Planning your hiking route is important – but so is thinking about where you will sleep. The new Hebridean Way walking route, which leads 156 miles across the Outer Hebrides, offers many options for accommodation along the route. If you want to save money though and visit this unique part of Scotland on a budget, this guide of budget-friendly Hebridean Way accommodation is just for you!
I travelled on foot along the Hebridean Way for two weeks and my 12-day walking itinerary is also the basis of my accommodation guide. When hiking long-distances, the availability of accommodation dictates where and when you can stop for an overnight break. Carrying your own tent though makes you more independent – and of course, it is also a lot cheaper.
Nevertheless, camping is not for everyone and it is possible to find B&B or hotel accommodation at or near the end of each of my 12 hiking stages. If your accommodation is off-route, you might want to arrange transfers with your hosts, since adding a couple of miles in the morning and the evening can really wear you down.
This guide contains some tips and guidelines for wild camping on the Hebridean Way as well as my favourite budget-friendly accommodation for hikers on the route.
Wild camping on the Hebrides
Wild camping is legal in Scotland. You can pretty much pitch your tent anywhere you like and no one will tell you off. However, there is a set of rules to adhere to which is called the Scottish Outdoor Access Code (SOAC). These rules are what makes wild camping in Scotland possible and environmentally viable.
The SOAC provides a set of guidelines that ensure your safety as well as the protection of the land and its people. The most important things to remember are: leave no trace, don’t stay more than 2 or 3 nights in the same place and keep a distance from historic structures, roads, buildings and fields of crops or farm animals.
If you decide to camp along the Hebridean Way, make yourself familiar with the SOAC rules for camping and stick to then when you’re out and about.
Finding wild camping spots is fairly easy anywhere along the Hebridean Way. Look out for flat surfaces with enough soil to securely anchor your tent’s pegs in. The drier the ground is the better and if you can find somewhere with a fast-flowing water source nearby it’s even better.
I initially planned to wild camp most of the way but ended up only spending 5 nights out by myself. I wild camped at the end of stage 2 in the dunes near Askernish, stage 3 near the Our Lady of the Isles statue, stage 6 in Lochmaddy, on my rest day in Leverburgh and stage 11 in Laxay.
Hostels & campsites
When you (or your clothes) need to dry or a wash, hostels and campsites are your best bet. There are a number hostels directly on the Hebridean Way route, but not all of them are conveniently spaced out – which is why I think camping is inevitable if you’re on a budget. There are many campsites all over the Outer Hebrides, and quite a few lie directly on the Way.
B&Bs and Guest Houses
There are numerous B&Bs, guest houses and hotels along the Hebridean Way, often directly on the route, but sometimes you might have to leave the route in order to find decent options or any at all.
I stayed in two B&Bs – the first one, since I realised it would be tricky to find suitable camping spots in the mountains of North Harris, and the second one because I wanted to treat myself after I finished the trail in Stornoway.
Hiker-friendly accommodation in the Hebrides
First night: Dunard Hostel in Castlebay on Barra
Dunard Hostel in Castlebay on Barra is a perfect location for your first night. I stayed here the night before I started my walk on Vatersay. The hostel is in a great location, only 5 minutes walk from the ferry terminal and 5 more to the local Co-op supermarket. The hostel is family-run and has a very relaxed and warm vibe. There are a few shared and private rooms in the hostel and private accommodation in the adjoining lodge. On the ground floor of the hostel, there is a spacious and well-equipped kitchen, toilet and shower facilities and a cosy guest lounge with soft couches, a large table and a fireplace.
I stayed in one of the 4-bed bunk rooms and could see the sea from my bed. In the evening I prepared dinner and ate at the hostel, meeting lots of other travellers who were cycling the Hebridean Way or road tripping around the Hebrides. It was a very social experience without the mayhem of a party hostel!
Bunk bed: £20 / private accommodation from £42
Stage 1: Barra Holidays at Croft 183 on Barra
Barra Holidays at Croft 183 is near the end of stage 1 – about a 10-minute drive from the day’s endpoint in Ardmhor. They have a campsite, a yurt and a few private en-suite rooms you can stay in. To get there from Ardmhor, I arranged a pick-up with the site manager.
Initially, I meant to camp outside, but since it was raining and I was wet from head to toe, I accepted the offer of staying at the yurt for one night. I paid £20 and had not only my own private indoor space, but also access to shower & toilet facilities, and a small private kitchen.
Camping fee: £7 / private accommodation from £36.
You can get the public bus to the ferry terminal in Ardmhor in the next morning to continue on stage 2 of the Hebridean Way – however, you have to call and book the bus in advance. Even though it is a public bus, sometimes it only goes when the drivers know someone will board it. You can find the bus times for service W32 and relevant phone numbers on the local council’s website.
Stage 2: Howmore Gatliff Hostel on South Uist
I actually did not stay at the Howmore Gatliff Hostel, as I passed it around lunchtime on my third day, but if you stick to the book’s 10-day itinerary, you might want to spend the night here. You can camp outside the hostel as well and for a reduced fee use their facilities. The hostel takes no reservation and is first come, first serve. The hostel’s warden comes by every day to collect fees, but if you miss them for some reason, there is an honesty box to place your money in in the common room.
Bunk bed: £16 / camping fee: £10
Stage 3: Nunton House Hostel on South Uist
Again, I didn’t stay here because I changed my stages, but if you follow the book, Nunton House Hostel lies at the end of stage 3.
Stage 4: Shell Bay Campsite in Lionacleit on Benbecula
Shell Bay Campsite is a lovely wee campsite behind the dunes of Lionacleit. The beach is just a 10-minute walk away and is filled with shells – hence the name! The campsite is on a piece of land flat next to a very quiet road. There are clean toilet and shower facilities and a washing machine you can use on request. A hotel nearby serves food and drinks.
Camping fee: £8
Stage 5: Moorcroft Holidays on North Uist
Moorcroft Holidays on North Uist was my favourite campsite on the entire trip. There is a hostel on site as well as little hobbit houses, but also a large area for people to pitch their tents. The campsite is just across the causeway from Grimsay to North Uist and offers pretty sea views. There is a shared fully equipped camper’s kitchen with laundry facilities in a renovated historic stone building, which made for a welcome retreat on a stormy night. Campers can also use the toilet and shower facilities in the bunkhouse and there is free WiFi. The owners of the campsite were super friendly and offered lots of help with pitching tents in the storm, picking up supplies at the nearby supermarket and so forth.
Camping fee: £8
Stage 6: Hamersay Hotel on North Uist
A special thank you goes out to the staff of Hamersay Hotel in Lochmaddy, who let me camp behind the hotel’s car park and use the public hotel facilities. While it is legal, it felt weird camping in the middle of a town and so I was very grateful to be able to camp a little out of sight near this hotel.
Alternatively, you could camp on a nearby playing field or down by the ferry terminal.
Stage 7: Gatliff Hostel on Bernerary
Gatliff Hostel on Berneray lies a bit outside of the main village on Berneray and is off the walking route, but it is a relaxing retreat by the sea, just a stone’s throw away from the beach. Like the hostel in Howmore, this hostel is run by the Gatliff Hebridean Hostels Trust. The same concept applies – advance bookings are not possible and there is an honesty box to place your fee in. The kitchen and common room in the main building have recently been renovated and are great facilities, the toilets and showers could do with a bit of upgrading. It is certainly not the cleanest hostel, but a wonderful location nevertheless. You can also camp in the dunes nearby and use the facilities for a reduced fee.
Bunk bed: £16 / camping fee: £10
Rest Day: Am Bothan bunkhouse on Harris
The modern Am Bothan bunkhouse became my refuge on a rainy and misty night in Leverburgh. I managed to get my own 4-bedroom and made use of the generous lounge and kitchen facilities. I really enjoyed my stay there, only the owner seemed to have a lot of feelings about me writing notes on my map – and couldn’t stop sharing how upset he was about it… I don’t know if I’d return, as I didn’t feel very welcome after I had met him – but the hostel itself is very well-equipped and cosy.
Bunk bed: £25
Stage 8: Horgabost campsite on Harris
My initial plan for stage 8 was to pitch my tent on the campsite by Horgabost beach, one of the long sandy beaches on Harris – but everything changed, and ended up heading back to Leverburgh that night. I saw the campsite from above though, and it looked like you could take you tent all the way to the edge of the beach and camp with a view of the sea. The campsite is about a mile off the route, but the views you’d wake up to, seem worth the detour!
Camping fee: £8
Stage 9: Minch View campsite on Harris
For some reason, Minch View campsite in Plocrapool is not listed in the hiking guidebook, even though it is just 5 minutes off the route on the east coast of Harris. The toilet and shower facilities could do with a little upgrade, but in this hilly and rocky region of Harris, it is great that you can find an even, grassy spot to camp on at all! 5 minutes from the campsite you can have a picnic by the sea and watch the boats float past to Tarbert in the distance.
Camping fee: £7
Stage 9: No 5 Hostel on Harris
Also on the route, No 5 Hostel is a modern bunkhouse in the picturesque harbour village of Drinishader. They don’t offer camping on site and were full when I came by, so I haven’t stayed there myself. There is budget accommodation in the hostel, as well as private accommodation in the self-catering croft house next door.
Bunk bed: £21
There are also hostels in Tarbert and in Stornoway, but I did not have an overnight stop planned in Tarbert and stayed at a B&B in Stornoway.
Stage 10: Vigadale House in North Harris
Hostess Cristina has converted an old croft house into a cosy guest house with three bedrooms (one single, one double and one family room). Vigadale House also has a guest lounge area, a kitchen with “help yourself” fridge for breakfast and dinner, laundry facilities, a generous sun deck and a hot tub. And yes, a hot tub – and it has mountain views! I could have stayed here for a whole week, explored the valleys around Loch Seaforth, played with the two resident kittens and relaxed on the deck. A true haven right on the walking route.
You can book Vigadale House on AirBnB – I stayed in the Mountain Room.
Stage 12: Stornoway Bed & Breakfast on Lewis
I spent two nights in Stornoway at the end of my trip and felt like I found a home away from home at Stornoway Bed & Breakfast. My host Rachael made me feel welcome from the second I entered the building. “You must be Kathi,” she said and offered to carry my big backpack all the way to my room on the top floor. There are 9 rooms across two buildings (one of them a 175-year-old listed building), a guest lounge and a breakfast room where Rachael dishes up continental and cooked breakfast that fills you for days.
The B&B is in the middle of town, a 10-minute walk from the official end of the trail by Lews Castle and a stone’s throw from local shops, restaurants and pubs. It is also a great location to base yourself if you stay on the Isle for longer – and if you do, make sure you check out my road trip guide for Lewis!
It is very easy to do the Hebridean Way on a budget, especially if you are prepared to bring your own tent on the journey. I hope that my accommodation guide for the Hebridean Way will help you to plan your own trekking trip to the Outer Hebrides!
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All photos by Kathi Kamleitner.
Disclaimer: My trip was supported by Vaude with gifted camping equipment, CalMac with complimentary ferry tickets and VisitScotland who covered my accommodation in Stornoway. All opinions are my own.