Are you thinking of eloping to the Outer Hebrides? We’ve compiled everything you need to know in our comprehensive guide to planning your Outer Hebrides elopement. Feel free to reach out if you have any more questions or want to start your planning.
WHERE ARE THE OUTER HEBRIDES?
The Outer Hebrides or the Western Isles are a 130-mile long archipelago consisting of over 50 islands lying out in the wild Atlantic, around 40 miles off the coast of mainland NW Scotland. Many islands are uninhabited, with the main populated islands being Harris and Lewis (one landmass despite the two names), Berneray, North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist, Eriskay and Barra.
HOW TO GET TO THE OUTER HEBRIDES
There are two options for getting to the Outer Hebrides either take a ferry or fly. There are several ferry routes; the first, which goes to the northerly islands, is from Ullapool to Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis (the crossing takes around 2h 45). The second ferry option is from Uig in the north of the Isle of Skye (which is just 15 minutes from our house) to Tarbert on the Isle of Harris (the crossing takes around 1h 40) or Lochmaddy (North Uist). If you’d rather go to the more southerly islands, you can go from Oban to Barra, which takes around 4h 45, or from Mallaig to Lochboisdale (South Uist) in 3h 30.
It is essential to pre-book the ferry in advance as they can get booked up for weeks. To find out more details and to book your tickets visit the Calmac website here.
If you’d rather fly, there are three airports on the Outer Hebrides; Stornoway (Isle of Lewis), Benbecula, and Barra. You can take flights from most of the main Scottish airports and flights are around 1 hour. The airports are tiny, and if you fly into Barra, you’ll actually land on the beach - the only place in the world that has scheduled flights that do this!
Once you arrive on the island, you will need to hire a car as the public transport links on the island are pretty much non-existent. To find out more about flights, visit the Loganair website who operate all the flights to the Outer Hebrides.
ISLAND HOPPING ON THE OUTER HEBRIDES
No visit to the Outer Hebrides is complete without visiting at least a couple of the islands, and it’s easier than you think to do. Some of the islands are connected by bridges or causeways, and for the others, there are small drive-on ferries that run regularly to take you across the water to your next adventure. You can show up to book your spot, but we recommend pre-booking if you can, as they can fill up in the summer months. The drive-on ferries are between Harris-Berneray and Barra - Eriskay.
Many people start at one end and travel north or south to the other end of the archipelago. If you plan to do this, our top tip is to make sure that you book ferries to and from the mainland from either end, so you don’t have to drive all the way back down to your original ferry port.
The Outer Hebrides are a magical set of islands remote, wild, beautiful, with varied landscapes, rugged mountains in the north, unbelievably stunning white sand beaches around every corner, and peaceful lochs and moorland.
This is why we believe the Outer Hebrides are one of the best places in the world to elope. If you elope on the Outer Hebrides, you’ll have an experience you can’t get anywhere else in the world.
WHERE CAN YOU GET MARRIED ON THE OUTER HEBRIDES?
You can get married anywhere on the Outer Hebrides - on one of the countless stunning white sand beaches, up a mountain, anywhere you wish. All you need is a registered celebrant, and you are good to go. Some locations on private land require the land owners permission.
WHO CAN GET MARRIED ON THE OUTER HEBRIDES?
The great news is that anyone can get legally married on the Outer Hebrides. However, if you are not from the European Economic Area or Switzerland, there are a few extra steps to take, including applying for a Marriage Visitor Visa, which costs £100 and can be applied for up to 3 months in advance of your wedding. We advise starting the application exactly 3 months before, as it can be quite a long process, although there is a fast track option, which can get your decision in 5 days for £250. Read more information about preparing your visa paperwork to elope in the Outer Hebrides on the UK government's website.
HOW TO ELOPE ON THE OUTER HEBRIDES
Planning your elopement can be an overwhelming process and you might not know where to start. So let us take the stress out of it with our 13-step guide to planning your elopement on the Outer Hebrides, whether you are a local or getting married in the Outer Hebrides as a visitor.
DECIDE ON AN OUTER HEBRIDES ELOPEMENT
Deciding where in the world to elope isn't easy, but if you love wild, rugged coast lines, mile long white sand beaches with barely a person around, or have a love of history or nature, then the Outer Hebrides could well be for you. Just across the water from the popular Isle of Skye, the Outer Hebrides have a more laid back feel, where you're more likely to be joined by sheep and Highlands cows than other humans.
FInd your elopement photographer
We always recommend finding and booking your Outer Hebrides elopement photographer at the start of your planning journey. The reason for this is two-fold, firstly because we can get booked up quite far in advance, and secondly because a good elopement photographer should help you with the planning. We even offer an all-inclusive elopement package to make it even easier for you. Having a Zoom call to find out more and to see how you get on is important, we're always happy to have a no obligation chat with couples to help come up with ideas. Finally check out Google reviews to see what other couples thought about working with them
Decide when to elope on the outer hebrides
Once you've chosen your photographer you need to pick your date. The Outer Hebrides is beautiful at all times of year - but you should consider the day length (in mid-winter, there can be less than 7 hours of daylight), the average temperature, and tourism season. May is machair (wildflower) season and can add colour to your day. In general, we recommend elopements in the Outer Hebrides between April and September when the days are longer, and the weather is kinder. If you want the place to yourselves, weekdays and off-season are always quieter.
Find your vendors
Eloping requires far fewer vendors than a traditional wedding, but there are still some things that you may want to book. The only vendor you officially need (if you want a legal ceremony) is a celebrant. In Scotland, this can be either a religious or a belief celebrant. We recommend finding a Humanist celebrant through the Humanist Society Scotland, or an Inter faith celebrant through the One Spirit Interfaith Foundation, to conduct a unique ceremony focused on your love for each other. We can also give our personal recommendations for our favourite Scottish celebrants (and importantly the ones willing to travel to the Outer Hebrides) in our exclusive 98-page planning guide, that we send out to all our couples.
Other vendors you should consider are a videographer, a florist, a hair and makeup artist, and someone to provide some food. Again, we can help you with local recommendations of the best vendors.
Book your accommodation
The Outer Hebrides has many accommodation options, from country hotels to cool Air BnBs to glamping pods. Accommodation does book up quickly in the summer months, so don't hesitate in choosing where to stay. When eloping, you will likely spend more time in your accommodation than if you were having a traditional wedding. Hence, we think it’s important to pick somewhere really special, and remember it’s going to feature in your wedding photos, so you want it to look cool.
It depends on your location, but these are some of our favourite resources for finding the perfect accommodation for your wedding.
CoolStays - for extraordinary places to stay, this is the definitive collection of amazing places to stay.
Huts and Cabins - for cabins on the shore through to luxury huts in the mountains
Air BnB - for loads of options throughout Scotland
Please scroll down for some of our favourite places to stay in the Outer Hebrides.
We recommend looking for somewhere fairly close to your elopement location to cut down on travel time on your elopement day. Top tip: Driving on the Outer Hebrides is slow, as many roads are single track, so even if it looks close on the map, it may take a long time to travel.
Do the legal paperwork
If you plan to have a legal ceremony during your elopement, then there is some paperwork that you will need to complete, but before you start filling out paperwork, you need to speak with your celebrant. They will be able to tell you exactly what you need to do, but if you are keen to read more then all the information you need can be found on the National Records of Scotland website, including this handy leaflet snappily called the RM1 leaflet, and also the Marriage Notice Form, also known as the M10 form, which needs to be submitted between 3 months and no later than 29 days before your wedding.
Finalise timeline with your photographer
Once all the paperwork is organised, it’s time to finalise your elopement timeline with your photographer. The timeline will be unique to you as a couple, and we will help you craft an experience that reflects you as a couple, your passions, and your interests.
Choose your witnesses
In Scotland, you are required to have two witnesses to your legal wedding ceremony. This can be two of your guests, or if you are eloping just the two of you, we are very happy to act as your witnesses. You need to decide this before your wedding day as you need to specify who your witnesses will be on your paperwork.
Travel to the Outer Hebrides
All the planning is over, and it’s time to travel to your location in the Outer Hebrides for your elopement! We can help you with a list of ‘what to bring’, which will be personalised depending on your location and activity choice. Just don’t forget any paperwork, and you are set to go! International travel into Scotland is easy as Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness all have airports, or you can travel up from London via sleeper train or normal train. Once in Scotland, you can get to the Outer Hebrides via ferry or plane; see the section on how to get here for more information. The only way to get around is by car, so don’t forget your licence to hire a car.
Collect your marriage schedule
Before your elopement, you need to visit your Registrar to collect your marriage schedule. This has to be collected in person by one of the people getting married in the seven days before your wedding, and without it, your wedding cannot take place. So don’t forget to allow time in your travel schedule to fit this in. For this reason we do not recommend Monday elopements, unless you plan to be on the Outer Hebrides early on Friday.
Write your vows
One of the joys of eloping is that you don’t have to stick to a set wedding ceremony script; your ceremony and vows can be whatever you want. We recommend starting to write your vows well before your elopement day, but finishing them off on your wedding morning and writing them into beautiful vow books is a great way to kick off your wedding day.
It’s your elopement day; everything is planned, your elopement vendors have everything under control, and the two of you enjoy your magical Outer Hebrides elopement.
Return your marriage schedule and you’re all done
Before you head home, you must return your marriage schedule to the Registrar within three days of your wedding. Your celebrant will be able to help you further with arranging this.
Hopefully, most of your questions about eloping in the Outer Hebrides have been answered by our step-by-step Outer Hebrides elopement guide. Now let us help you answer the question- Where to elope on the Outer Hebrides?
Below we detail a few of our favourite Outer Hebrides elopement locations, but there are many more. So get in touch to discuss your options in more detail.
WHERE TO ELOPE ON THE ISLE ON THE OUTER HEBRIDES
You’re spoilt for options for an elopement location on the Isle of Harris and Lewis
Callanish (Calanais) Standing Stones
The Callanish Standing Stones are one of the most complete stone circles in Europe and have been at this site for 5000 years. Older than Stonehenge, the Callanish is a cruciform shaped stone circle whose layout considers the sun and moon and various phases and were a place of ritual activity. Still, it’s a mystery exactly what those rituals were. One legend is that every midsummer morning, the ‘Shining One’ walks between the stones after being summoned by the Cuckoo's call.
Today it makes an awe-inspiring location to say your vows atop the hill surrounded by ancient history, and we like to think a little magic. Ceremonies are permitted at the circle site but a donation to the Calanais Trust is encouraged.
Top tip: have a sunrise or sunset ceremony to avoid crowds, as this is a popular spot with other visitors, plus it looks incredible in the early/late light. IIn the summer months it is unlikely that you will get the entire place to yourself, but visitors are usually respectful of weddings taking place.
Scarista beach lies on the west side of Harris and looks out into the open Atlantic. The golden sand stretches for miles, and unlike its more famous neighbour, Luskentyre beach, Scarista remains a quiet spot due to the difficulty of finding the access point down to the beach. Sitting amongst the dunes and walking for miles along the beach is one of our favourite things to do on Harris.
Luskentyre is one of the most popular beaches in the Outer Hebrides, and it’s easy to see why. It feels like you’ve reached paradise when you emerge from the dunes onto the white sand and look across the deep blue water to the mountains of Harris. So we’re not surprised it was named one of the UK’s best beaches in the TripAdvisor Traveller’s Choice Awards! Luskentyre is the largest of the Harris beaches and would make a perfect elopement location. However, due to its popularity, we recommend a sunrise or sunset ceremony.
Secret Standing Stone
A walk across another stunning white sandy beach and up a hill takes you to this secret spot. A single standing stone standing over 3 metres high, it would make an impressive backdrop to your elopement ceremony. It's one of our favourite spots with views out to the Atlantic and a usually deserted beach to explore.
Balranald Nature Reserve
Home to a Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) nature reserve, Balranald has a sweeping white sand beach that looks incredible at sunset, as well as a 3-mile circular trail that passes through the machair (wildflower meadows) and hugs the rocky coastline. There’s a chance to see otters (we had two of them run right across our path), seabirds, and seals. It’s a magical spot that we highly recommend.
A wild camping spot in the north of North Uist, this peaceful spot has two beaches split by a headland. The beach to the west has high dunes and is a beautiful ceremony location.
There are plenty of choices of places to stay for your Hebridean wedding, from cute cabins to luxury country hotels. Here are a few that we would recommend.
Blue Reef Cottages
A comfortable, elegant hotel overlooking Scarista beach. For those looking for a catered option, this hotel has its own restaurant.
Two turf-roofed, luxury cottages complete with private sauna and jacuzzi near Scarista beach. We absolutely love these cottages!
Luxurious self-contained boutique pod rooms on the cliffs of Aird Uig, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean with a fantastic vista along the West coast of Lewis.
Sound of Harris
Chic and contemporary mid-century style holiday units, located in the remote splendour of south Harris, are a perfect retreat for your elopement.
Walk on stunning beaches or wrap up warm in front of the stove - Lewis Longhouse is a luxury home engulfed in calming natural beauty.
Tigharry School House
A traditional Scottish island cottage with a thatched roof, is situated in the centre of the beautiful island of Benbecula.
Sleeps 8, so it is perfect if you are bringing guests. This place is amazing and would be the perfect elopement base for North Uist.
Situated in a rural location on North Uist, this beautiful thatched black house has been fully refurbished and is the perfect getaway to escape and relax.
South Uist black house
Set on a quiet croft with a loch to fish next to it and just a couple of minutes from the beach. It’s a peaceful and relaxing spot for your elopement.
On South Uist makes the list, not just because it has the same name as our house but because it’s a beautiful spot and can sleep up to 8. In addition, the owners live on-site and can operate as a B&B if required.
We hope that this list of locations and our 13-step guide to eloping on the Outer Hebrides has helped give you some ideas for your elopements. To find out more about eloping with us as your photographer, check out our pricing and get in touch.
We’re Oli and Steph Prince; we met in Antarctica in 2015, eloped in Hawaii in 2018. Now we live on the Isle of Skye with our two crazy rescue pups and photograph eloping couples all over the Scottish Highlands and Islands. We live just 15 minutes drive from Uig, where the ferry heads to Harris, and so it’s a quick hop over the water to photograph elopements on the Outer Hebrides for us. We love nothing more than adventuring with like-minded couples in the mountains and on the beaches. If you’re ready to talk more about eloping then get in touch and we can chat about your perfect Outer Hebrides elopement experience.