There are myriad ways to reach the islands, some more straightforward than you might think. Daily direct flights connect Benbecula airport with Glasgow (45 minutes) and from there you can pick up a hire car and be at the Schoolhouse within half an hour. That said, if you have a little longer to spare, why not journey at a more leisurely pace and experience some of Scotland’s very best highland scenery on the way? Travelling to the islands by train and boat is one of the most romantic and memorable ways to reach the Western Isles, perfectly complementing a longer stay exploring the best the Outer Hebrides has to offer. It’s easy to hire a car on the islands and the Schoolhouse can provide everything you need during your stay. On your way back, fly from Benbecula, taking in the fantastic aerial view of the islands. Alternatively take off from the world’s only beach landing strip on Barra, before returning home from Glasgow, inspired and exhilarated by your Scottish adventures.
If you prefer to drive from the mainland, visit Skye en-route, before catching the car ferry from Uig to Lochmaddy. Alternatively take the longer sailing from Mallaig (in summer) or Oban (in winter) in the Scottish Highlands, reaching Lochboisadale on South Uist in the still evening light having enjoyed breath-taking views of the Inner Hebrides from the deck, perhaps accompanied by dolphins and seals on your way.
From London to North Uist and Back: Our Favourite Way to Reach
+ Travelling from London we take the Caledonian Sleeper from Euston station to Fort William. We enjoy a quick drink in the bar before heading to our cosy berth for bed. We wake up to the beautiful scenery of the highlands before heading to the dining car for a hearty Scottish breakfast.
+ The train arrives just before 10am, and then it’s a quick transfer to the Jacobite Express – the steam train (of Harry Potter fame) that has been voted one of the most scenic rail journeys in the world.
+ We arrive in Mallaig in time for lunch – the pub, or fish and chips on the pier. Then there’s time for a decent walk and a cup of tea before catching the 5pm ferry to Lochboisdale on South Uist.
+ The ferry takes 3 hrs 45mins to reach Lochboisdale. If it’s good weather, the views over the Small Isles from the deck are fantastic. When luck’s been on our side, we’ve spotted birds of prey, seals, and dolphins swimming alongside the boat.
+ We get dinner on board the ferry, before it docks in Lochboisdale around 9pm. If it’s summertime, it’s still bright outside and we enjoy watching the harbour drawing closer as we reach our destination.
+ We collect a hire car from the harbour in Lochboisdale (pre-arranged) and drive to the Schoolhouse (just under an hour away).
+ Reach the Schoolhouse just after 10pm, in time for a tot of whisky before bed!
+ On our return trip we drive the car to Eriskay and drop it off at the ferry terminal here (for collection by the hire company, pre arranged) before catching the ferry to Barra as foot passengers (40mins).
+ The Barra circular bus normally meets the boat, and takes you to the airport in five minutes. Alternatively it’s a 45 minute walk (or if we’ve struck up a conversation on board, we might be lucky and be offered a lift!)
+ If we have time to spare, we head to the beautiful white sand beach just beyond the airport through the machair (Traigh Uais). Otherwise we grab a coffee at the excellent airport café, check in, and wait to watch our plane arriving from Glasgow and landing on the sand.
+ With the excitement of taking off from the beach and island strewn view from the window, the 45 minute flight to Glasgow feels shorter. From there we catch a connecting flight black to London.
Below is some more detailed information about reaching North Uist and the Schoolhouse. Undoubtedly part of the magic of a trip to the islands is deciding how to travel, but with so many options as to routes and transport modes it can sometimes seem a little daunting!
If you require help, guidance or assistance planning your journey then please don’t hesitate to contact us. We would be more than happy to help.
North Uist can be reached by car ferry from Uig in Skye to Lochmaddy. Caledonian MacBrayne operates the route seven days a week. The ferry takes 1 hr and 45 minutes. The house is a 25 minute drive from the Lochmaddy ferry terminal. Alternatively, there is a daily sailing from Mallaig on the mainland to Lochboisdale on South Uist. This ferry takes 3 hrs 30 minutes. Lochboisdale ferry terminal is approx. 1 hrs drive from the house. The route to Mallaig (whether by train or car) is one of the nicest in Scotland, and as a result, the Mallaig ferry is out preferred way to reach the house.
Please note: during the winter months, Monday and Friday sailings are between Oban and Lochboisdale rather than Mallaig and Lochboisdale – if you are visiting the Schoolhouse in winter, this is a beautiful scenic crossing, though considerably longer – circa 5 hours – though if you are coming from the south, the driving time is considerably shorter which compensates).
If you are not intending to bring a car to North Uist it is pretty simple to travel to the islands as a foot passenger by ferry. Both Mallaig and Oban are well served by trains from Glasgow. In this case, car hire can be arranged from any of the islands’ ferry terminals. Cyclists are also very welcome on the ferries.
If you are visiting another part of the Western Isles before coming to the Schoolhouse, you can of course travel by inter-island ferry from both the Isles of Harris/Lewis and the Isle of Barra. From Harris, the ferry runs from Leverburgh to Berneray and takes approx. 1 hr. The house is a 35 minute drive from the Berneray ferry terminal. From Barra, the ferry runs from Ardmhor on Barra to the island of Eriskay and takes approx. 40 minutes. The house is 1hr 10 minutes drive from the Eriskay ferry terminal.
Sailings from the mainland to these islands are as follows:
+ Oban to Castlebay (Barra) 4 hrs 45 minutes
+ Ullapool to Stornoway (Lewis) 2 hrs 30 minutes
+ Uig (Skye) to Tarbert (Harris) 1hr 4o minutes
Please note, it is very important to check ferry timetables in advance and to book ahead if you are bringing a vehicle (ferry’s can get booked up, especially in the peak, summer months.) All ferry timetables can be found on the Caledonian MacBrayne website: https://www.calmac.co.uk
Generally, if you are driving up from the south, there are so many scenic-route options through Scotland that it’s definitely worth considering whether you’d like to arrive via Skye or via Mallaig/Oban, or if time permits via Ullapool (and Lewis/Harris). All are great locations in their own right, and wonderful places to spend a day/night (or a few!) en-route. One of the nicest drives up involves getting the ferry from the mainland to Arran; then crossing Arran and taking another ferry to Kintyre; before driving up the peninsula and Scotland’s west coast to Oban and onto Mallaig (it does take a few days to get to Uist – but it’s worth it!)
Besides being the quickest way to arrive, flying to the islands gives you an excellent birds eye view of the archipelago and is the best way to see the how the topography varies from island to island and between the east the west coats. If it’s a clear day, the colour of the water is mesmerising – as is trying to identify all the small islands, coves and beaches that you never get to see from the islands’ roads!
Flybe operate daily flights from Glasgow to Benbecula, and the airport and runway are right by the water. The flight time is approx. 45 minutes and the Schoolhouse is a 30 minute drive from the airport. Car hire is available through Ask Car Hire. On weekdays, there are also direct flights to Benbecula from both Inverness and Edinburgh airports operated by Loganair.
Additionally, daily flights from the mainland serve both the Isle of Barra, and Stornoway on Lewis. From these places the house can be reached via the inter-island ferry network (see above).
The flight to/from Barra is one of the most unique in the world – the landing strip is on the beach itself, and as a result the flight timetable depends on the tides. If travelling by air (and you have the time) it’s worth considering taking this flight and then catching the ferry from Barra to Eriskay as foot passengers, before picking up a hire car in Eriskay. (Barra is well-served by buses so it’s not too difficult to get around without a car). Alternatively you could fly the Barra route back to the mainland, and arrive to North Uist in a different way (e.g. by train and boat, or flight to Benbecula). Note, if arranged in advance, the islands’ car hire operators can be flexible in terms of differing ferry terminals and/or airports for hire vehicle pick up and drop off.
Please note: Further, detailed instructions on how to reach the Schoolhouse from the islands’ ferry terminals and airports will be provided to all guests with confirmed bookings.