Off-Season Outer Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland Tours
Private tours to the Outer Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland are generally advertised for travel between May and September when ferry sailings are least likely to be disrupted by weather. That is not to say they shouldn't be visited over the off-season months (April and early October) – they are particularly special to experience over these months when the weather shows them in their true light as the 'islands on the edge'. However, a number of challenges require a little more planning and flexibility to make the most out of an off-season visit to the Hebridean and Northern Isles.
- Inclement Weather – wind and rain are more common during the off-season. The islands, in particular, can be windy and wet so having appropriate clothing including a water and wind proof jacket is recommended (especially as most of the attractions we visit are outdoors). On windier days, the ferry crossings can be choppy, and occasionally poor weather conditions can lead to ferry delays or cancellations.
- Ferry Disruption – we normally have some advance notice of any impending ferry delays or cancellations as the ferry companies try to issue alerts at least 12 hours before, giving us the opportunity to consider alternative options in advance. Below are the latest ferry sailing performances over the off-season months on the three main routes used for tours to the Outer Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland:
Off-Season Ferry Performance (Completed / Scheduled Sailings)
October 2022 – 177 of 185
April 2023 – 154 of 170
October 2023 – 108 of 134
April 2023 – 130 of 130
October 2023 – 51 of 62
April 2023 – 60 of 60
- Quieter – visitor numbers to the islands are far lower over the off-season than the peak summer months and so it is much easier to enjoy a stunning beach all to yourself!
- Nature – while you are walking along that beautiful Hebridean or Northern Isles beach, you can feel the full (wild and windy) force of nature!
Planning and Flexibility:
The itineraries for off-season tours to the Outer Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland are more flexible to reflect the weather conditions. Whilst we visit the vast majority of sites advertised in the standard tours, we may have slightly shorter days and amend the daily routes to make the most of our time on the islands.
Tour quotes will include a number of options in case of ferry delays and cancellations. Ferry changes will add no additional charges to the tour price paid to The Hebridean Explorer. The additional costs you may encounter are any lost deposits for your pre-booked accommodation in the event of delays or cancellations (and any additional accommodations bookings).
For off-season tours, I automatically block off the day after an island tour and do not sell it – as a precaution, just in case there are delays and to make sure we have some extra options available to us. I recommend that clients have a flexible day available to them after the tour.
Whilst I cannot be responsible for any extra accommodation, food or other costs that clients may incur due to ferry delays and cancellations, I will make every effort to adapt the tour to minimise disruption. Please note that no refunds will be given for tour and itinerary changes due to ferry changes and cancellations.
It might read as if I’m trying to scare you off a trip to the Outer Hebrides or the Northern Isles during the off-season – I’m really not. These islands are particularly special to experience over these months, however, travel to them during this period requires a little more planning and flexibility and I would not be doing my job if I did not inform clients of this. Visiting the Outer Hebrides, Orkney or Shetland during the off-season will not disappoint anyone who travels with an adventurous spirit!
I'm interested in an off-season tour – what next?
Great! Please find the standard advertised tour on our website that interests you the most and send a tour enquiry form with your travel dates. I will then forward a tour quote based on your travel dates (and include extra information about travelling over the off-season and options available in the event of ferry delays). Please note that off-season ferry timetables may alter the available start days for tours. With regards to tour prices there is a discount of 5% of standard advertised prices.
FAQ – Do you offer tours from mid-October to March?
Due to the higher likelihood of poor weather and the reduced daylight hours during these months we do not offer tours to the Outer Hebrides or the Northern Isles from mid-October to March.