Hiking the Hebridean Way – Part 7

This is part of the travel journal I wrote while walking the Hebridean Way in 2022. If you want to see all the Hebridean Way posts, you can find them here.

Day 13 – Balallan to Stornoway and an Unexpected End

Photos of the Day: https://photos.app.goo.gl/ndf7tr15vpUN8pAc8


Done, over, accomplished, the Hebridean Way is behind me. What? How? Today was supposed to be just the penultimate day, right? Well, a lucky combination of circumstances brought me to the end of the trail a day early: a small error in the hiking documents, good weather, and good company. But let’s start from the beginning.

I set off from Clearview B&B, consoled over the lost night at Kinloch House by an excellent breakfast. For the first hour, the route follows the road, but at least partly on paths parallel to it, not directly on the asphalt. I pass Kinloch House and reach Laxay, where the trail veers off for the last stretch over open moorland. 16km to Achmore (or Achadh Mòr), says my itinerary. Shortly after, I see something yellow-green emerging from the woods (yes, there are a few more of those here) onto the path ahead. Could that be Janna’s rain cover on her backpack? Indeed, she camped here and is just setting off. This is welcome company to stave off the end-of-hike blues, and together we trudge into the moor.

Janna is trudging across the moor in front of me.
A dark stream across the moor.

The path becomes muddy and deep again, but nothing worse than what we’ve encountered in recent days. It goes over two small hills, offering great views over the flatter North Lewis, down to the hills of Harris that we crossed two days ago. “Flatter” is actually the wrong word because the landscape is just as undulating and furrowed as further south, only the hills aren’t as high.

Achmore comes into view faster than expected. That can’t be 16km from Laxay; more like ten, if that. However, the signs indicate it’s still 15km to Stornoway from here, not 11km as my plan for tomorrow claims. It seems LetsGoWalking mixed up the distances for the two days. It’s not even noon, and I can’t wait here (on a Sunday!) for five hours for my taxi. Besides, the weather today is much nicer than what’s forecast for tomorrow, and Janna is also planning to complete the rest to Stornoway today. The decision is easy: a quick call to the taxi, and I’ll walk the rest today too. With the stretch from Balallan, it totals 30km, but I should manage.


From here, it’s “only” along a small side road, marking the end of the muddy moor paths or gravelly bumpy tracks. The sun comes out repeatedly, making the last part of the Hebridean Way tiring but neither boring nor depressing. I’m very glad not to be doing this section alone, in bad weather, tomorrow. Three hours later, we reach the “outskirts” of Stornoway, with its 7,000 residents the only place on the Outer Hebrides that can be generously called a “town.” We walk through the park of Lews Castle under trees down to the harbor. It’s very unusual but also welcome to stroll under these large old trees. And then there is the end: a rather unspectacular plaque near the castle (the end point of the Schluchtensteig in the Black Forest was more grandiose). Photos, cheering, victory wreaths … okay, the last part only in my imagination.

Lews Castle ground … the trees are a welcome sight.

With 247km in 11 days, even excluding the one 19km stage I skipped, it is the longest and – due to the weather – most strenuous hike I have done so far. I notice this also because I am ending it with a slight cold. After a (temporary) farewell to Janna, it is only a very short walk to the Hebridean Guest House, where a well-deserved hot shower makes me happy. Despite it being Sunday, I also find a delicious Indian (or something similar, it’s called “Istanbul,” but most of the menu is Indian). Back at the Guest House (a cross between a B&B and a hotel), I try to sort pictures and write my journal, but now the cold really kicks in and soon I can’t do anything anymore. Just lying down on the bed for a moment … when I wake up again, it’s almost midnight. Well then, I’ll just turn over and fall asleep again, to recover from the end of the hike.

The last, long day of the actual hike.

At the End of the Trail – Callanish Stones and Butt of Lewis

Photos from Callanish: https://photos.app.goo.gl/TNBW98ZX93KSWVb97
Photos from the Last Day: https://photos.app.goo.gl/vtXm5P4jUrNXySeZ8

The largest of the Callanish stones.

The hike as such is over, but I still have two days left in Stornoway. A visit to the Callanish Stones was already planned for today. Tomorrow, I could walk the 22km from New Tolsta to the northern tip of Lewis, but the section is said to be quite boggy, and my cold doesn’t exactly make me eager for a full day’s hike. But first, to the Callanish Stones, a large stone circle in the west of the island. Under gray skies, the taxi picks me up at 9:30 AM at the Hebridean Guest House and drives me the 20-30 minutes to Callanish.

I arrive early, which has the advantage of being able to take the first photos without too many other visitors between the stones. The site is truly impressive, and there are even two more stone circles nearby that can be visited without much additional time. However, one eventually finishes with all that, and then there’s nothing else to do here, especially since the café and information center are closed on Mondays (and, of course, Sundays). It’s sad to see how often tourists stand in front of the closed doors of the café (and the toilets) throughout the day. My Kindle and a sheltered seating area save me until the bus at 2:20 PM. Without them, I might have started building another stone circle myself.

A very impressive stone circle.

Back in Stornoway, I treat myself to the celebratory dinner to mark the end of the hike (I was too tired for it yesterday), with an extraordinarily delicious Thai seafood curry and then a beer at McNeill’s Pub.

The celebratory dinner.

The next morning, after another excellent breakfast – the black pudding at the Hebridean Guesthouse is particularly good – I take a small city tour and a short visit to Lews Castle. Then, at 12:30 PM, I catch the bus north to the Butt of Lewis. On the bus, I meet up with Janna as planned—and also Helena, who finished the Hebridean Way yesterday after a day’s break. Janna has found a B&B for the next two nights here at the northern tip and gets off a bit earlier to drop off her luggage, while Helena and I continue to Port Nis to walk the last 5km to the lighthouse at the Butt of Lewis.

Port Nis

For the first time since my arrival on Barra, the weather is fantastic: wonderful sunshine, a light breeze, and pleasant temperatures. The coast is steep, with green meadows over rocky cliffs, and the views are magnificent. Seabirds are everywhere, and we even think we see two whales in the distance. Helena, like Janna, is great company. Just out of school, she is taking a gap year—or a year and a half, or however long it will take. The Hebrides are her first stop, and then she plans to go to Sweden… or somewhere.

I even dip my feet into the ocean.

We reach the northern tip and the Butt of Lewis with its lighthouse and run into Janna again, who has made it here as well. A few more kind words, and then it’s time for a first farewell. Very nice to have met you, Janna. Helena and I take the taxi back to Stornoway together. At the Hebridean Guest House, we say goodbye to each other. Enjoy your gap year, however long it may last.

The lighthouse at Butt of Lewis.
Time to say goodbye to the swooping gulls.

At breakfast, I had met Joanna and Simon again and arranged to meet them at McNeill’s Pub in the evening. There, after one last fish and chips, I conclude my journey to the Outer Hebrides in a small, very amusing group with beer and whisky. Tomorrow morning at 7 AM, it’s off to the airport to start the journey home.

The weather wasn’t the best, but this hike was still a lot of fun, and I met many nice people. I don’t regret a single day, no matter how stormy or rainy it was. I hope you enjoyed this trip as well, and thank you for your company. Where I will go next, I don’t know yet, but you will find out when the time comes. Until then, stay healthy and enjoy life! Yours truly, Ralf

One thought on “Hiking the Hebridean Way – Part 7

  1. I cam here to thank you for those RPG maps you made ages ago, and found your really cool recent travel pics!
    Thanks for updating this blog, makes all the tabletop stuff seem more personal.

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