A BREATHTAKING FOOT TRAVERSE OF THE ENTIRE CHAIN OF THE OUTER HEBRIDES FROM SOUTH TO NORTH.
This 6-day running adventure traces a route the entire length of the inhabited isles of the Outer Hebrides, and passes through the most superlative coastlines, beaches, hillsides, sea and inland loch and river terrain in Scotland and the UK.
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*price per month, depending on departure day when you sign up in March, click here for more info on pricing
28 SEPT – 5 OCT / 2023
25 SEPT - 2 OCT / 2025
185 MILES (298 KM) ON FOOT
OUTER HEBRIDES, SCOTLAND
8 DAYS /
DIFFICULTY RATING: CAN I DO THIS?
You should have some experience of multi day endurance running.
7 nights accommodation (hotel, bunkhouse, hostel).
All meals included as standard, at hotels and in camp, cooked up by our expert catering crew*
Transfers to and from Tyndrum and ferry tickets.
GUIDES AND SUPPORT
Professional 4x4 support vehicles, safety staff, medical and welfare
Professional local and UK safety staff, medics, drivers, route safety staff and Rat Race experts on hand throughout. Audited and accredited to BS8848 expedition safety standard.
Flexible transfer policy.
High quality medal, rat rag and premium t-shirt for all participants.
*For the remaining 2 evening meals, plus any meals bought aboard the ferry crossings, you will prepare / buy your own food. We will have communal cooking facilities and you may wish to use expedition ‘boil-in-the-bag’ style food for these evenings. For ferry crossings, food will be available to purchase on the boats.
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Firstly, it completes the 150-miles of the entire Hebridean Way, then on the 6th day, an additional 35-miles to reach the Butt of Lewis – the lighthouse built at the northern tip of these isles.
The running is generally on good flat trails and roads, though sometimes the trails are faint and slippery in the low hills, and peaty in the lowest areas – but these are mostly maintained using a ditch-and-causeway construction method, and sometimes topped with stone and boardwalk, and using many bridges to cross bodies of water.
There are also some memorable sections of more challenging trail in South Harris. On many main road sections, there are characterful causeways that connect the islands. The prevailing weather is generally coming up from behind or the side – west-south-west.
Pit Stops are provided by the support vehicles and are best deployed into the middle of each day, and again at dusk.
DAY ONE: TRAVEL DAY
28 SEPT 2023 / 25 SEPT 2025
Arrive Tyndrum (current RV time 10:30am) for transfer to Barra. This evenings accommodation with be at Castlebay, Barra.
DAY TWO: THE EVENT STARTS
29 SEPT 2023 / 26 SEPT 2025
After an early breakfast, the support vehicles take the group to the southernmost island of Vatersay.
Starting at the terminus marker of the Hebridean Way, at Vatersay Bay Beach, the run commences on the island road and soon crosses the causeway back onto Barra. After winding around many of Barra’s hills the route descends towards the famous airfield beach of Traigh Mhor, then east on road to Ardmhor ferry terminal.
The ferry crossing over the Sound of Barra enables some admin time, before landing at the island of Eriskay and continuing over another causeway and on low-level trails and roads around the coastline of South Uist. The route often accesses ‘the machair’ – a comfortable mix of sand and grass, and at low tide options on the hard beach sand. Heading due north, the day ends near Stoneybridge or perhaps Howmore, before transport south to the accommodation at Daliburgh. If ferry sailings were changed due to sea state or very low tides, then a different end point might result.
30 SEPT 2023 / 27 SEPT 2025
This day starts with a continuation of the coastal region, before soon heading inland to weave through the maze of lochs and waterways, on peat paths. A causeway leads from South Uist onto Benbecula, past a Co-op supermarket, and where once again the route heads to the west coast and a mix of path and road, before heading east to peat paths and the summiting of Benbecula’s highest hill Rhuabhal, giving spectacular 360-degree views of the whole island and beyond.
Benbecula is then soon left, and several causeways lead onto North Uist, via the Isle of Grimsay. The route soon heads back onto peat paths across moorland and around sea lochs to reach Langais (Hotel, Standing Stones and Hill). Transport would take runners from this area back to Benbecula.
1 OCT 2023 / 28 SEPT 2025
From Langais the route soon parallels the main road using the old tarmac road, and the edge of Lochmaddy is reached.
Turning west, a predominantly off-road section heads around the shoulders of hills and across peat tracks again, until crossing the causeway from North Uist to the island of Berneray and the ferry terminal.
The ferry crossing over the Sound of Harris, notable for its extraordinary route through islands and skerries (rock reefs), enables admin time before landing at Leverburgh. Making use of final daylight is important as the ongoing route ascends on road then through a shallow mountain pass, before views and descent towards Scarista beach, and perhaps a two-mile road section northward to Scarista, before transport returns the group to Leverburgh and South Harris.
If ferry sailings were changed, due to sea state and/or very low tides, then a different end point might result.
2 OCT 2023 / 29 SEPT 2025
Importantly, this day starts with one of the more challenging off-road sections, around the shoulders of numerous hills, on rough and steep ground, but with extensive seaward beach views, especially of Luskentyre beach and estuary. Once this rough section is complete, the route eases through the ‘Coffin Road’ and heads to the east coast of South Harris and the ‘lunar’ rock landscape of the ‘Golden Road’. Here the route accesses a mix of old drove roads and tarmac roads on a long arc into Tarbert – a useful place for a Support Point.
Heading east out of Tarbert, the route soon swings due north through a remote glen then gathers some road and trail miles above Loch Resort – reported to be the longest sea loch in Scotland – before descending through the mountains and effectively marking the transition from Harris into Lewis.
With the main road nearby, and after a short detour over the hill of Griamacleit, the day concludes at a car park within a rare Hebridean environment – a forest. Transport takes the group north to Stornoway – accommodation for both of the final nights of the trip.
3 OCT 2023 / 30 SEPT 2025
The shortest day of the trip: Restarting at the forest, the route follows the old road parallel to the main road until skirting inland on peat trails, and returning to travel the road through the village of Balallan – the longest in Scotland. There are other short peat trail loops in this area, until the village of Laxay, where a significant and remote route is taken over the peat moors to Achamore, and after crossing the main road, 8-miles of minor road, connecting to the Pentland Road, which takes us to the edge of Stornoway.
The final mile sees woodland again, and the park surrounding Stornoway Castle, though this Castle is skirted to reach the Hebridean Way terminus marker at the Woodland Centre car park, near the harbour edge.
Although marking the end of the Hebridean Way, this trip has a stronger mission.
There is an option and benefit to head west out of Stornoway and attempt more of the route until the end of the day, and the support transport would then return the group to the accommodation.
4 OCT 2023 / 1 OCT 2025
This final day is the present aspirational extension to the Hebridean Way and firstly follows the B road to beyond Tolsta, and the acclaimed Traigh Mhor and Traigh Garry beaches.
The route now takes a dramatic change of surface. Initially the track is wide and departs over an isolated ‘bridge to nowhere’ before heading up onto moors, away from the sea cliffs. The route here is indistinct, and rough with heather, peat and bog grass. Notorious and known as the ‘Heritage Trail’, it has never been maintained, despite the markings on maps – just a few marker posts give occasional reassurance. After several miles, ruins are encountered, and the emergence of tracks that link to peat cuttings, and their associated huts.
Once the main track is reached, the going is much simpler and the houses of the suburbs of Ness are passed, before descending to the harbour and then following the north coast, past the bridge to the sea stack settlement of Dun Eistean, and eventually the last section of road to the lighthouse and cliffs at the Butt of Lewis.
5 OCT 2023 / 2 OCT 2025
Transfer back to Tyndrum (own accommodation if required, go home)
We will use a selection of good HOTELS, BUNKHOUSES and HOSTELS. In all locations, your accommodation is inclusive within your entry fee.
Hotel and B and B accommodation is always offered on a double or twin room basis. If you are taking part on your own, you will be paired with another participant of the same sex in a twin room.
At refuge the accommodation is in mixed dormitories.
Brekky will vary with our location day-to-day. When we are starting early (which comes part and parcel of such an epic journey!) then we will provide ‘grab n’ go’ materials – pastries, fruit, porridge pots, yoghurts and other simple items that you can either eat before the off, or take with you on the initial portion of the route that day. When we are staying in hotels and guesthouses, we will endeavor to provide cooked and continental options in line with the hotel’s standard offerings.
We will typically eat at the hotel or accommodation we are staying in, or a close-by local restaurant. When eating in bunkhouses, the food may be prepared by our team. At all times and whatever the solution we present, Rat Race will provide a hearty main course and dessert. If you wish to augment with other selections when we are in the restaurants such as starters and alcoholic drinks, you may do so of course. You will settle the bill for your own drinks. On the final night in Stornoway, the first round is on us!
During the challenge you will have access to our Pit Stops multiple times throughout the journey. These will have a minimum of the following available:
Water – Ensure you leave with water bottles and bladders filled so you have enough to get you to the next Pit Stop.
Sports Food Bars – oat-type bars for maximum energy.
Salty snacks – such as chips and peanuts.
Savoury treats – We will feature some fresh local foods and other goodies at selected pit stops, around lunchtime.
A fruit option – such as oranges, bananas, melon and watermelon.
Sweets – including local speciality sweet treats.
A variety of sandwiches, pastries and cakes.
We may even ensure a selection of local baked good is available at select Pit stop locations!
Our Pit Stops are there to help supplement any personal sports nutrition plan you may have – if you use gels and other such products – you should plan to bring these with you. If you have any special dietary requirements, then please also plan for this and pack your kit accordingly. Rat Race aim to offer Pit Stop snacks that are tasty and functional, catering to as broad a mix of needs and diets as possible. We have options available that are suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets and availability of this will depend on demand. If peanuts are served these will be in individual portioned bags to reduce the chance of contamination but Rat Race cannot guarantee that the food does not contain contamination from allergens such as nuts or gluten in its preparation or serving.
Please make sure you sanitise your hands prior to eating any food. Please, please, please take care with your trash and help us in our aim of leaving these incredible islands tidier than we find them. This is even more critical in this environment, with any lost trash instantly becoming a choking hazard for the marine life we are here to admire.
The date-range is set and the route is tried and tested. However, our challenges unfold in some of the most spectacular places on Earth. Sometimes we do have to change plans on account of weather, injury or other unforeseen factors. If we do have to do so, you will be informed and usually, these unforeseen changes simply add to the flavour of proceedings and provide for a good story to tell at day’s end!
We are mindful that people will inevitably have varying distances to travel to get to Scotland. Our plan allows an easy logistic to get to the starting point on the Scottish mainland at Tyndrum, with us then providing all onward travel to and back from The Isles. Tyndrum is therefore the start and finish point of our set itinerary.
We have designed this challenge so that you may travel at your own pace. See below for our notes on route-finding and guidance. There will also be some cut-offs, but in the true Rat Race tradition these will be generous and we will always look to help you to achive your goals in finishing this challenge, vs having to pull out. Of course, we are giving you some VERY early starts to allow the very best possible window for route completion. But, if you need us and if you need to abandon the route for whatever reason, we are there for you. The absolute key is that you enjoy this amazing journey from on tip of the island chain to the other; at your own pace and within your own limits.
The Hebridean Way is signed with marker posts and arrows, and with normal observation and assistance from our guiding staff, the route is fairly simple to follow. Darkness in early morning and evenings, and the final Day 6 does pose some challenges, and our guiding staff and the GPX file, combined, will assist well.
We will use a mixture of guides, waymarking, pit stops and support vehicles to support you at intervals by our mobile ‘pit stop’ team. We will have multiple vehicles at our disposal, plus multiple staff members, snacks and drinks to distribute. So, if it does get too much, if you overheat, get too cold, need sustenance, motivational support or otherwise, we should be able to assist. You are in good hands.
You will be transferred from Tyndrum to the isles and back again. Indeed all transfers throughout the challenge are fully inclusive within the format.
As an alternative, you may wish to fly to the Isles from Glasgow International airport.
Click Buy Event Voucher Now and go through the sign up process, you’ll then be issued with an event voucher which will automatically reserve you a place in the event you have chosen.
Yes. See our specification on food and accommodation in the section above.
Rat Race require you to be over 18 on the day of Registration.
This is a very big challenge set over a full week on foot BUT the Rat Race ethos is to provide extraordinary challenges for ordinary people. You do not need super-technical skills or to be a seasoned endurance athlete. You need a good base fitness and train for a big mountain ascent over several hours. It’s a very big undertaking, but it is definitely designed to be ‘doable;’ and not a sufferfest. You have it in you. We will ensure we support you the very best way we possibly can.
Sorry we cannot accommodate dogs on the route, or in the accommodation.
We have firm emergency protocols and response systems in place whilst out on our adventures. Our main priority above all else is to keep you and our staff safe. Before we leave for each trip a comprehensive in-country risk and threat assessment has been conducted by the Head of Expeditions. All protocols are put in place relating to those assessments. We make sure that the staff involved have the highest level of first aid training; a higher level of medical cover is also put in place if needed; all instructors have qualifications and/ or competencies to match the adventure we will undertake. In the event of an emergency, Rat Race staff and appointed contractors have comprehensive knowledge of procedures which will rapidly be put in place. If needed, our staff will provide first aid and then further medical assistance and evacuation if needed in line with a published Medical Procedures Plan. We have medical back-up and Clinical Directorship provided by a specialist events medical company and we have further emergency response support services provided by competent contracted partner. All our cover is available 24/7 while operations are underway. We use our knowledge and emergency procedures to provide the best possible care in our often remote and austere environments. Before leaving on a trip, we will advise on the insurance cover you are required to have in place for the trip; we will ask for a copy of these insurance details before the departure date.
Once you’ve signed up, you will receive a confirmation email. After that, you will be kept in the loop closer to the event when we will send out our Essential Event Information approximately three months ahead of the event, detailing the full itinerary, what you need to bring and other important information relating to the specific event you have signed up for. We will also host webinars which you will be invited to (again, closer to the event), where you will have the opportunity to ask questions and go through your kit. There will be a final email one month ahead of the event, just to check you’ve completed all the important forms and are ready for the event ahead.
If you have chosen to pay in instalments, we will also contact you if any of your payments have been missed. Please ensure you regularly check your spam folders and have firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com added to your ‘approved / safe’ email senders.
Getting to the start line is important and we are there to help you as best we can. However, if you feel on reflection that it is just not your time yet, we do have a transfer system that you can use to transfer out, receive Rat Race credit and come back again next year or do something else. Credit is typically valid for 12 months and there is a fee to be paid for transferring out in this way. We want to be really clear that this option is there for you if you need it, but it does have a deadline. View our full terms and conditions here.
Race entry includes a brilliant finishers medal and bespoke event Rat Race tech tee. We will request your t-shirt size in the event details form 3 months ahead of the event and this will be the size you will be given at Registration.
See the 'Kit List' section.
If you need to bail, we will collect you via the Sweeper vehicles and move you forwards on the course (subject to medical advice if it is a medical issue that has forced you to pull out). We are unable to transport you backwards (i.e. we cannot take you back to the start). If you need to pull out where we cannot access the route with vehicles as easily, in all cases we will ask you to move to a location where we can access by vehicle, or we will evacuate with medical personnel if required.
Mixed. See the itinerary for more details.
This kit list is from our 2022 event - you will be notified of any changes to this list ahead of the event you have signed up for. Subject to small changes depending on weather conditions.
MANDATORY KIT LIST
Trail Running Shoes: Good grip tread for off-road running.
Waterproofs: Full body cover. Alternative wind proof full body cover is recommended. BUY HERE
Tops and Bottoms: Long sleeve tops and full leg bottoms. Shorts are NOT recommended but are allowable. Short-sleeve tops are an option only in addition to the above.
Spare Warm Top: To be carried. Can be down, but must be in a dry bag. BUY ONE HERE
Socks – Several pairs: Merino is a good choice material. Consider Gore-Tex, Sealskinz, or possibly thin Neoprene waterproof socks.
Gloves and Spare Gloves, Hat and Spare Hat: Best if these are water resistant. BUY HERE
Ultra-Vest / Rucksack and Accessories: Advised capacity in the range of 10-20 litres. Use dry bags to house water sensitive kit. Some reflectivity on your vest/pack/clothing, for road running at night. Consider a small red rear light.
Headtorch and Spare Headtorch: each of minimum 150 Lumens and each water resistant (with spare batteries as applicable).
First Aid Kit: Plasters, small bandages and small wound dressings, safety pins. BUY HERE
Foot-Care Kit: Consider Compeed, Blister Kits, Creams, Talc, Plasters.
Personal Medication and Health Care: Consider pain relief, Aspirin, anti-inflammatories, any personal medications, toileting medications such as Laxatives and Imodium, Sudocrem or similar anti-chafe cream, strapping bandages, sun cream.
Hygiene and Sanitation Kit: Toilet paper and small poly bag, Anti-bacterial wipes. Consider a toilet trowel.
Hydration Kit (BUY HERE): Water bottles and/or bladders, electrolyte powders, salt tablets. If choosing to bring soft flasks, consider wider mouths that are easier to fill from streams, or solid bottles. Water purification/filter equipment is NOT essential.
Misc Safety Equipment: Whistle (BUY ONE HERE), carbon hand warmers, survival blanket (BUY ONE HERE) or bag. Smartphone with waterproof phone case or bag. Cash money and credit card.
Day Sack/Bag/Small Holdall (Daily Support Bag): To contain favourite foods and drinks, food bags, drinking vessel (characterful mug), warm clothing, spare footwear, remote phone charging equipment, torch batteries, sanitising gel and wipes, ankle strapping, small towel. Best if these are waterproof as they are likely to be laid out in the weather at times. A Day Sack may also be useful as a second choice running sack. BUY HERE
Running Snacks and Hydration: 1 to 2-litres water*/juice, energy bars, energy gels, electrolyte tablets or powder, sweets, dried fruit and other foods including savoury. Although the Pit Stops and your Vehicle Holdall will have more provisions, you must carry favourite food and hydration in your rucksack / vest / pockets, at all times. Consider best watertight containers and packets, including a method for managing wrapper litter. Consider packing fresh food such as sandwiches and fruit each day. NOTE: *Running water is not always abundant on the flatter islands. Click here to buy our Pit Stop Bars.
Some form of hi-vis for the road running sections.
Spare warm clothing
Spare footwear (to be kept clean)
Toiletries & Medicines
Personal food and drink treats
Long spork eating utensil, for expedition food sachets or similar
Phone charging equipment
Cash money and credit card
NOTE: Bedding is supplied by the venues
Optional - recommended kit
Wind-proofs: Full body cover.
Ankle debris gaiters.
Spare footwear for running.
Ear muffs / buff / headband. It can be very windy in the Outer Hebrides.
GPS device or App on phone. Uploaded GPX file of route.
Toileting trowel for the remote lands.
Tick removal tool and Midge repellent. Ticks and midges are rare in these Isles, in September.
Evening footwear, such as crocs or trainers.
Sleeping aids: Consider eye shades and ear buds.
Personal additives and flavourings for food in the evening: Salt, Sugar and Sauces
Newspaper for stuffing into footwear to accelerate overnight drying.