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Outer Hebrides Kitesurf Guide

Extreme HebridesThe Outer Hebrides (Western Isles) are an archipelago of islands on the west coast of Scotland. They stretch from the Isle of Lewis in the north to Barra in the south, a distance of 150 miles. Gaelic is the language of the islands but English is spoken by almost all. Many of the roads signs show both Gaelic & English spellings. The Gulf Stream keeps the turquoise unpolluted waters of the Atlantic warm by UK standards. There are beaches of clean white sand dotted all along the coasts of the island, many rarely visited by people. For kite surfers the area offers something for everyone from flat-water bays and lochs to wave riding paradise.

The largest of the islands is the Isle of Lewis. This also has the main town for the islands, Stornoway. For most travellers this is the island they will start their adventure on. It can be reached by air from Glasgow, Edinburgh or Inverness but check on luggage allowance as this can vary during high season. Alternatively it can be reached by ferry from Ullapool see: www.calmac.com. Also, a ferry can be caught from Uig on Skye to Tarbet on Harris. One option that many visitors to the islands take is an island hopper ticket from Calmac, which allows you to travel down through the islands. Much of the island still observes the Sabbath and visitors are asked to respect this. It should also be noted that there are very few places that open on a Sunday, and no ferries run between the islands or the mainland.

Luskentyre

For flat water riding on Lewis, ideal for beginners, there is Barvas (Barabhas) Loch on the west coast approximately 15 miles from Stornoway. This is a fresh water loch, mostly waist deep with a sandy bottom. Good in all wind directions. Kite surfers and windsurfers are welcome to use the Loch for their sport but not on a Sunday. Further north of Barvas there are several surf beaches not suited to kiting due to a lack of safe launch area. Swainbost has spectacular wave conditions for the experienced rider and a good launch area. Best in northwesterly and southwesterly winds.

South of Barvas on the west coast you pass many surfing beaches, again not best suited to kiting. Follow this road past the Callanish Standing stones (older than Stonehenge) and head south down to the area of Uig. Probably most scenic area on the Island. Here there is Reef beach (Riof) a beautiful beach with campsite. This beach is mostly flat water with many small off shore islands further out. Best in with the winds from the northerly directions.

Uig bay

Further along is Uig Bay (or Ardroil sands). A large expanse of beach (approx 1.5sq miles) it gets covered on spring tides with shallow water. The shape of the bay means it can be surfed in most directions except SE. Strong winds coming from southerly directions tend to be gusty due to the hills surrounding. Over to the north of Stornoway is Col beach. A safe beach but the water does get deep quickly. Suited to easterly winds.

Heading down the island from Stornoway you reach Harris, considered an island in its own right. Head past Tarbet and you will come across a huge expanse of sand. This is Luskentyre (Losgaintir), a sand spit at the sea end breaks the waves. Behind this is the bluest, flattest water perfect for kite surfing. Carry along the road past this beach you will come to Scarista (Sgarasta Bheag), another huge expanse of sand with flat water. Dotted around here are small beaches that cover most wind directions.

Further south in the archipelago, North Uist has miles of white sandy beaches stretching about 60 miles in all. Traigh Iar in Sollas at the north is a 3 mile horse shoe shaped beach which gets prevailling winds from the west. This means at the west end you get cross/offshore wind and cross/on shore at the east end. Surf can be clean overhead, especially good in Autum time. Round the corner which you can sail to at high tide, you can cruise a large shallow bay (about 2 miles across), perfect for beginners and experts. Onshore winds here in almost every wind direction. Even if you were in real trouble, you can wade across the bay. The water is 15 degrees at the warmest and around 8-9 at the coldest. There is a ferry service between the Isle of Harris and North Uist and another between the Isle of Skye, which you can drive to from the mainland, and Lochmaddy in North Uist. Ferry info at www.calmac.co.uk. Flights leave/arrive the next island down in Benbecula. All the islands are joined by causeways.

Traigh IarTraigh Iar surf

Many thanks to Dave from www.extremehebrides.com for this guide as well as local man Angus Johnson for the info on North Uist. Extreme Hebrides are specialists in powerkiting, kite buggying, kite land boarding and kite surfing holidays in the Outer Hebrides. Instruction is available in all kite sports using the latest equipment in the perfect environment of quiet beaches and plenty of wind. Check out their listing on Surfshacks here or visit Extreme Hebrides for more information.

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