Premier guided Scottish hillwalking tours
We just returned from our second Hike Scotland tour, this time to the Outer Hebrides. Our guides, Stuart Hall and Brian Wilson, led eight of us through peaceful and unspoiled island country, encountering only the occasional cow or sheep or dog, but almost no other people on the “trails".
From stunningly wide and sandy beaches to rain dampened peat bogs to craggy hills and ocean bluffs, the islands are wonderfully beautiful. The warm hospitality and great food, provided by the hotels and lodges we stayed in, (including many options for us vegetarians), added to what makes Scotland such an easy and fun place to travel.
Finally we can’t say enough good things about Stuart and Brian who shared not only the physical beauty of their homeland but also the cultural and historical richness that makes it such a special place. They made us all feel welcomed and we look forward to returning in the future.
Gary and Karen Holm
Sebastopol, California, USA
Travel To The Outer Hebrides Delivers Beauty and Adventure
Adventure travel offers unique opportunities to see and experience things that most people cannot imagine let alone do. Challenges can be logistical or physical. You have to endure security checks, uncomfortable airplane seats, long waits in airports, jet lag and unexpected and uncontrollable things along the way. But those that love to travel never tire of the wonder that awaits them as each new trip unfolds.
I have just returned from a trip unlike any my sister and I have ever taken. We ventured to the Outer Hebrides, a group of 200 plus islands just off the northwest coast of Scotland. This shared hiking adventure offered us a very different experience. A part of the United Kingdom, the islands are located on the outermost edge of Europe. Its beaches and mountains are famed for their desolate and haunting beauty. The Gulf Stream swings close to the chain of islands resulting in milder than expected temperatures and bright turquoise blue seas that wash on white sand beaches. Our guides took us on paths that were literally off the beaten trail to all but sheep and cattle. We climbed rock covered hills and, walked through boggy valleys, past dark, glassy lochs often reaching a high point with views of endless white sand beaches. We walked in near gale force winds, sheeting rain, and even hail one day. But all this in such an amazing place, sky, land and beach all married in a way it is nearly impossible to describe.
The adventure began with an hour long flight from Glasgow to Barra. We landed on the beach at the only airport in the world where scheduled flights use a beach as the runway. What an amazing way to start our exploration of the many islands making up the Outer Hebrides.
We traveled with six other hikers and two Scottish guides. This trip was not out of any travel catalog. Stuart and Brian, our guides, shared their passion and knowledge of the Outer Hebrides as we moved from island to island. The islands we explored had wonderful names like Barra, Vatersay, Bernera, Eriskay, South and North Uist, Scalpay, Benbecula, South and North Harris and Lewis.
Yes, the walks were breathtaking, but even more amazing was to imagine the history beneath our feet. Cultures that lived on these islands included included Neolithic, Bronze Age, Viking, Pictish, Celtic and Anglo Saxon. One of our last stops was a visit to the Callanish Standing Stones, one of the oldest Celtic monuments on Earth. It is almost impossible to imagine the primitive culture that moved and placed the stones that pre-date Stonehenge and why they created its geometric form.
Our trip to the Outer Hebrides was not about museums, cities or fine dining. It was more about experiencing nature at it most extreme and glorious best. Dramatic skies, vast rolling hills and seascapes like no other I have ever experienced. Yes, adventure travel may not be for everyone, but we found, once again, that each trip offers experiences and newfound appreciation for another part of the world.
Fernandina Beach, Florida
Six of us from Colorado enjoyed a 10-day hiking trip in the Western Highlands and Isle of Skye where HikeScotland offered a superbly diverse itinerary that we collectively customized to meet our desires. Stuart and Ruth shared their deep knowledge and passion about the spectacular natural world and rich human history of the area. Their exemplary professionalism resulted in a seamless well organized yet flexible trip from early preparation to the end.
Hikes along ancient road and trail systems offered amazing vistas across purple expanses of heather and grasslands at the foot of the rolling moors and high Munros coming alive with cascading white waterfalls and vibrant clear rivers. On Skye, hiking along the rugged shoreline above multi-hundred-foot cliffs on seldom traveled routes offered breathtaking vistas of the jagged coast and adjacent islands. The local food, from classic pubs to fine dining, hosted in a nice variety of classic “hikers” inns to elegant updated quaint castle inns, always accompanied by warm Scottish hospitality, added to the ultimate Scotland experience – as did the sampling of local single malt whiskies and refreshing local ales and lagers.
We would all highly recommend a hiking trip with HikeScotland that comes complete with friendly professional guiding in spectacular scenery and immersed in the deep history and culture of Scotland.
Peter and Cathy Dea
Crested Butte, Colorado USA
Our third trip with Hike Scotland promised to be an awesome one. We started our trip in Inverness to follow the North Coast 500 route. The scenery and nature is definitely what you can expect on Scotland's west coast: breathtaking and a lot of wows as we went. Pure white sand beaches, without another soul to be seen.
The hikes that we were organised by Stuart's team were top level and took us to some remote places where we spotted raptors including sea eagles, deer, seals and other wildlife. The canoe trip on remote lochs was one of the highlights of our trip.
The accommodation and meals were top quality, with very comfortable hotels and sumptuous local fayre, including fresh seafood, Highland beef and venison.
When we ended our trip in John O' Groats, at the northern most tip of the UK, we wanted to stay longer and explore more of this beautiful region.
So in short, a trip to be highly recommended especially if you want to go off the beaten track. Thank you Stuart and the team and we hope to be come back for a fourth trip.
Hans van de Velde
In choosing Hike Scotland, I had hoped to experience the real Scotland, it's land and people. It was that and much more, all first class and well organized. The accommodations and food were superb. Our hikes of the beautiful Glencoe/Loch Lomond area, the hallowed grounds of my ancestral clan, were brought to life with the knowledge and stories imparted by Stuart and Ruth. Their amenable, relaxed nature made for a truly memorable week. I would do it all again, but the Outer Hebrides now beckon. Hike Scotland is a rare find - don't pass them up.
We hiked with Stuart Hall and Hike Scotland in 2012 (Loch Lomond and Glencoe to Mallaig), in 2014 (Isle of Skye) and 2016 (Outer Hebrides). We will likely hike again with Stuart in 2018. The hiking is magnificent, as is the scenery. Stuart is flexible; a hike can sometimes be structured to match one's ability: strenuous or moderate. The dining and accommodations are outstanding. Stuart seemingly knows every square inch of Scotland. He also knows and loves it's history and culture. We recommend Hike Scotland without reservation.
Ann and Duncan Clarke
Carmel Valley, California, USA,
How do you describe the trip of a lifetime ? First, you get the whole family (except the wee ones) to go - eleven of us - ranging in age from 9 to 72. Then you find the absolute best guy on the planet (Stuart Hall) to put it together. Then he drives you around and walks you around and sails you around this most beautiful country to see it up close. You trust him to find the perfect lodgings for each spot, provide the finest food and understand your group so well, that he knows which hikes you can all manage and leaves everyone thinking it's the best trip they've ever had. And the evenings are full of a glass (or two) and giggles and camaraderie and before you know it, you've adopted family number twelve ! Stu-art ! Stu-art !
Marilyn Gibb (and family)
Austin, Texas, USA
We are just back from a week's hiking trip on the Isle of Skye with Stuart Hall and his team. Terrific experience and we recommend it highly. Stuart and his colleagues are Scots who know their country well and are eager to share. Every day brought a choice of hikes (from easy to moderate), done at a reasonable pace and with illuminating commentary from our guides. Each evening spent at very comfortable hotels, with superb dinners arranged to give us a broad choice of dishes. We tended to choose the seafood for which Skye is well known, but there are many choices. First rate !
Estero, Florida, USA
Two years ago I decided I wanted to hike in Scotland with friends. I quickly discovered that trying to plan a trip in another country was a bit daunting. After much research I contacted Hike Scotland and described what I had in mind. With just a few e-mail exchanges, Stuart responded that he could put together an itinerary that would meet our needs; he was correct.
We completed our trip in May 2016 and it was as wonderful as I had anticipated. Our group of seven enjoyed fabulous scenery, old inn's with loads of character, amazing weather and many history lessons about Scotland. Stuart's love of the Scottish Highlands and knowledge of Scottish history added a personal touch to the trip that our group appreciated. I have many fine memories of Scotland and hope to make a return trip some day.
I was part of a small group of seven that recently hiked the Loch Lomond and Glencoe trip. Stuart was easy to deal with ahead of the trip and a very efficient guide to have looking after us. He was just as concerned about our group enjoying ourselves after the hikes as he was watching over us during the hikes. He allowed us plenty of time away from the trail to relax as we wished.
The trip itself was a very pleasant mix of the Rob Roy Way and West Highland Way. We hiked a mix of surfaces, from bike trail to old military roads, to the more familiar dirt and rock we were used to hiking in the Western US. The inn's and hotels we stayed at were well chosen for our group. I think the Clachaig Inn was my favourite and not just for their beer selection !
When I decide to return and hike the Isle of Skye, Hike Scotland will be the company I select to show me the way.
Review of Hike Scotland, by Ted Finnerty
Private Guide from 25-29 September, 2015
What a fantastic experience. My wife and I wanted to spend a week hiking through Scotland, and so we took to books, maps and the internet to start our search. I pretty quickly came across the site for Hike Scotland and read some of the group hikes that they offered: the routes looked fun and the reviews looked great. It quickly became the gold standard of offerings as I continued my search. After a week of researching, I decided to email Stuart and start a conversation directly. This was my immediate window to confidence in my choice. Though I lived in Boston, USA, he replied quickly and thoughtfully over email. Within a day we had a route, a price, and all lodging fully decided - all over email exchanges!
The fun started when we met Stuart as he picked us up at our Edinburgh hotel. We drove towards Glencoe to hike in the Ballachulish range, home of the weeping hills, to kick-off our five days together.
(Looking south over Loch Etive)
We had terrific times together on our hikes, packing lunches and snacks, summiting Munro after Munro - a Scottish classification of mountain elevation that instantly makes sense and connects you with the livelihood of the land. We stayed our first night in one of the most stoic hiking/skiing lodges you can come across, and we decided to modify our Day 2 plans with the good weather forecast. The flexibility of a private guide like Hike Scotland allowed us to adapt the schedule without a question, and we hiked Ben Nevis the next morning (even had a bold bagpiper at the summit)!
We ventured to the Isle of Skye for the remainder of our time together and home-based out of the Sligachan Hotel.
(View from the hotel overlooking the Black Cuillin range)
The hiking is incredible: from steeps to cliff walks towering 1,000 feet over the sea, to ridge running and waterfalls. The views are equally breathtaking. We had a great mix of hikes, foods, castles, whisky, Rugby World Cup, and local culture (my wife and I still love a little girl's line in Carbost, "Mommy, daddy, come quick! I just saw a real, live mermaid!!" - we all had to turn).
One of the best parts of the trip is Stuart himself. He was the penultimate host for our entire trip: a wealth of Scottish history and one hell of a personal photographer! He brought us to pristine locations, inhabited only by rare sheep, and to lively overnight establishments. He adjusted our daily schedule and routine to adapt to our likes and the weather. He brought new meaning to the phrase, all inclusive.
(You can just barely make out Stuart in this shot)
Not only would I recommend Hike Scotland, but I would strongly encourage you to get creative and maybe have some fun with what Stuart can bring to the table. Start thinking about the trip early, maybe focus on a shoulder season, and engage directly with Stuart to plan your getaway. You will leave a steward of Scottish hiking history and you will yearn to pay a return visit.
Thanks again Stuart, sláinte!
Boston, MA, USA
Our Great Trip with Stuart
July 22, 2015
We had such a fantastic, memorable, and yes, I'd have to say dazzling time hiking the Isle of Sky with Stuart and a group of five strangers from Toronto and Italy that once we were home, we had to puzzle out just what made it so terrific. Was it the beautiful landscape we hiked? Was it the ease of making new friends, sharing a bottle of wine and a hearty laugh every night over dinner? Was it as simple as being on a much-needed vacation at last, in a place with such astonishing beauty as Scotland? Or was it Stuart Hall, our guide, the man who crafted the experience in more ways then we realized?
I could talk about these nice people, the sparkling hotels in Portree and Cuillin Hills or the sumptuous quality of each meal. But frankly, I'm going to give all the credit to Stuart. The trip was incredible because of his art, or skill, or maybe just some aspect of his personality.
If you've been to Scotland, then you already know the Scots are the most friendly, garrulous people in the world with a sly sense of humor that emerges rather quickly. Stuart was all that and more. He was like a magician. I could try to describe the way a magician's hands work even if, after watching very closely, I can't quite pin down how such astonishing moments unfold.
But, at the risk of completely embarrassing the man, let me try. Consider the following points:
It was late June and it rained or at least drizzled a little everyday that we hiked. Strangers we met in the hotel bar lamented how they'd not been able to set foot on a single hillside. We tried to be kind and not laugh. Because we hiked up the Cuillin Mountains, Ramasaig Bay, Glen Brittle, McLeod's Tables and more. That's because Stuart spent his mornings watching the weather, altering the plan, figuring out from his extensive knowledge of Skye exactly where we should go and also what part of the day to hit which of Skye's many trails. So, he'd change the plan, taking us to the Skye Museum of Island Life in Kilmuir or Castle Dunvegan or Talisker Distillery to get away from those brief but intense rainy downpours. The weather simply didn't matter.
DIFFERENT SKILL LEVELS
I was probably the youngest person in my group, which I learned offered me zero advantage. I was last among the hikers, trailing behind the others as they scrambled up the hillside like billy goats. As always, there was Stuart when I needed him, waiting for me by the turn in the path, helping with my hiking poles and taking some of the weight from my backpack. (Yeah, I was carrying up four paperback books and no water. A dumb move that Stuart remedied.)
Somehow, Stuart was able to zoom ahead to the top of the Trotternish Ridge (with my books in his pack), making sure the rest of the group didn't continue try to ascend the last, ridiculously steep set of peaks just above and beyond the Old Man of Storr without the benefit of his watchful eye.
THE SOCIAL ASPECT
My wife and I had to arrive a day late, after the group had presumably bonded. There were two semi-retired couples from Toronto who knew each other from summer camp days (!!) and a lovely woman traveling solo from Italy. And then came us and late at that--the gay couple from San Francisco. Could it have been uncomfortable? Sure. However, by nightfall, we were all laughing so hard. By day, everyone was conversing in the van and on the trail. I enjoyed how everyone encouraged me, inspiring me over those boggy parts or providing a quick lesson in using the hiking poles. Bravo!
So I must ask—was it the luck of the draw that our randomly organized group turned out to be some of the nicest folks you could encounter? Or is "social blending" yet another skill that Stuart draws upon when needed? I think so, because he engaged us with conversation both witty and informative. He drew us out, putting each of us at ease, and getting everyone talking and laughing and out on the trails to have a great time.
Like any great trip, there's so much more. I should mention the sing-along we had in the bar on our final night. (What Stuart termed "a wee sing-song.") Or the moment we stood transfixed on a high ridge of the Diurinish Peninsula. We stopped mid-hike to watch a sheep crofter drive his orange ATV to the cliffs above Ramasaig Bay and beep his horn. That sent his two dogs into the fields, coaxing hundreds upon hundreds of sheep to scramble down the hillside. They organized themselves into two single-file lines, a long trail of white wooly sheep obediently heading down the valley for their summer shearing back on the farm. We couldn't move until those dogs jumped back into the ATV, the great distance not obscuring their obvious pride in a job well done.
Everyone in our group felt the magic of this experience, but since I'm the journalist, I hope I've captured a touch of what made hiking with Stuart so great.
Having found this testimonial and the Hike Scotland page, your own memorable experience is right around the corner. Congratulations! As for the rest of us, we are now back to work (sigh), saving up for a return trip. Right now, I'm dreaming about hiking the Outer Hebrides where I'll probably still be several paces behind Stuart and probably the last one on the trail. Which will be perfectly fine. Can't wait!!
San Rafael, California
The beach landing at Barra airport ("times subject to tides") was the first clue that hiking the Outer Hebrides was going to be a unique adventure for us. And every day was better than the last with trails to ourselves (except for a "few" sheep and cows), visits to heritage sites and pre historic structures, ferry crossings, the best hotels, food and wine the Hebrides has to offer and the company of like minded, experienced travellers as fellow hikers. And two of the most likeable and outdoor-experienced Scotsmen, Stuart and Brian, leading us.
Every day the hikes were different yet always provided stunning views, from the most beautiful flat, sandy beaches anywhere to treeless moors of peat, scrambling up a "wee" hill to view freshwater lakes and the sight of the fingers of the sea that reach into, surround and define these beautiful islands. We will never forget this trip - truly a trip of a lifetime (except we want to go back !)
Eve Benesh and John Crowley
We just returned from Hike Scotland's tour of the Outer Hebrides (June 20150. It was the third time we have had the pleasure of being led on a hiking tour by Stuart Hall (the Highlands in 2011, the Isle of Skye in 2013). He was joined by his friend and fellow guide Brian Wilson. There were 9 of us hikers, Stuart and Brian had 2 vehicles, so it was easy to get from place to place and to allow for the flexibility and accommodation of individual needs as necessary. All of the ingredients of a totally successful hiking tour were in place: first of all, of course, the magnificent islands of the Hebrides - their beauty, ruggedness, white sand beaches, beautiful mountains, open sky and incredible unspoiled open spaces; secondly, an itinerary that was built to highlight the very best that the natural Hebrides can offer; third, two guides who are highly skilled and experienced, organised and flexible at the same time, and best of all, great guys who are great fun to be with; fourth superior accommodations and food and wine that was delicious and bounteous; and finally, fellow hikers who were collegial and fun.
Most of the hikes were easy to moderate for an experienced hiker and a couple were more challenging, but those who did not feel up to them were provided with easier alternatives, so everybody was well served. We cannot stress enough how well Stuart and Brian took care of each of us on the trail as well as off. Thoroughly professional and we felt safe the entire time. We would recommend Hike Scotland to any one who wants to experience the beauty of the Outer Hebrides and the pleasure of Stuart's and Brian's company !
Wayne and Barbara Smith
New Orleans, USA
Hiking the Outer Hebrides with Hike Scotland was really the trip of a lifetime ! To be able to hike with these two guides, Stuart Hall and Brian Wilson, who know so much about the terrain, the history of Scotland and who become your friends along the way is a truly wonderful experience. We hiked eleven islands from Barra to Lewis and each one was unique, offering us beautiful walks along the endless white sand beaches, hillside walks in the grass and heather with stupendous views on every side and extra challenges up higher hills for those who wanted them. Along the way were historic Celtic ruins, Medieval chapels and mystical ancient standing stones. We marvelled at many kinds of seabirds, seals and the amazing Eriskay ponies. At the end of every day we stayed in lovely inns for a wee rest before joining the other guests for dinner where we enjoyed delicious food, wines, laughter and companionship. Stuart and Brian took excellent care of all of us, making sure that every one of us, of every ability, had a fantastic experience. I loved it so much I would repeat the trip all over again.
Early June brought 10 days of a much - anticipated special adventure; exploring the quiet mystery of the Outer Hebrides with Hike Scotland. It was a rewarding series of days with guides Stuart and Brian, rich with walks of varied landscapes filled with awe and ancient history. Our lodgings were clearly selected with thoughtful care, for engaging hospitality and glorious food showcasing local seafood and cultural flavours. Hike Scotland very beautifully planned and shaped a wonderful trip for this solo travel to an - off - the - beaten - path part of the world. I would hike with them anywhere !
"We have just returned from a private and customized Tour (combining, Skye, Loch Lomond, Glencoe and the Torridon area), with our very flexible, knowledgeable and accommodating guide, Stuart. What fun we had hiking with the heather in full bloom and also seeing many of the Highland's historical and cultural sights...and always ending each day in another beautiful oasis, with good food, drink, Stuart's great humour and wonderful storytelling. It was like travelling with a good friend. Thanks Hike Scotland, for allowing us to fulfil our Scottish dream trip and experience all that the Highlands have to offer. We are already thinking about our next Hike Scotland trip...Outer Hebrides !"
Karen and Gary Holm
"Thank you Hike Scotland for a very special time in Skye. We appreciated your knowledge, enthusiasm and patience as you literally walked us through hikes and history. Even the eventful weather couldn't dampen our spirits; we were Skye - high throughout!"
Kiko Itasaka, Julian Prictoe, Dianne Festina and Lucas Wallace
New York and London
"My brother and I were looking for a tour of Scotland that combined a certain physical challenge, beautiful surroundings, good food and last but not least lots of fun. Stuart from Hike Scotland gave us all of this during our Glencoe and Isle of Skye Tour. He adapted the walks to our personal needs, took us to the most idyllic locations in Western Scotland and shared some of his history and geography knowledge with us. We even learnt some Scottish and Gaelic.
For us it was exactly what we were looking for and we can't wait to return for one of the other Scottish Tours. If you are looking for a tailor made trip to discover the beautiful landscape of Western Scotland, don't look any further than Hike Scotland."
Hans and Geert Van de Velde,
"The landscape and the Isle of Skye is breathtaking and when combined with the expertise of our hiking guides, Stuart and Laura, we had an unforgettable experience. Their knowledge and passion for the history and beauty of this country enhanced our outings. They tailored the trip to our individual needs and provided us with great lodgings and first class food and drink.
Thanks to the two of you for making our week so special ! We couldn't have been happier and we plan to come back again."
Julia, Jerry, Sandy, Katie
"My partner and I were looking to do hiking tour of Scotland's mystical mountains and knew from reading various tour books that we would need an experienced guide as quieter trails are often unmarked or obscured. Stuart is very knowledgeable about the land, as well as alternative routes (which was needed a few times when winds were too strong etc). The hikes were challenging but rewarding and he would tell us interesting titbits of the land's history and Scotland in general along the way. He was also great at providing different options when the weather was less than ideal for a more challenging mountain hike, taking us on a scenic beach walk and then to see Dunvegan Castle (which was wonderful !). The Isle of Skye is a beautiful place and I would highly recommend using Stuart as your guide for a trip there or anywhere else your planning on visiting in Scotland. We have fallen in love with the beautiful mountains of Scotland and will definitely be in touch with Stuart the next time we visit the country to check out another area."
Abby Bernstein and Evan Diamond
New York, USA
"My wife and I recently spent a very memorable week hiking on the Isle of Skye on a tour led by Stuart Hall. His knowledge of the Islands history and culture really enhanced our enjoyment and gave us an extra appreciation of the rugged landscapes. He was very flexible when arranging our itinerary each day, taking into consideration weather conditions and our preferences while ensuring we saw the most beautiful spots away from the busiest tourist traps. The hotels he arranged for the evenings were first class and will live long in our memory.
I would highly recommend Stuart and his company Hike Scotland to anyone wishing to enjoy the Highlands of Scotland and the Isle of Skye."
Rasa and Neil Wilkinson
“Thanks Stuart for the recent climbing/hiking experience we shared. The preparation and attention to detail was second to none, the history lessons enlightening, the tasks challenging yet richly rewarding and the understanding of the client’s goals and objectives to be gained from this adventure were always your primary focus. Although 62 years of age, I often felt much younger as each discipline was successfully completed and would recommend this type of activity to any person, any age who was trying to clear the mind and hone the body.
Starting to plan another excursion in 2014 and expect to bring along a couple of friends who have the false mind set that their bodies are past the challenge."
“We highly recommend Hike Scotland’s Loch Lomond & Glencoe Tour for anyone who enjoys walking in a stunning environment. Imagine having close personal friends who live in Scotland. You go to visit them, and they spend a week taking you to their favorite places to walk, to lodge, and to dine, all the while giving you their insights into the local history, lore, and culture.
Our guides, Stuart Hall and Ruth Hackney, created exactly such an experience. We spent our days walking trails where the unique beauty of the Highlands unfolds from a perspective that could never be seen from a car window. Our guides were always eager to share the best vantage points for special views. At the end of the day we were just a bit tired, but enchanted, and could not wait to start again the next day.“
Mary and Kevin Cantley
Atlanta, Georgia, USA