Situated on the outer fringes of Scotland, the chain of islands known as the Outer Hebrides or Western Isles include Lewis, Harris, Berneray, North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist, Eriskay, Barra and Vatersay, each island having its different characteristics. Lewis and Harris are joined and commonly referred to as Long Island. Lewis is the largest of the islands with around 17,000 inhabitants of which around 8,000 live in the main town of Stornoway. Sometimes referred to as ‘Europe’s last Wilderness’ the islands have something to offer everyone.
Sanctuary– Escape the stresses of life to the enjoy peace, tranquillity, breath-taking scenery, unspoiled golden beaches and rocky inlets.
Wildlife - the natural habitat is recognised as being of national and international importance and include areas of specific scientific interest and special protection. Internationally protected peatland, the marine environment and unique machair land (low lying flower covered habitat created by sea, sand, peat and grazing animals) support a wide variety of birds, mammals and plants including some rare species, such as the puffin, golden eagle, plovers, corncrake, basking shark, whale, dolphin and otter.
Adventure - If you are seeking adventure Lewis has lots to offer. Stornoway is the start or finish of the Hebridean Way - a walking route from Lewis to Vatersay. Surf the waves, take a boat trip, cycle on or off road, tackle challenging cliffs and mountain crags, go sea or river fishing, or just go on a voyage of discovery to isolated hills, bays and coves.
Culture and heritage. The Outer Hebrides has a rich and distinctive Celtic culture and strong sense of tradition. Crofting, peat-cutting, fishing and Harris Tweed weaving are a large part of daily life. Gaelic is spoken and traditional music and dance are common at many local venues including An Lanntair, the main Arts Centre which is a stone’s throw away from the hostel. Stornoway is also home to the popular Hebridean Celtic Festival which is held mid-July each year.
Stornoway Town – A visit to the Outer Hebrides should include a stroll around the main town of Stornoway. Take time to enjoy the shops, café, restaurants & pubs, sample the local food products, purchase some Harris Tweed and listen to some live traditional music. Visit Lews Castle, which was recently restored and includes the local museum, where you can see 12th Century walrus ivory chess pieces believed to have been made in Norway, but found in Lewis sand dunes in 1831. A walk around the quay to watch the local fishermen at work or to spot the inquisitive seals is a must. The castle grounds are also extensive with many walking paths through woods and along the coast. It’s a great place within the vicinity of the town to see all sorts of wildlife.
Geology - Lewis gave its name to the oldest rock in the UK - Lewisian Gneiss – since that is mostly where it is found. Estimated to be 3000 million years old, it is metamorphic rock formed from cooling magma which had previously been buried beneath the surface of the earth where intense heat and pressure caused it to fold and layer into the swirling bands of colour than can easily be seen.
Archaeology – The Callanish Stones (or Calanias in Gaelic) date back to 3000BC and are some of the oldest manmade structures in Western Europe. The main stone circle is silhouetted on high ground but there are numerous other sites being uncovered which suggest it was a Neolithic landscape of some significance. Other sites include the Pictish “broch” in Carlabhaigh (Carloway), monks cells, ancient chapels, strange beehive dwellings, runrig farming land forms and other hidden gems.
Things to see and do
Places to see
Norse Mill & Kiln, Shawbost
Gearrannan Blackhouse Village
Iron Village, Bosta
Lews Castle & Grounds
St. Columba’s Church, Aignish
St. Kilda (World Heritage site)
Things to do
Sailing : Hill walking
Kayaking : Cycling
Kiting : Fishing
Surfing : Bird-watching
Climbing : Walking
Diving : Golfing
Snorkelling : Coasteering
Live music sessions
Places to go
An Lanntair Arts Centre
Calanais visitor centre
The Hebridean Celtic Music Festival 13th - 16th July 2022