St Kilda

I first read of St Kilda in Pocket Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Not Visited and Never Will. I assumed I would never visit these islands either. But when I came across the name of the island again while researching where to go in the Hebrides, I was intrigued and really wanted to go. 

The journey is not a simple one, if you are even able to make it at all. You are allocated a two-day window for the trip when you book with one of the boats that make the four-hour voyage from the Isle of Harris. We were lucky and the weather allowed us to go on the first day of our window (which worked out because the second day was not so good). 

We boarded the small boat of twelve along with two crew members at eight in the morning. From there it was four hours of nothing but ocean and rain to Hirta, or Hiort, the main island. When we got there, a little dingy took us to shore where the warden greeted us and gave an introduction and map to the island. 

The island is no longer inhabited with the exception of a few military personnel and volunteers. The last of the St Kildans voluntarily evacuated the island in 1930. We had the island to ourselves for the next four and a half hours. 

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On the return trip home, we circled through the sea stacks and the island Boreray to see the largest bird colony in the North-east Atlantic. We spotted a dozen species of seabirds, including our favourite, the puffin. 

It is amazing that a group of Hebrideans were able to survive on this isolated island for as long as they did. I feel very fortunate to have seen the island and the remains of their village. It was a long and exhausting journey, but so worth it. 

Isle of Lewis & Harris

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You wouldn't believe it was Scotland looking at the Isle of Lewis and Harris. Situated on the northwestern edge of the Outer Hebrides, the terrain is rocky with plenty of vast sandy beaches. Lewis and Harris are actually one large island, though often referred to as two. We stayed on Harris, the southern end, most famous for its tweed. 

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The highlight of the trip was our stay at a self-catering accommodation. It is a beautifully designed cottage which faces west towards what was once thought to be the edge of the world. We spent the nights relaxing in front of a fire while watching the sun set over the sound. 

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The Three Chimneys

Luckily for us, the Isle of Skye is a bit of a culinary destination in the Hebrides. There are quite a few renowned restaurants on the island. We decided on The Three Chimneys and opted for the eight-course Skye Land & Sea Tasting Menu. 

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LOCH HARPORT & DUNVEGAN

raw & cooked langoustines — crispy oyster —cucumber

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DUNVEGAN CRAB

pickled fennel — brown crab ketchup — pollen

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ROASTED SCONSER SCALLOP

salt baked celeriac — sour apple — smoked sea dashi

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MISO STEAMED COD

purple sprouting broccoli — squid — sea purslane

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MACLEODS MAIDENS VENISON TARTARE

mushroom — walnut ketchup — pine oil

ORBOST FARM BEEF

onion — new season garlic — starthdon blue

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PRESSED APPLE

bramble — elderberry — hazelnuts

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RHUBARB & HIBISCUS

Crowdie mousse — wheatgrass — white chocolate — beetroot

Isle of Skye

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It's 3:30 AM and we stumble into our rental car. Driving through a stretch of single-track roads, we finally make it to the base. We are going to hike up the Old Man of Storr for sunrise. It starts off reasonably well. We cross a few gates and the trail turns from asphalt to dirt. It should only take about forty-five minutes. The first light starts to peak and we are racing against the sun. Just when you think it can't get any steeper, we realize where you actually want to be is at the top of the cliff facing the pinnacles. 

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It was a strenuous hike but when you make it to the top you are rewarded with the most iconic view of Skye. We spend the next few days seeing as much as we can; there's the Quiraing, the aptly named Fairy Pools, Fairy Glen, Cuillin Hills and Rubha nam Brathairean, Gaelic for Brother's Point.

We left feeling as though we had only scratched the surface. 

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Isle of Islay

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One of Scotland's five whisky producing regions, Islay is home to eight distilleries (and yes, we visited them all). Except for the newest distillery, Kilchoman, all the other distilleries are located by the sea. After flying in through Glasgow, the next three days included driving around the entire island, sampling whisky and stopping at historic ruins. 

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The Isle of Jura is only a five-minute ferry ride from Islay and has its own whisky distillery. Other than the main settlement of Craighouse, the island is pretty barren and sparsely populated. We didn't stay long, but if there's ever a place you needed to go to and get away, this would be it. 

While we were not huge whisky drinkers before this trip, we had fun touring the distilleries and might just keep a bottle stored away for the occasional dram. 

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