you. Use this travel guide full of memorable things to do in Uist to plan your trip to this hidden gem in the Outer Hebrides.
This post was commissioned by Visit Outer Hebrides.
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Nestled between Lewis & Harris, possibly the better known islands in the Outer Hebrides, and Barra, the island of airport fame, Uist is in many ways the secret treasure of the Western Isles.
Yet, the islands that make up Uist have a lot to offer. A proud connection to the islands’ Gaelic heritage, mesmerising landscapes, welcoming communities, mountains, moors and coastlines bustling with wildlife and more.
And the best thing is that here, you really get it all to yourself. Uist is a great place to “get away from it all” and experience the Outer Hebrides to their fullest.
I first visited Uist when I walked the Hebridean Way. I spent six days walking across the islands from Eriskay to Berneray. This time, I visited with a friend and we hired a rental car – more on getting around Uist below.
Both times Uist has been an absolute darling. Many of my favourite hiking routes are on these islands and on my most recent trip I was blown away by the wonderful people and their stories. These islands are quickly becoming some of my favourite Scottish isles!
This Uist travel guide will help you plan a trip to the islands. It contains:
- A quick Uist FAQ
- Tips for getting to Uist and getting around the islands
- Things to do in Uist incl. each of the islands (Berneray, North Uist, Grimsay, Benbecula, South Uist and Eriskay)
- Amazing places to eat in Uist incl. vegan-friendly eateries
- Suggestions for places to stay in Uist
For a day-by-day rundown of my most recent trip, check out my Uist stories.
Uist is a stop on my Outer Hebrides itinerary – if you like what you see here, consider following on your next trip to Scotland!
Outer Hebrides Wellbeing Trail
My most recent trip to Uist happened in partnership with Visit Outer Hebrides to promote their newly launched Wellbeing Trail. The Outer Hebrides are a fantastic place to find space to unwind, spend time in nature, enjoy life in the company of your loved ones and wonder and learn about Scottish history and Gaelic culture.
The Wellbeing Trail features 41 locations all over the Outer Hebrides that can help you boost your mental and physical well-being. They include lesser-known places and many recommendations by locals, so you can discover hidden gems wherever you go.
We visited many of the locations on the trail and many of the things to do in Uist included below are also part of it.
You can download the Wellbeing Trail leaflet here.
Uist Travel Guide
Where is Uist?
Uist is a group of islands in the Outer Hebrides. They are located south of Lewis and Harris – the Sound of Harris separates Harris and Berneray – and north of Barra and Vatersay – across the Sound of Barra. The water between the islands and the mainland is called the Little Minch towards Skye and the Sea of the Hebrides further south.
Which islands make up Uist?
The main islands making up Uist are Berneray, North Uist, Grimsay, Benbecula, South Uist and Eriskay. There are also the Monach Isles off the coast of North Uist and many other uninhabited islands in the surrounding waters.
You might also like: Which Scottish Isles to visit & why
How to get to Uist
Ferry connections to Uist
There are two ferries from the Scottish mainland to the islands of Uist. Both are operated by Calmac.
There is a ferry from Mallaig to Lochboisdale on South Uist. The crossing takes approximately 3.5 hours and leaves 1-2 times per day.
The second ferry departs from Uig on Skye to Lochmaddy on North Uist. This crossing is shorter – one hour and 45 minutes – and it also runs 1-2 times per day.
Flying to Uist
The Scottish airline Loganair operates flights from Glasgow and Inverness to Benbecula airport, which serves as the airport for all the islands of Uist. There are also flights from Benbecula to Stornoway.
Flying to the Outer Hebrides is a great option if you are short on time and want to maximise your time on the Outer Hebrides. The views are also not too shabby!
Getting around Uist
Car hire or public transport?
Driving is by far the most flexible option to get around Uist. We hired a car from Carhire Hebrides at Benbecula Airport. They have multiple locations throughout the islands, so it’s also possible to pick up and return your vehicle at different airports or ferry terminals.
It is also possible to explore Uist by public transport, but without a car it’s trickier to get around. You may have to walk, cycle or take local taxis to reach certain points of interest, and might not be able to visit as many places as with a car.
Note that many historic sites, places of natural beauty and interesting nature reserves are at the end of narrow single-track roads, and are not serviced by local buses.Find further information about getting around the Outer Hebrides here.
You might also like: My top tips for hiring a car in Scotland
Cycling or walking the Hebridean Way
Potentially easier than travelling by public transport, is to hire a bike or follow the Hebridean Way on foot.
About half the route crisscrosses the islands of Uist and you can visit most of the places mentioned below by doing a few detours.
Things to do in Uist
Now, let’s go through the islands of Uist one by one and explore some of the most beautiful places to visit and things to do on North Uist, South Uist, Benbecula, Eriskay, Berneray and Grimsay.
Things to do on North Uist
Langass Community Woodland
One of the first things you’ll notice about the Outer Hebrides is that there are very few trees. Every now and then though, local communities have come together to plant community woodlands.
Langass Community Woodland is a green oasis on the moors of North Uist – it’s one of my favourite places to visit in Uist to go for a walk. The trees increase biodiversity on the island and offer a recreational space for locals and visitors. Most importantly, being around trees has proven health benefits!
There are several trails through the small forest. Consider also visiting the nearby chambered cairn Barpa Langais and the standing stones at Pobull Fhinn.
Balranald RSPB Nature Reserve
The Outer Hebrides are home to several rare bird species that are rarely found on the mainland anymore. The corncrake is one of these nearly extinct birds. The RSPB nature reserve at Balranald is one of the best places to see – or rather hear – corncrake in their natural habitat.
There is a visitor centre and a 3.5 miles loop trail along the beach and through the dunes of the machair. Happy birding!
Beach Dining with The Wilder Kitchen
The Wilder Kitchen is run by chef William Hamer and hosts outdoor dining experiences at Clachan Sands.
Enjoy the gorgeous white sandy beach, sip a glass of wine and watch the sunset, while William prepares a delicious meal for you – it’s a truly unique experience in Uist. Check their Instagram @thewilderkitchen for upcoming dates.
Other things to do on North Uist
- Visit the ruins of Teampull na Trionaid (Trinity Temple) in Carinish
- Go for a walk at Traigh Iar beach
- Walk to the tidal island Vallay during low tide
- See the ruins of the Iron Age fort Dun an Sticir
- Visit the exhibitions at Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum & Arts Centre in Lochmaddy
Things to do on South Uist
Learn about crofting at Long Island Retreats
Crofting is a sustainable way of farming on a small scale. It is a prevalent way of working the land across the Scottish islands. It differs from commercial farming in many ways – among others, animal stocks are smaller, animals from several crofts graze together and many tasks are done collaboratively.
The best way to learn about crofting is to actually visit a croft and spend time with the people who run it. Long Island Retreats on South Uist offer authentic tours and experiences on their own croft on Loch Sgioport. There are a few different options, but I recommend booking a croft tour to see all aspects of crofting and also meet their herd of Shetland ponies.
Crofter DJ runs the tours, while his partner Lindsay can point you in the way of lovely swim spots on the coast or hidden lochs on their land. I highly recommend following her advice!
Loch Driudibeag Trails
The walk across Loch Druidibeg was my favourite part on the Hebridean Way. The moorland expands from the main road of South Uist to the east towards Loch Sgioport, and offers various different habitats and landscapes. It’s an RSPB nature reserve and a popular place to spot hen harriers and white-tailed eagles.
From the trails around the moorland, you’ll enjoy fantastic views of the tall mountains of South Uist.
You might also like: The best day hikes in Scotland
Rubha Aird a’ Mhuile Walk
Rubha Aird a’ Mhuile (Ardvule) is the westernmost point of South Uist. It sits at the edge of a grassy headland which breaks up the endless sandy beach on the west coast of the island.
The walk starts and finishes at St Mary’s RC Church in Bornais where there is plenty of parking, and follows a 3.5 mile loop trail. Along the way, you’ll come past the archaeological remains of a Viking settlement.
The headland is also on the Hebridean Whale Trail, so keep an eye out for the pod of resident bottlenose dolphins from Barra.
North Loch Eynort & Arinaban Woodland
Loch Eynort is a big sea loch on the east coast of South Uist and the single-track road along the north shore is easily one of the most scenic drives on the island.
Park up at the end of the road and go for a walk around Arinaban Woodland. There are some trees at the start, but soon the trail emerges into a wide open landscape – beautiful hillsides filled with purple heather that blooms in August and September, imposing mountains in the distance, and the serene waters of Loch Eynort below.
You can do a small loop and walk for an hour, or spend more time exploring the trails around the woodland. This walk was one of my favourite things to do in Uist.
Other things to do on South Uist
- Drive down the scenic Loch Sgioport road
- Explore the history of Cladh Hallan with the Uist Unearthed app
- Visit Kildonan Museum
- Follow the Machair Way path from Polochar along the sandy west coast
Things to do on Benbecula
Culla Bay Beach
Culla Bay is a beautiful sandy beach in Baile nan Cailleach (Nunton), a small hamlet on the west coast of Benbecula. The beach is just a 5-minute drive from the airport which makes it the perfect first or last stop on your trip to Uist.
The sand dunes and machair behind the beach are full of wildlife – nesting waders like oystercatchers and lapwing can be found in abundance. You might even hear corncrake calling while you take in the views.
Culla Bay beach is also a popular wild swimming spot, if you’re looking for a dip in the sea.
Gin tasting at North Uist Distillery
Confusingly, North Uist Distillery is located on Benbecula! The budding whisky company started on North Uist but when they found a beautiful empty farmstead on Benbecula they relocated to the island.
North Uist Distillery already produces delicious gin, infused with locally foraged heather flowers, and is currently gearing up to start distilling whisky in 2023.
Gin tastings are available at their site on Benbecula.
Ruabhal (Rueval) is the highest hill on Benbecula. It stands just 124m above sea level, but since Benbecula is otherwise super flat, the hill looks absolutely massive from the bottom.
I actually climbed Ruabhal when I hiked the Hebridean Way and it took just about 45 minutes to reach the top. From the summit, you get a 360 degree view of the island, North Uist and Harris in the north, South Uist to the south and the isle of Skye across the Little Minch.
Other things to do on Benbecula
- Head to the beach Shell Bay at Liniclate
- Visit the ruins of Borve Castle, seat of the Clanranald until the 1715 Jacobite Rising
- Book a riding lesson on the beach with Uist Community Riding School
Things to do on Eriskay
Coilleag a Phrionnsa – The Prince’s Beach
When Bonnie Prince Charlie arrived in Scotland in 1745, he landed on Eriskay hoping to gain the support for his cause from the predominantly Catholic population. He failed and ended up moving his efforts to the mainland, but Eriskay will forever get to claim that this is where the Young Pretender first set foot on Scottish soil.
The beach is a breathtaking white sandy bay next to the ferry pier. It’s a beautiful spot for a day on the beach and a dip in the sea. This is one of my favourite beaches in Uist.
Find the Eriskay ponies
The Eriskay Pony is a rare breed that is native to the Hebridean islands. The breed was nearly lost until the Eriskay Pony Society was formed in 1972 and devoted itself to the resurrection of these beautiful ponies.
They are predominantly white-grey in colour and even though they are all owned by someone, they roam the island freely. They can often be spotted high up in the hills of the island, or around the village.
If you do spot them, approach them with caution and do not feed them – it’s not healthy for the ponies and can be dangerous for you.
Book an Eriskay Walking Tour
Eriskay may be small, but there is a lot about this island that makes it special. One of the best ways to learn about the island is to book a walking tour with Uist Sea Tours. They’re a local company doing boat trips, but started to offer walking tours to share their passion for the island.
The two hour walking tour takes in locations such as the Prince’s beach, the unique Eriskay football field and more. The tour finishes with a dram at the local pub Am Politician and tales of the SS Politician, a cargo ship that sank off the island in 1943. On board: thousands of cases of whisky which were quickly “saved” by the locals.
The story of the SS Politician inspired Compton Mackenzie to write his novel Whisky Galore.
Boat trip to Mingulay with Uist Sea Tours
Mingulay is a small island south of Vatersay and Barra. It has been uninhabited since 1912, but you can still wander around the remains of the village. The island is owned by the National Trust for Scotland and is home to a thriving puffin colony. On the west coast, it features some of Britain’s tallest sea cliffs and an absolutely epic sea arch which you can sail or – if you’re lucky – paddle board through.
Uist Sea Tours runs boat trips from Eriskay to Mingulay throughout the summer. The journey down takes just one hour. You get three hours on the island to explore the village and visit the puffins. You’ll take in the sea cliffs on the way down or back, depending on the weather. This boat trip was easily among my favourite things to do in Uist.
Alternatively, you can book a private charter with Uist Sea Tours to visit Mingulay or other islands in the area, including the Monach Isles, St Kilda, Canna or Coll.
Back on Uist, you can hire paddleboards or book guided excursions. We even brought the paddle boards to Mingulay on our private charter trip.
If you’ve ever thought about visiting St Kilda, but were put off by the 2.5-hour journey there, Mingulay is a perfect alternative. I actually thought the sea cliffs and sea arch were more stunning than the cliffs and stacks of St Kilda – but of course it’s not a double heritage site. Each destination has its benefits!
Things to do on Berneray
Berneray is the northernmost island of Uist. It is connected to North Uist by a causeway that was only opened in 2000, and to Harris to the north by ferry. It’s tiny, but packs a punch.
West Beach & East Beach
Berneray’s west coast is one giant beach. West Beach has been voted among Europe’s most beautiful beaches and was accidentally used to promote a beach on Koh Chang by the Thai tourism board.
There is a great loop trail around the island that takes in West Beach and also East Beach, the beach facing towards Harris.
There is a local seal colony in the village bay and a great viewing point to sit and watch them as they haul out onto the rocks at low tide. This spot is also on the Outer Hebrides Wellbeing Trail!
Other things to do on Berneray
- Take a walk to Queen’s Beach in the south of the island
- Visit Cladh Maolrithe standing stone
- Pick up local souvenirs at Coralbox Gift Shop
Things to do on Grimsay
Most people drive across Grimsay on the way from North Uist to Benbecula, but few people really visit Grimsay. Even though it’s such an easy detour!
Drive the loop road to Kallin harbour
The is a loop road around Grimsay, starting and finishing on the main road between the North Uist and Benbecula causeways. Follow the signs for Kallin harbour – if you miss the first, just take the second and you’ll end up in the same place.
The scenery of Grimsay is stunning and you’re never far from the sea. Stop by Hebridean Candles to pick up local souvenirs. If the weather is nice, take a look at the colourful fishing boats at Kallin Harbour. Finally, learn about Hebridean wool production and shop some locally sourced and milled sheep’s wool at Uist Wool.
Other things to do on Grimsay
- Book a boat tour to see local wildlife with Lady Anne Boat Trips
- Visit the Grimsay Boat Museum at Ceann na h-Àirigh community centre
- Hire e-bikes to explore the island
Vegan-friendly places to eat in Uist
The Outer Hebrides do not have the reputation of a vegan-friendly paradise. The local cuisine is obviously strongly linked with crofting, fishing and historically, the hunting for seabirds. But the islands are really catching up! A lot has happened since my first visit in 2018 and there is a lot more plant-based choice available now.
Of course, all the below mentioned restaurants are equally excellent if you are not vegan!
- Langass Lodge on North Uist: Perfect for a fancy treat with stunning views of the hills on North Uist
- Borrodale Hotel on South Uist: A cosy and rustic bar & restaurant with an excellent menu
- The Wee Cottage Kitchen on North Uist: A food truck with freshly prepared seafood rolls and a few vegan options
- Am Politician on Eriskay: The one and only pub on Eriskay with a great pub menu
- Croft & Cuan on South Uist: A brilliant lunch cafe in Lochboisdale
- Berneray Bistro on Berneray: A cafe with lunch options at the community shop
You might also like: My guide to travelling Scotland as a vegan
Where to stay in Uist
Even though Uist is made up of so many islands, it’s easy to explore all of them from one home base – no need to move on every (few) nights. This also makes it easier to find suitable self-catering accommodation as many require a minimum stay for 3-4 nights at least.
We spent four nights at Air a’Chroit Luxury Pods on North Uist and absolutely loved the experience. The pod was more spacious than other pods I’ve stayed in before and really well laid out. An additional skylight window brings additional light into the living space and the bed is super comfy. The kitchen is well equipped and all the furnishings are really well chosen.
In general, there is more self-catering accommodation available on Uist than B&Bs or hotels. Look for pods or cottages that are located on locally owned croft land and try to stay away from second homes that are rented out as holiday homes. This is to make sure that the money you spend on accommodation contributes to the local economy and does not leave the islands. (Many second home/holiday cottages are owned by people who live off-island.)
If you are looking for a more traditional stay in a hotel, check out the hotels listed above in the food section. There are also hotels in Lochmaddy and Lochboisdale.
If you’re on a budget, check out my guide to accommodation on the Hebridean Way which includes several hostels and campsites.
As you can see, Uist is a true hidden gem in the Outer Hebrides. The islands of Uist are among my favourite Scottish islands to visit to spend time in nature & watch wildlife, get away from busy life and connect with amazing locals who love sharing their islands with visitors.
I hope this guide gives you everything you need to plan a trip to Uist, follow the new Wellbeing Trail and enjoy a relaxing island hopping trip on the west coast.
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