The main islands are linked by an efficient network of ferries and within an hour of leaving Harris next morning, we were driving across a lush landscape interspersed with lochans, sea lochs and bays on North Uist.After dumping our bags in the Tigh Dearg Hotel at Lochmaddy, the main settlement, we consulted the tide times.Otters, the helpful receptionist with a wide smile informed us, are usually spotted on incoming tides.Rushing to a nearby vantage point, we hunkered down in anticipation.In contrast to the lunar-style landscape of its barren eastern coastline, Harris's west coast has more white sandy beaches.We spent a few hours cooking lunch and relaxing on Huisinis beach – reached along a winding 15-mile narrow road – watching its soft sand being washed by encroaching waves.
We then moved south to Harris, its towering terrain beckoning from afar, including Clisham, the archipelago's highest point (2,621ft).
Lewis has a vast peat-bog interior punctuated by freshwater lochs but is fringed by a vertiginous coastline; we explored both from our base in the scattered village of Breasclete, overlooking Loch Roag on the island's west coast.
Just down the road, my camera went into overdrive at the world-famous standing stones at Callanish. "Better than Stonehenge, I'd say." Perhaps he was right: an absence of barriers means you can enjoy a true hands-on experience, plus you won't find yourself being jostled by hordes of other visitors – and there is no hefty entrance fee.
Sadly, our luck wasn't in, although we kept our eyes peeled during dinner, too, after Iain, our affable host, told us that otters had been seen scampering across the hotel lawn the day before.
Unfortunately, we left North Uist without a sighting.