In September I visited the Outer Hebrides or Western Isles as they are sometimes known. I had always wanted to visit these remote islands but never got round to it, so early in the year I made my plans and kept my fingers crossed for the weather.
The islands cover quite a large area and it’s about 130 miles from top to bottom. Split into islands, some joined by causeways and others requiring a ferry trip. The large majority of the islands are small and uninhabited, including St Kilda’s which is the most remote point of the UK and can be reached by boat trip from here.
|The sun shone as we left Ullapool|
The islands I visited were the Isle of Lewis, Isle of Harris, North Uist, Benbecula and South Uist. My journey started by leaving the Isle of Arran on the Lochranza to Claonaig ferry and travelling north to Ullapool; stopping overnight in a little dog friendly motel in readiness for the morning ferry across to Stornaway. This is a lovely fishing town with pretty harbour and I regretted not stopping here for an extra day to take in the views.
In the morning the sun shone, the sky was blue and the sea calm for crossing the ‘Minch’. The ferry takes nearly 3 hours, so plenty of time for a walk around the decks taking in the views. I used a Calmac Hopscotchticket as it works out quite a lot cheaper than booking single journeys.
On arriving in Stornaway, I was initially surprised at how big it was, but then there is no easy access to the mainland and the bulk of the population live here. The combined population of Lewis and Harris is about 20k. Not stopping I pushed on to my first destination travelling across the Isle of Lewis on a single track road to the rugged west coast and the little village of Gearrannan. This really is remote Scotland and I was glad to be well prepared and have all my supplies with me.
|Gearrannan blackhouse village|
Gearrannan village has been modernised and now has traditional black houses converted into holiday homes, beautifully done, with under floor heating and simple kitchens. There is also a small hostel. The stone houses are constructed of double stone walls and a thatch roof. All very eco friendly and more importantly cosy.
|My self catering blackhouse - home for a few days|
|Thatch roof - rabbits ran along the grass edges!|
The economy of the island is based on crofting, fishing, weaving and tourism. The most famous destination of the Isle of Lewis being the Callanish stones. These date from about 2900 BC and are quite spectacular. There are actually 3 circles, 2 smaller ones being about 2km away but still easily accessible. The dank grey day did little to encourage photography, but as any traveller knows you have to make the best of the conditions when staying for short periods in any place. An early start avoided other tourists to ensure clean shots.
Another place to visit is the Butt of Lewis, supposedly the windiest place in the UK; where fish can be blown onto the dunes in high winds – well not on the day I went. All was calm!
The weather brightened and the next two days provided coastal walks with views and lots of opportunity for landscape photography. The evening sunsets showed promise although they never came to full fruition and it was way past my G & T time before it was really going dark!
I was very sorry to leave this little oasis and I’m sure I’ll be back as I really didn’t get to see everything I wanted.