The Outer Hebrides are a truly unique place, like nowhere else in Scotland. It is here on the very edge of Europe that our Gaelic language, culture and heritage are at their strongest and most vibrant. A world apart, but only a short ferry journey away.
With a wide variety of landscapes the two islands are separated not by water but by a range of mountains, but in a land where travel by boat was the easiest way around before the car was freely available this is not as strange as it first sounds. From the bleak, wind blasted stone fields of central Harris to the endless moorland of Lewis, here is scenery like nowhere on the mainland. You will also find a very different way of life out here.
The people are fiercely independent and still hold very traditional values, the sense of community is stronger than almost anywhere else in Britain and the Sabbath is diligently observed by most of the population. These people have worked hard to eke a living from the poor soils for generations and are rightly proud of their ties to the land.
The most telling evidence today of the difficulties the islanders have faced are the ‘lazy beds’ still visible as man made ridges running throughout the landscape. They were built to provide a better bed for growing mainly potatoes and other root vegetables with occasional patches for oats and barley. To improve the soil they would dig a trench and pile everything organic they could possibly find into it. Dung, plant debris and lime would then decompose putting nutrients back into the land. The old soil would be placed back on top forming the ridge. Once identified, you’ll spot them running through glens and down slopes towards the oceans.
We visit many and varied places throughout these 2 islands and a few of the highlights are listed below, but as much as anything it is the otherworldly landscape and the unique way of life that you will take away as your main memories.
Beaches are one of the first surprises on Lewis and particularly Harris, all down the west coast are vast unspoiled stretches of pure white sand and clear turquoise waters. Believe or not the water is usually quite comfortable as it washes all the way up from the Gulf of Mexico, swimming is perfectly feasible in the summer months. Surfing is also a surprise to most people who visit – Lewis has officially the most reliable surf in Europe and is really starting to take off as an international destination!
Harris Tweed is still an important part of the economy up here although it is constantly at the mercy of both fashion and the international exchange rates. We have a good friendship with a pair of brothers up here, who are always willing to give a demonstration on their loom. You are more than welcome to have a go – it’s not as easy as it seems.
There is some truly fantastic accommodation up here as well we normally stay at Am Botham on Harris, and at the Garenin Blackhouse village on Lewis. These are truly world class places and big favourites with all our tours.
The archaeology of Lewis and Harris is also unrivaled with the Stones at Callanish, Iron Age house at Bosta and Dun Carloway broch being the best known. These are simply the highlights in an ancient landscape where the rocks are among the oldest on the surface of the planet and the culture has developed under its own steam for well over 6000 years.
And if you keep looking west, just where the sea meets the sky, you will find Tir Nan Og – Land of the young. Home to the great Celtic Warriors that once roamed throughout Alba (Scotland) and Eire (Ireland)
What we do on Lewis and Harris:
Hi I’m Alvin Tucker. As a born and bred Scott, and a "has been" tourist businessman since my business went bust, I have a lot to offer my readers in life. So please check out my posts...Click to read on