Island adventures

Hushinish, Harris

An organised trip may be the best way to set foot on rarely frequented shores

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Photographs: North Harris Trust / Laurie Campbell

There’s something very romantic about visiting an uninhabited island – especially when it’s home to birds by the thousand and surrounded by seas teeming with life, too. Getting to such a place can present problems, though – unless you’re an ocean-going dinghy sailor or have a friend with a powerful boat and a few days to spare. But the 2014 holiday programme devised by Hidden Hebrides offers a great solution.

It’s organising walking tours that include day trips to such exotic islands as the Shiants, with their vast puffin population, and Mingulay, with its towering cliffs. The St Kilda archipelago, which has double Unesco World Heritage status for its wildlife and its unique human history, is another destination on offer.

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Mick Blunt, who lives on Lewis and is a part-time area manager with the John Muir Trust, set up the company in time for the 2013 season and was so pleased with the response he decided to expand the programme.

He said: “Everybody who came with us on our tours went away raving about it. The amazing thing about the Hebrides is the sheer amount of wildlife that’s around you all the time.

Golden Eagle Harris

“One day this year, with a group on Harris, we looked up and there were seven sea eagles, two golden eagles and a buzzard in the sky at the same time.

“It’s great wherever you go, but I think this year will be even better with the addition of these out of the way islands. The amount of wildlife out there is phenomenal. As well as the raptors you have a good chance of seeing birds such as great northern divers, whooper swans, bonxies and all sorts of divers, as well as mammals including whales, dolphins and porpoises.

“If you’re lucky you might see an otter, though they do take a bit more finding.”

Also new for 2014 is a chance to enjoy exploring while based amid the luxury of Amhuinnsuidhe Castle, a grand shooting lodge in the Scottish Baronial style, set amid the hills, lochs and waterfalls of North Harris.

The walking is not unduly arduous on any Hidden Hebrides tour. Mick explains: “There’s so much wildlife to stop and watch that you might end up only doing three or four miles in a day. You don’t have to be a mountain marathon type.”

See www.hiddenhebrides.co.uk

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