The Outer Hebrides proved awesome and we're really glad we made the effort to visit. If you are contemplating a visit, here some random ramblings that may prove useful:
1. The whole island chain is very attractive but the further north you go the better it ain't. The southern islands are gems and are the most rewarding - they are the least inhabited and least touristy.
2. An exception was Great Bernera: an unexpected jewel.
3. Machair is to be found to the western coasts and supports fantastic birdlife.
4. The islanders (especially in the southern islands) are very warm and friendly. Random waves and smiles - and conversation for those who like that kind of thing - are very common.
5. The roads can be tough for vehicles with a wide track but local drivers are very patient and courteous. They appreciate you getting out of the way and letting them by on single-track roads.
6. Informal overnighting is incredibly easy: IF you show due respect. If you don't, you will rightfully end up tied to a Wicker Man.
7. We booked a hopscotch ticket with CalMac to save the faff of purchasing tickets en route. It's no cheaper but is valid for 30 days or so and is a hassle-free option. NB. If you decide you need to change your booked crossing times or dates you would be well advised to ring CalMac to re-arrange. Tipping up and waiting in the 'reserve' queue at any of the crossings is unlikely to result in a sailing once the summer timetable is in operation.
8. At all the CalMac sailing ports we visited we found excellent facilities for self-contained travellers including a warm shelter, clean toilets - sometimes including showers (£1 for hot water), chemical toilet disposal, parking, public WiFi and good tourist information.
9. Otters do not willingly show themselves.
10. The islanders at some locations show an odd regard for waste management. It's really, really common to find scrap vehicles, caravans, boats, and any quantity of beachcombed plastic tat stacked in public and private spaces alike (pic). Maybe this is born out of a need to be resourceful and never throw anything away but it's incongruous with the huge tracts of largely natural / semi-natural environment. You have to think if the population density much greater, the islands would be a real tip. Our species' regard for even the most outstanding natural environments is unsurpassed.
Sent from my Nexus 4.