13 May 2015
I have visited 5 islands in the Inner Hebrides to walk and climb, and though I have planned trips to the Outer Hebrides I have never followed through. In his ‘The Hebrides’ author Peter Edwards makes me realise what I've been missing. There are 22 chapters to embrace the 50 selected routes, with an introduction to each of the various islands and then details of the separate walks.
The geographical area covered is from Islay in the south to Lewis in the north, and from popular Skye in the east to remote St Kilda in the west. Peter Edwards describes 50 walks ranging from such as the unchallenging 4½ miles to Ardnave Point on Islay to 17 gruelling miles along The Trotternish Ridge on Skye. Multi-day demanding expeditions are catered for with the likes of the almost 40 miles of pathless terrain around Jura, or the 25 miles of a combined coast and mountain circuit on the extreme west of Lewis. A small map of the whole area is incorporated on the rear cover flap and a larger scale in the introductory section to locate walks, and within the text are other small maps identifying collections of adjacent walks, plus detailed OS map extracts for individual routes. Walk details take up over 200 pages, followed by appendices including a Route Summary Table, a Glossary, a list of Useful Contacts, and a form of Bibliography.
Peter Edwards has written about a number of Scottish islands as pocket-sized guidebooks, but his ‘The Hebrides’ is more of a coffee table publication, and yet it comprehensively gives all the information required by would-be walkers (I foresee a spate of photocopying!). The Hebrides is a hugely diverse area (with 10 designated National Scenic Areas) and the first 40 pages briefly cover geology, history, people, language, culture, wildlife (including midges!) and flora, plus advice on getting to the islands, when to go, getting around, what to take, access, river crossing, camping and bothies, together with information on safety, weather, maps and route-finding. More detailed information is presented with each walk using information ‘boxes’ to list OS maps for the walk, start/finish points with grid references, public transport (where available), distance, ascents and suggested times. A general description of the terrain is included with each walk, and where applicable further information is provided on estate contacts and issues such as deer stalking or bird nesting restrictions. Places of interest and viewpoints are also included, and the enthusiastic writing style with the author’s obvious love of the area positively encourages readers to visit.
From the pastures of Islay to the sea cliffs of St Kilda, and in between, there is great variety as volcanic peaks of Skye or the bogginess of Lewis. For all such diversity the text is enhanced by Peter Edwards’ magnificent photographs of mountains, cliffs, ridges, glens, lochs, rivers and coastal areas. Readers will soon become aware of the ruggedness and remoteness of the Hebrides, and they will appreciate how a selection of 50 routes cannot do justice to the spectacular beauty and adventurous atmosphere of the area. Walks are described on only 20 islands, yet the Hebridean archipelago comprises over 50 inhabited islands and some 100 uninhabited - so there is plenty to go for. The book may be too large and heavy to carry, and a 50 route selection cannot do justice to what is some of the finest walking in the British Isles, but its key role is stimulating, motivational - and more - ‘The Hebrides’ is inspirational. I am now planning a campervan trip sailing from Oban to Barra and then meandering across South Uist, Benbecula, North Uist, Harris and Lewis to return to the mainland from Stornoway. ‘The Hebrides’ demonstrates there is no shortage of challenges.