Click on the links below for full details
Stornoway is the main town in the Western Isles and is where most of the population of Lewis live and work.
With many local independent shops, cafes pubs and restaurants, Stornoway is a great place to visit and you will find everything you need in the compact town centre.
There is much to see in Stornoway town centre for the history enthusiast and your first stop may be the town centre which in its central spot on Point Street and South Beach Street is hard to miss. The Town Hall was officially opened on September 7th, 1905 but disaster struck in March 1918 when the building was mysteriously destroyed by fire. It was rebuilt on the same site and reopened in 1929 by Thomas Basset Macaulay, Montreal, the President of the Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada. The Town Hall has recently been refurbished to make better use of the building and the main hall is accessible to all. It is home to some council services, the Harris Tweed Authority and the Stornoway Historical Society.
The hall itself has seen some big changes with the stage area being removed and the original Carn Gardens windows being opened up flooding the room with light as was the original design.
Several churches in Stornoway are of interest including the town's oldest church St Colomba's Parish Church built in the 1974; the second oldest is St Peterís church on Francis Street and Martinís Memorial church on Keith Street, which has the highest spire.
The church of the Latter Day Saints is on Newton Street and includes a Family Research Centre.
Stornoway has a long history and association with the sea and a Maritime Trail around all the relevant sites and buildings can give a wealth of history and information.
First stop could be Amity house which was built around 1790 and is home to the Stornoway Port Authority now. The Sail Loft building near the harbour was extensively renovated and restored to create a housing development seveal years ago and is worth a wonder past to see a symbol of Stornowayís maritime history, which was once a warehouse for storage and repair of nets and sails for the local fishing fleet.
The harbour itself is an interesting place to visit to see the hustle and bustle of the fishing boats, the new pontoons and the RNLI Lifeboat Station on Cromwell Street Quay.
Stornoway Harbour is to be the scene of some change over the coming months as the town prepares for the arrival of the new £42 million MV Loch Seaforth to cover the Stornoway to Ullapool ferry service.
Also nearby this area is the civic space, Percival Square which has been restored from a car park to a pedestrian only zone as it was originally.
Lewis Castle Grounds is much more than just a place to enjoy an afternoon stroll, it is a place steeped in history that shaped not only the town of Stornoway but the whole of Lewis; a place of leisure, learning and development with many niches to explore and enjoy.
The grounds are now managed by The Stornoway Trust, a publicly owned estate, created in 1923 when the estate was gifted by Lord Leverhulme; Leverhulme having bought the Isle of Lewis from the Mathesons in 1917. The estate extends to 70,000 ares (appros 28,000 hectares) and the trust is administered by ten democratically elected trustees who each serve a six-year term.
The estate office is located at Leverhulme House, Perceval Square, Stornoway and the day to day running of the estate is the responsibility of the Factor.
One of the main assets owned by the Trust is Lews Castle Grounds, the 600 acre woodland surrounding the Lews Castle. Within the grounds there are a rich mix of trees from many parts of the world alongside species native to Scotland planted by the Stornoway Trust.
It was once the home of Lewis landlord Sir James Matheson who built the castle and developed the grounds which includes landmarks such as Cuddy Point, which was the historic backdrop of the islandís herring fleet and Gallows Hill where public hangings took place back in the day.
Lews Castle is the focal point of the grounds and is most likely where your visit will begin.
The waterwheel generates 4kw of hydropower, which is used for lighting the grounds, as well as a centre with information display boards intended for the visiting public.
With much to do in Lewis Castle Grounds, a day visit will certainly keep you busy. Aside from the historical sites there are miles of footpaths for walking, cycling, running or whatever you want and some great vantage points for viewing Stornoway town and harbour and the grounds are also a good place to spot wildlife.
The Castle Green is the site of the Hebridean Celtic Festival every summer.
Stornoway golf course and Clubhouse are also situated within the grounds and the Creed River runs through the woodlands with fishing permits available for purchase during the season.
The woodlands Centre nestled amongst the trees is a great place to stop for a cup of coffee or a spot of lunch in the licenced cafe.
The gift shop on site includes a range of local products and the centre can also cater for private functions. The centre is a favourite for locals and visitors alike and has parking right on the doorstep and also has an outdoor seating area for summer days.
Lewis Castle college is also within the grounds and has a thriving student population many of whom live in accommodation in the Bridge Community Centre at the entrance to the Grounds on Bayhead.
With fish-rich rivers, lochs and seas all over and around the Western Isles, we are fortunate enough to live in an anglers paradise.
A dream location for fishermen and fisherwomen of course.
There are fewer greater pleasures than casting out into the pristine blue waters amidst picturesque surrounds and waiting for the joy of when you feel the tug of a wild brown trout on your line. A battle follows between the angler and trout as the fly-reel screams and the adrenaline starts to flow.
If this is your idea of having a great time, then the Outer Hebrides is the ideal place to fulfil your fishing dreams.
Literally hundreds of freshwater lochs holding wild brown trout are available to fish from mid-March to mid-October. These lochs are scattered about some of the most scenic parts of Scotland on an island named the Top Island in Europe by Trip Advisor this year. And they are in abundance in the Outer Hebrides from the Butt of Lewis to Barra Head.
Anglers in the Hebrides are also blessed with space and privacy and it is commonplace to find yourself with an entire loch to yourself with nothing but your fly rod in hand and fish with no other company for miles but the rush of running water and the relaxing sound of a sky lark in the summer sky.
It sounds ideal but this pleasure doesn't come cheap we hear you say. Well, you will be amazed when we say that once you get to Western Isles this experience can be had absolutely free of charge! The only question you have to ask is: where do I start?
If you are a sea fisherman, the rocks of Holm near Stornoway is just one place. You can view the lolaire Monument and see the Beasts of Holm, the name given to the rocks where our most tragic sea disaster took place.
Another popular sea fishing site is Arnish point just five minutes drive from the town where you can enjoy a spectacular view looking over the town of Stornoway or across the sea to the mainland hills on a clear day.Fresh water fishing is also available in abundance with hundreds of lochs dotted across the isles.
Some local favourite fishing spots include the Isle of Bernera linked to the island of Lewis by only the bridge crossing the Atlantic Ocean. It provides some of the very best brown trout per square mile in the country ñ almost every loch teems with quality fighting brow trout and if the sun comes out, the stunning Bosta beach lies within a stone throw of the local lochs.
Why not drop the wife and kids on the beach and have a cast on one of the excellent brown trout lochs nearby, then finish off the day with a trout on the barbeque?
For the more adventurous, and happy to find the most desire angling spots by clambering off the beaten track, the Tolsta/Ness moor provides unlimited access to hundreds of lochs ready to give up willing three-quarter pound brown trout with every chance of a fish up to two or three lbs.
For those who like to be among the hills, then it's worth a trip south to Harris where the scenery almost eclipses the fishing!
Of course, if you are not on a budget, there are numerous estates throughout the Western Isles offering salmon and sea trout fishing at very competitive rates.
The Barvas River is just 15 minutes from the town centre and provides keen salmon anglers a dayís fishing for under £20. Other easily accessible local fisheries include Garynahine Estate, the Creed, the Fideach and the Gress systems, which all provide affordable sea trout and salmon fishing for the price of a day on a rainbow trout fishery on the mainland.
Of course it is not only in Lewis and Harris that fishing is a major sport. The same applies to Uist and Barra where many locals and visitors alike have had good catches. Check out the various websites to see what is available for free or by permit.
You are truly spoilt for choice, whatever your fishing preference. There is such an abundance of fishing water in such a small area that it will be hard to find anywhere else in the world with quite such an abundance. And best of all, most of the fishing is FREE.
Remember, local advice is priceless. So wherever you want to fish, remember to call into local tackle shops and seek expert and friendly advice on where the fishing hotspots are and equally importantly: what flies are working at any particular time in the season. We hope that all fishermen (local or visitor) will enjoy fishing in the Outer Hebrides and that there will be plenty of tight lines during the upcoming fishing season.
Imagine a desert island with white-grained sand, stunning vistas and not a soul to disturb your peace. For many that description sounds like a paradise, and it could be found right here in the Western Isles courtesy of the beaches in Harris.
The Isle of Harris has a very different feel to the more heavily populated Lewis in the North and even its cousin North Uist over the Little Minch which is wider and much more rugged. The contrast of hills and the spectacular beachside landscapes are the elements which give Harris a holiday feel.
Walking in Harris
Harris is a great area to explore on bike and offers some magnificent views on foot in various walking routes. One of the most popular is the 11km coastal hike to Reinigeadal. From the car park at Tarbert, follow the signposted path as it makes its way steadily up the hillside.
Take your time, pausing regularly to admire the views of South Harris and the Clisham, then soon you will reach a large cairn marking the bealach.
A short way further on a small sign indicates a branch path to the right. If you have plenty of time (and stamina) you may wish to follow this down to the shore and the beautiful deserted settlement of Molinginis. The detour adds two hours and a 760ft climb to the day.
If you choose this option, and it is highly recommended as this lush green settlement with its renovated ruins is a beautiful and atmospheric spot, be sure to return uphill to the path junction. Don't be tempted to continue from Molinginis onwards along the shore line. The path marked on the map does exist but it is small and makes some precarious crossings of burns where one slip can send you off down the hillside into the waters of Loch Trolamaraig.
Back on the main path, continue easily on for a short distance until you round a corner and the ground suddenly disappears beneath your feet. This is the start of the Scriob, an astonishingly steep zig zag path that would not look out of place in the Alps. After crossing a wooden bridge at a stony beach, the path soon forks. Take the upper branch and as you wander along the northern shore of Loch Trolamaraig keep a look out for wildlife; porpoises are often seen in this sheltered loch and both golden and sea eagles are regular visitors.
Passing a lonely holly tree and a small bridge, the ruins of a deserted township, Gearraidh Lotaigear can be clearly seen on your right. Down by the shore look out for an unusual shaped building an old store once rooted with an upturned boat.
Leaving this fertile little oasis, continue along the path to the tarmacked road. Pop down to Reinigeadal if you have time. Otherwise turn left and walk easily uphill, passing under the steep slopes of Todun to your left.
The road you are walking along was only built in 1990, making Reinigeadal the last coastal community in Britain to be connected to the main road network.
After passing a couple of lochs, the road drops down the shores of Loch Maraig ñ a small inlet off the far mightier Loch Seaforth. Just before you reach the head of the loch, a path on the left is signposted to Urgha.
Follow this well-constructed old track as it heads over the low pass of Braigh as Ruisg before sweeping down to the west bank of the Laxdale Lochs. Follow the path back to the main road or ñ if you are feeling adventurous ñ make your way over to an old weir to the north shore, where a new path takes you back to the start.
Tarbert is the largest village in Harris and offers the main ferry port if you are travelling to or from Skye. It has a community numbering around 500, with a few shops, some lovely restaurants and a tearoom and old-fashioned atmosphere.
The village is set to become even more of a tourist attraction in the next few years with plans being proposed for a marina and the building of a distillery already underway. In fact it seems the temperature climate of the Western Isles and the softest water in Scotland are two reasons why forthcoming Harris distillery should be an instant hit. The distillery is due to open in spring 2015 and will produce a single malt newly christened "The Heararch" and a gin (not yet named).
The gin will be available for sale from day one at the distillery visitor centre, but it will be a three-year wait for The Heararch which needs time to mature into a whisky.
However excitement amongst whisky aficionados is building with the news that experts have revealed the water which will be used to create the spirit from two local reservoirs is the softest in Scotland.
Another factor to underpin the success of the product is the local climate in the Western Isles which is perfect for whisky maturation because itís temperate, damp and breezy; making for a great location for a whiskey distillery.
On a single shift the distillery would expect to produce 96,000 litres which is akin to 300,000 bottles a year, but over time there will be the capacity (should sales grow as the distillery hopes) to scale that production up, moving to double and triple shifts.
The landscape of North Harris has a rugged beauty with the land pin-pricked by the distinctive gneiss laid down by glaciers millions of years ago. This landscape is best viewed from the Golden Road in the east of the island.
Many visitors simply abandon their cars in favour of bikes to better sample the delights of this meandering roadway and, if you are lucky, you may spot the odd seal lazily basking in the sunshine among the rocks off the shore.
Wildlife is all around us in the Western Isles and the quiet surroundings of Harris mean that it is a great spot to discover birds and sea life that you would not have a hope of spotting in mainland urban areas.
If hills rather than beaches are the kind of landscapes that make your heart sing, then perhaps you could time your visit to coincide with the Harri Mountain Festival which, this year, takes place from September 13th - 20th 2015.
Some of the most spectacular and varied scenery can be found on the Westside of Lewis, along with some prime examples of the islands best preserved prehistoric remains and ancient croft house ruins.
The crofting and fishing villages strung out along Lewis' north-east coast represent one of the most densely populated rural areas, which runs from the inner moorlands of Barvas to the beautiful Carloway beaches of Dalmore and Dalbeag, and rugged Coastlines created from centuries of assault from the full force of Atlantic rollers.
With nothing between the Westside and the far off east coast of America, this is an area of Lewis where visitors can feel truly at the edge of the world.
Callanish Standing Stones
A "must-see" in Lewis are the world famous Calanais stone circles which, having been erected between 4,500 to 5,00 years ago, are as ancient as both Stonehenge and the Great Pyramid at Giza.
Situated on the banks of Loch Road, the powerful and enigmatic Standing Stones dominate the skyline of the village of Callanish and beyond.
Formed from three neighbouring circles is a complex arrangement of some 50 large stones where avenues are formed by double rows which intersect through a central circle of 13 stones, standing between eight and 13 feet tall.
These surround an uncovered tomb and the tallest stone on the site, which measures in at a staggering 16 feet high, weighs a monumental 5.5 tonnes.
So spectacular and awe inspiring is the main circle of Calanais I, that two lesser stone circles situated nearby are often overlooked.
Just over the main road, a little to the south east of Calanais I is Callanais III a collection of 20 stones forming a double ring with an outside diameter of 16m.
And a couple of hundred yards to its west is Calanais II, an 18m diameter circle comprising of 10 stones, of which five are still standing.
Gearrannan Blackhouse Village Carloway
Facing the Atlantic, the evocative Gearrannan port is a superb destination for visitors interested in the past ways of life of the Outer Hebrides.
The "modern" blackhouse settlements first appeared towards the end of the 1800s as the stone buildings known as Shawbost Mill, or Mill of the Blacksmiths, originally restored in the late 1960s and again in the 1995.
Lewis was once home to as many as 200 such small horizontal wheel mills, and it is known that the Shawbost mill was active until the 1930s.
The first building visitors will approach is the kiln, completed with a raised stone platform and circular stone-lined pit which presumably contained the fire that heated and dried the grain spread around it.
The second building is the mill itself which would have been powered by a run off lathe from the nearby burn, fed by Loch Rionavat, that turned a curricular set of paddles to grind grain between the rough millstones.
Whalebone Arch- Bragar
Erected by former villager postmaster Murdo Morrison, the Whalebone Arch is created from the lower jawbones of a Blue Whale that came ashore nearby in 1920. Measuring 25 fee each and standing at a height of nearly 20 feed, the magnificent arch is bisected by a harpoon that was still in the whale, the explosive head having failed to detonate.
The arch now stands as a gateway in the garden of two houses.
The 11 mile Point peninsular is well worth a visit and is just a short drive from Stornoway.
It may be joined to the rest of Lewis by the Braighe causeway but the community of Point has its own proud community.
With a population of around 2,000 people, Point has a scattering of 14 different villages and is a desirable place to live due to its rural location, close community and short distance to the amenities of Stornoway.
With beautiful scenery including several stunning beaches, there are a number of sites well worth a visit.
And while youíre in this neck of the woods, the new community shop and cafe is a great stop for a spot of lunch.
The Ui Church at the far end of the Braighe road is of major historical and religious interest. It is an A-listed building - a scheduled Ancient Monument. Built in the 14th century, the site was first occupied by St Catan, a follower of St Columba in the 6th century. Becoming the burial place of the Chiefs of the Clan Macleod of Lewis, the church contains two large carved grave slabs commemorating Roderick Macleod VII and this daughter Mackinnon who was the mother of John, the last Abbot of Iona, the Inside of the Church has recently re-opened to the public following a restoration project by Urras Eaglais nah-Aoidhe. The surrounding graveyard is extremely interesting and worth a visit on its own.
Adjacent to the Church is the memorial to the Aignish Rioters who played a very important role in the Lewis Land Struggle of the late 1800's. Other significant sites include the old Garrabost Mill, the Garrabost Brickworks and Tiumpanhead Lighthouse.
The lighthouse has been guiding seafarers since 1990 and is worth a visit to take in the view of the cliffs out to sea. A variety of seabirds populate the cliffs in the area , but to avoid accidents, visitors are advised to stay well clear of the edge as the grass can be slippery at all times of the year.
Point stepped into a new era in 2011 with the opening of the new primary school sgoil an Rubha. Previously there were three primary schools - Aird, Bayble and Knock which have all now been amalgamated into the new school.
A Major event on the local calendar is the annual point Show.
The Butt Of Lewis Lighthouse
The lighthouse at the Butt of Lewis was designed by David Stevenson, the father of the famous Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson back in 1862. The beautiful and exposed red brick lighthouse is one of the tallest building on the Isle of Lewis.
Towering at 121 feet, the 168 stepped tower sits grandly perched on the Butt of Lewis, the north most tip of the Outer Hebrides and was build to aid shipping in the later 18th Century. The Guinness Book of World Records even mentions the lighthouse for being placed in the windiest spot in the United Kingdom a few years back. This is not surprising, due to the bitter winds that can reach an astonishing 100mph!
The lighthouse was one of the last to be converted to automatic power and before 1998, the station was manned by three keepers and their-families. However, nowadays the Butt of Lewis acts as a monitoring station for the automatic light on the Flannas, North Rona and Sula Sgier and is the radio control station for the North Minch area. The light reaches over 20 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean, the unique signal flashing every five seconds and is used as a guide by those travelling out at sea and on roads on the Island.
St Moluag Church is a building which has ancient origins, shrouded in speculation and local folklore, known locally as Teampull Mholuaidh, one legend says that before departing to North Rona to seek solitude, St Rona built it himself.
In the past, sick villagers believed that the church had healing powers and as part of their healing process they would go and drink from the nearby holy well. The 16th century church is built in a T shape, with two small chapels on either side of the main church and is situated in Eoropie village, in the middle of a croft, publicly accessible by a footpath.
The building was restored in 1912 by Canon H.A. Mealden of the Episcopal Church after being left to ruin in the time preceding him. Although the southern chapel can only be accessed from outside, the rest of the church is still in use for regular services by the Scottish Episcopal congregation.
Carthannas Nis Charity shop
This charity shop and laundrette which was opened in recent years is an "Aladdin's cave", being one of the busiest charity shops in the island, open all year round, in summer, opening hours are Monday to Saturday 11am to 4pm. The shop sells a wide variety of products, including books, collectibles, textiles, electricals and plenty more. Anything which is in good condition gets sold whilst anything not quite up to standard gets recycled. So come along and have a browse, discover little treasures and meet the friendly staff.
The successful wee shop splits its profits between the Islandís Bethesda Hospice and the Blythswood Appeal.
A small islet, surrounded by rocky slopes , Dun Eistean was the ancient stronghold of the Morrisons of Ness. Situated half a mile North East of Knockaird, it was here that the Morrison clan were broken by the Macleods over one hundred years ago.
The islet could only be reached previously when the tide was low and you were adventurous enough to climb the 12 metre high cliffs surrounding it. However, in 2002 around 70 visitors with Morrison connections, from countries all over the world including South Africa, Canada and America came to witness their ancestral home.
At that time a 72 foot iron bridge was opened to allow safe and simple access to the isle Most of the individuals who came to the opening of the bridge and had never been to the isle of Lewis or even Scotland and they were warmly welcomed.
Prior to this homecoming, it was funded-raising by the Clan Morrison society in America which led to an investigation into the site and archaeologists started their work in 2001.
As a result, many objects of interest were discovered and a selection of a wall from the fort was unearthed. The Clan Morrison society now owns the site.
Taking a break from your car and having a walk over beyond the lighthouse walks is a must do if you are on holiday in Ness. Taste the salt of the ocean spray and the fresh sea breeze as you look down from towering cliffs to the waves crashing below. Notice the vast amount of wildlife and birds such as razorbills, shags, gannets, fulmars, kittiwakes, guillemots and oyster-catchers as they dive and swoop over the deep blue Atlantic. But be sure to take great care when walking because the cliffs become slippery at times.
If you continue about two miles along this walk, you will reach Eoropie sands. Here, you will be able to feast your eyes on spectacular views such as the natural sea arch.
Alternatively, you can walk round the East coast where there are different varieties of birds nesting amongst the rocks. Best watch your step though as the nests are well camouflaged!
Port Of Ness Port
The Port of Ness can be reached by following the main road through Ness, where you will find an idyllic harbour, still in use by local and visiting boats today. During the 19th Century, the harbour was the heart of Ness, when finishing was still an essential part of island life.
The villagers were renowned for their seamanship . The origin of the harbour can be dated back as far as the 1820's and beyond, some believing it to have been in use by the Vikings. Nowadays, sadly it is under used having played such an important part in the island throughout history.
The Niseachs' skill at boat handling will, however, always be legendary in Lewis. The locals managed to set up a charity in recent years to preserve its unique history.
Ness Sports Centre And Taigh Dhonnechaidh Arts And Music Centre
There is always something to do in Ness regardless of the weather, which is probably a good thing. So if the weather has taken a turn for the worse or you would like to do something a little more relaxing in the evening, come down to the Ness Sports Centre, one of the best facilities in the Western Isles.
It is open Monday to Saturday and offers wide range of facilities including a multi gym, sauna, massage parlour and two lane 10 pin bowling alley. It is recommended that you book in advance as the facilities are well used.
Taigh Dhonnchaidh Arts and Music Centre is another popular centre in Ness. It is a modest but influential facility that aims to promote and enhance the Gaelic language, arts and music. It provides an attractive venue and meeting place for a wide range of activities, supporting the rich cultural heritage and local talent on the island.
The 19th Century building, located at 44 Habost was one of the first "White Houses" in Ness and was renovated between 1999 and 2001 to become a Gaelic arts and music centre, maintaining traditional elements, while offering modern facilities.
One of the 13 areas that make up the Outer Hebrides, Uig and Bernera in Lewis, although two distinctive and independent communities, share much in common and both have ties that stretch far back into the islandís history.
Great Bernera, although considered to be part of Lewis, is infact an island in its own right and stood alone until 1953 when the ëBridge over the Atlanticí was built.
Reporting on the event, the opening of which attracted a 4,000 strong crowd, The Stornoway Gazette commented: ëon that day Bernera ceased to be an island and became part of Lewis. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say Lewis ceased to be an island and became part of Berneraí.
This highlights the strength of the community and pride of Great Bernera's population, which is still as determined and passionate today.
Bostadh Iron Age House and Village - Bernera
Bostadh Beach has long been known for its beauty, but after a severe storm in 1992 this ancient village began to re-emerge from the past.
Four years later, archaeologists spent 13 weeks painstakingly uncovering a remarkable complex of houses, finding evidence first of a Norse settlement, and underneath, in a remarkable state of preservation, five Pictish (later Iron Age) homes, believed to date back....
The Uig community is the last outpost of the far west coast of Lewis and is home to around 20 small villages. Famed for its selection of world class golden sand beaches, washed by crystal clar, tropical looking (but not feeling) waters, it was in Uig that the discovery place of the world-famous Lewis Chessmen was made.
Boasting the highest shell content in Scotland (around 80-95%), the beaches of Uig are amongst the best in the world.
Pounded by Atlantic rollers, there are extensive shallow bays and coastlines which give rise to massive areas of white sands that, on a sunny day, can be mistaken for a tropical paradise when the sea takes on a brilliant turquoise hue as the sand beneath reflects sunlight through sparkling clear waters.
Triagh na Clibhe - Cliff Beach
Open to the Atlantic, the bay is usually full of white horse rollers tumbling shore wards. Despite the surf being rated by former Scottish Surf Champion Ian Masson as the best he has ever ridden, great care much be taken as strong rip currents regularly occur. Because of this the beach is unsuitable for bathers.
Traigh na Beirghe - Reef Beach
Reef is a long, sweeping beach sheltered by the islands of Pabaigh, Bhacasaigh and Siaram, and therefore is safe for bathing and idea for wind-surfing and dinghy sailings.
Some of the finest scenery in Lewis can be found at Reef beach, combining machair, beach and cliff, along with a marvellous spectacle of wild flowers in summer, including a wide range of orchids.
Off from the far east end of Reef beach is a hidden gem Traigh Theinsh or Shell beach, a small, rough-sheltered beach where in an abundance of shells at least 20 different varieties can easily be collected.
Camas Uig - Uig BayA National Scenic Area, Uig Bay offers an area of unsurpassed beauty, now conserved as part of Scotlandís national heritage.
Traigh Mhangurstadh - Mangersta Beach
Beautiful to look at Mangersta has wild seas and is dangerous to swim in. Visitors should not attempt to enter the waters.
There are however, plenty of covers and caves to explore and when the tide is out, numerous small pools around the black rocks for children to play in.
Mangersta is definitely for very experienced surfers only. Serious rips make this a very dangerous, but intense break which can be outstanding if the swell is right. The upmost care must be taken though.
Gearrannan Blackhouse village located at Carloway, on the Isle of Lewis, is one of the most popular visitor attractions on the island. The blackhouses themselves have stood since the 1850's and offer a glimpse into days gone by and the chance to experience the life of the islands past.
During your visit you can enjoy the variety that the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village has to offer, including a cafeteriea and shop, an interpretation centre and a working Blackhouse, Taigh Thormoid Anna set in the 1950s.
Each of the Gearrannan Blachouses has its own character and is named after the family who once lived there; Taigh Thomoid 'an ic Iain - The House of Norman (1824 - 1900); Taigh Lata - Lata being the nickname of John MacLeod (1859 - 1948); Taigh Glass - the nickname of Donald Macleod (1865 - 1938).
As well as visiting the houses which offer a backdrop of family life from those times, many folks also like to stay in the village and this year the newly refurbished and comfortable Gearrannan Hostel is open. The hostel building has a family room, offering extra privacy, as well as two dorms, one of which sleeps four and the other six, the living area has a fully fitted kitchen and there are two toilet and shower areas.
The self-catering accommodation, ranges from 2-star group houses to 4-star family-sized cottages and every morning you can wake up to the crashing Atlantic Ocean on your doorstep and spend the evenings relaxing in front of a real fire.
So whether you are visiting the Blackhouses for the day, or want to get away from it all and experience for a few days Blackhouse living in all its glory - albeit with modern conveniences - take the plunge and make your way to the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village. You will definitely not regret it!
Also known as the Eye Church or its Gaelic equivalent, "Eaglais nah-Aoidhe", St Columba's Church is situated in Aignish, Point (Isle of Lewis). It is fascinating 14th Century ruin sitting within a cemetery and is one of the most important medieval churches in the Western Isles.
The setting has changed significantly over the years due to coastal erosion; the cemetery is slowly being lost to the sea (at one time it extended to 10 metres further than it does now). But it offers a glimpse into the past including two carved stone grave slabs which adorn the interior wall of the Church - one depicting a warrior complete with sword and spear and the other a Celtic scene with intricate patterns showing animals and foliage.
It is the final resting place for as many 19 Macleod Chiefs as well as a variety of other notable individuals from the history of the island.
But for many in the local community, the Church is more than a reminder of the past. Last year, the Friends of Ui Church was established, a website launched, a series of Annual Lectures and a Fundraising Campaign for £30,000 started to help preserve the Church and restore it as a central part of the community.
In Gaelic Dun Charlabhaigh, this structure is one of the best preserved brochs in Scotland and is situated in the district of Carloway on the west coast of Lewis.
In places, it still reaches 9 metres tall, with the base measuring 14-15 metres across and is thought to date back to the 1st Century BC.
It was built as defensive residences for Clan leaders (and their families), or for an important member of the community at that time. The broch shows us the great technical skill of those on Lewis used at the time and has remarkably survived the weathering and strong winds of the Western Isles without the use of mortar or buttress.
Situated at the end of a path, about 1.5 miles away from Carloway, it is easily accessible and possesses fantastic views of Loch Roag.
Here is a unique relic which offers a fascinating insight to the Hebridean way of life. Number 42 Arnol preserves a way of living that was the norm in the islands not so long ago.
The house itself is almost as the family who last inhabited it in 1966 left it. For hundreds of years it was the custom in Lewis for man and beast to be housed under the same roof and Number 42 remains the sole representative of a way of life once so common but now altogether gone.
Gearrannan Blackhouse in Carloway are perhaps better known and are also well worth a visit, but the Arnol Blackhouse is quite special.
Perhaps one of the most iconic historic buildings in the Western Isles, Kismul Castle stands proudly just a few hundred yards from Castlebay (Barra) and totally surrounded by water. Gaining access involves a short boat trip which runs regularly from the port at Castlebay.
The Castle is testament to the nature of Gaelic Lordship in the Middle Ages. Tradition tells of the Macneils settling in Barra in the 11th Century, but it was only in 1427 that Gilleonan Macneil comes on record as the first Lord. He probably built the Castle that dominates the whole rocky islet.
The Castle withstood attempts to take it by enemies of the MacNeils, but by the 1700s it was no longer used as the Clanís main residence. The Castle was ravaged by fire and fell into ruin and it was not until the 1930s that architect Robert MacNeils began restoration - a process that took decades.
The Castle is now on a long term lease to Historic Scotland.
From the main port at Lochboisdale you can arrive or leave from your Western Isles adventure by ferry onwards to Castlebay and Isle of Barra or to the mainland port of Oban.
But South Uist has a rich supply of things to do and see and is well worth spending at least a few days in. From its brilliant white shell beaches to the ridge of mountains down the east coast, South Uist has many attractions for a wandering tourist to the Outer Hebrides.
The highest peak on the island is Beinn Mhor at 2,034 feet. On the west coast there are three natural sea lochs at Lochboisdale, Loch Eynort and Loch Skipot.
Loch Skiport and Loch Eynort can be reached by road, though the beaches of the west coast are largely inaccessible by car for much of the length of this 25 mile long island.
Running next to the beaches is the flat, grassy machair land, on which most of the islands well-spread out villages are situated.
From the top of Beinn Mhor on a clear day, the keen hillwalker can see virtually all of South Uist, as well as the surrounding isles including St Kilda, which sits some 45 miles or so further west. The hills of the Inner Hebrides should also be visible.
For those less keen on hillwalking, a short drive will take you to the statue of Our Lady on Rueval. Also the site of the Missile Range, Rueval - the Hills of Miracles - will give you an impressive vantage point that spans most of South Uist and Benbecula, with the hills of North Uist visible in the distance.
Lochboisdale is built on a headland projecting into the well sheltered Loch Baghasdail. It is best known as the terminus of the ferry to Castlebay on Barra and to Oban; and as a result is the main gateway to the South Uist.
Near the ferry terminus is the Tourist Information Centre which is open from April until October.
If you are arriving or departing by sea keep a look out on the south side of the mouth of Loch Baghasdail for the Island of Calvay, or Callbhaigh. This was one of Bonnie Prince Charlieís (many) hiding places in 1746. Though once reached by a causeway, the island is now only accessible by boat.
Daliburgh lies some three miles north west of Lochboisdale and shares with in the role of being the main settlement in South Uist offering a number of public services. The settlement is focused on a crossroad. From here the A865 heads southeast towards Lochboisdale and north along the spine of South Uist. Meanwhile the B888 heads south towards Pollochar and the causeway to Eriskay, while a minor road completes the junction, heading west towards the broad band of dunes that back the shoreline here.
At Askernish, a couple of miles north west of Dailburgh, there is an 18 hole golf course believed to be originally designed by Old Tom Morris in 1892.
Howmore is perhaps best known for its collection of ruined churches and chapels. These are found close to the north of the road into the village. Here lies the remains of a church and four chapels. The most striking are the Teampull Mor, the "Large Church" of St Marys, of which only part of the east gable remains. The church probably dates back to the 1200s and it was used as the Parish church.
At the time of the Reformation, Howmore turned to Protestantism, through 95% of the population of South Uist remained Roman Catholic. Howmore Church, built in 1858, is therefore rather unusual, as it is one of the few churches in Scotland with a central Communion table.
The museum has at its heart a collection of items from and about South Uist collected by a local Parish Priest, Father John Morrison, during the 1950s and 1960s. It also sets out the background to an island that is incredibly rich in archaeological remains dating from the Bronze Age to the Viking era. The Museum is home to the Clan Ranald Stone, it is especially striking for the similarities between its carvings and those found on a tomb at St Clements Church, Rodel, on Harris. The Museum also has a cafÈ and craft area featuring artwork, knitwear, textiles and woodwork.
Not part of the Museum, but a few hundred yards south of it and set back on the opposite side of the main road is a plaque surrounded by stone walls that marks the birthplace of Flora Macdonlad, who famously assisted Bonnie Prince Charlie avoid capture by Government forces after the Battle of Culloden.
The waters around Uist house basking sharks, dolphins and porpoises, otters, whales and other sea-fearing creatures. The peat lochs are home to brown trout and provide some of the best fishing in Scotland. And on land can be found puffins, corncrakes and a wide variety of bird life including the golden eagle.
Keeping everything in check is the almighty red deer which are common throughout the Uists. Dyuring the summer they graze in the moorland and in winter they can be seen venturing into the local townships in search of food.
Benbecula sits between North and South Uist and is connected to both islands by a causeway; its main town being Balivanich.
It has an airport with flights every three days to Stornoway as well as flights linking the island to the mainland.
The island hosts a larger population than its two neighbours and includes a variety of facilities.
Its size is due to the prescence of the Army base which supports the MoD rocket range. Facilities within the town include garage, car hire, general stores, bakery, Post Office, Bank of Scotland and much more.
The main settlement of Baile Mhanaich (Balivanich) translates to The town of the Monks, whereas Baile nan Cailleach (Nunton) translates to The town of the Nuns.
Balivanich's name relates to a 6th Century monastery, and the remains of Teampull
Chaluim Chille can be seen to the South of the village.
The 14th Century Borve Castle (which would have been the seat of the Clan Ranald) is now in ruins. But whatís left can now be seen to the right of the main road when you are travelling from Lionacleit to the village of Nunton.
Nunton House would have been the residence of the Clan Ranald, and Nunton Steadings their Stables.
There are plenty of things to see and do on the islands. For keen golfers ñ thereís Benbecula golf course set on the grasslands next to the airstrip; a beautiful setting which you will never forget, with views out to the Monach Isles.
Nunton Steadings is an 18th Century farm steadings in the crofting township of Nunton, Isle of Benbecula. Nunton Steadings is now a museum, art gallery, cafÈ, gift shop and function room.
The buildings are currently owned by the Uist Buildings Preservation Trust who ëProtect the architectural history of the Uists and Barraí and are well worth a visit.
Uist Community Riding School is also based in Benbecula at the Stables in Balivanich - giving you the chance to experience the beauty of the Western Isles on one of the well-schooled horses. There also stands Liniclate Sports Centre located on the South of Benbecula on the B892 which is part of the local school.
Berneray lies in the South of Harris. A ferry from Leverburgh in Harris takes you to the island which is also connected to North Uist by a causeway.
It is a small island (roughly two miles by three), rich in wildlife and history, with a long sweeps of white sand on the west coast, backed by high dunes and machair.
With beautiful, unspoilt snow white beaches and tranquil lochs, Berneray offers some of the most spectacular scenery in the Western Isles, As you face out towards the Atlantic edge of the Islands you canít help but be impressed by the views on offer.
The sea looms large in this region of the Uists where picture-postcard seascapes pop up into view like clockwork when travelling by car, bike or hiking.
Amongst the array of services and facilities, Berneray has a shop, tea room, Post Office, church, fishing harbour and community hall and the island is home to around 130 people.
The Nurse's Cottage is owned by Berneray Development Group. It is home to the Historical Society and is situated just past the harbour.
It is a fantastic place to visit and during the summer months the centre is open to the public, staffed by knowledgeable local volunteers who are both friendly and helpful.
It also has a Visitor Information Centre where you can find out about event such as natural history walks. The Centre focuses on green tourism and has lots of advice on spotting wildlife, for example where would be the best place to go otter spotting or catch a glimpse of seals.
Those interested in tracing their family history can also find some answers to long queried questions from Historical Society.
The circular Barra can best be explored by simply driving round its 12 mile ring road. If you have arrived at the Sound of Barra from Eriskay, your starting point will be Northbay; if you have arrived from Oban, you will disembark at Castlebay, in the South.
Planes to the island land at Eoligarry, on the cockle strand beach, the only runway in the world to be washed by the tide.
The village of Castlebay gets its name from the impressive Kisimul Castle, which has been dated to the 13th Century and its famous Clan MacNeil stronghold.
The castle itself sits on a small rock island, Kisimul, a few hundred yards from shore in the bay, and is the first Barra landmark visible to any visitors approaching on the Oban ferry.
Barra has a selection of beautiful long, sandy beaches, ideal for sandcastles and swimming, as well as for spotting the local wildlife such as otters, seals, dolphins and crabs.
The islands boast beautiful green machair alnd and a selection of more than 1,000 wild flowers, which have led to the island being dubbed Barradise by those who visit it.
The beaches on the west side are full of cliffs and caves. Cleat, in particular, has caves which are safe for children to explore. Traigh Eais, near Eoligarry, provdes a mile-long strip of white sand looking westwards, to the Atlantic Ocean.
Other sports for beachcoming include Halaman Bay south of Borve, and Mingulay Bay offer excellent brown trout fishing, particularly Loch Trangastale. Permitts are available from Co-Chommunn, the community shop in Castlebay.
The causeway to Vatersay is at the south end of the Barra, near Castlebay. The smaller isle measures three miles by three, and following the main road will take you further south to its only village, also called Vatersay.
The small island has the causeway to Barra to thank for reversing population decline and saving Vatersay from going the same way as nearby island Mingulay, which was abandoned. Vatersay now boasts a thriving population close to 100; and for such a small island, there is much to see. A site at Allasdale, excavated in June 2007 by the Time Team, unearthed the most concentrated series of Bronze Age and Iron Age artefacts every found in the Western Isles. On the sandy machair, the Team discovered a 4,000 year old Bronze Age settlement, with several stone- built round houses nestled together in community-like fashion. Next to the house lay the communities cemetery, and a group of primitive coffins.
Near the Bronze Age community lay another surprise. The island's legend - that the sand dunes were hiding a Viking ship was dispelled when the team unearthed a remarkably well preserved Iron Age wheelhouse. Vatersay is also home to the remains of an RAF Catalina flying boat, which crashed higher up the hillside on 12th May 1944 during a training flight from Oban. Three of the nine men on board were killed and there is now a memorial plaque at the site.