The Islands of Lewis

/The Islands of Lewis
The Islands of Lewis2019-02-01T10:26:23+00:00

Lewis and Harris are combined like Siamese twins at the northern end of the Western Isles, otherwise known as the Outer Hebrides. Yet although they are geographically linked, they each have their own individual characteristics

Lewis is largely rolling moorland, low-lying hills, and dotted with fresh water lochs in such abundance that from a high vantage point they look like sequins glinting in the sunlight. Both western and eastern coasts tend to be rugged, but their cliffs often fall away to reveal vast expanses of white sandy beaches which are never crowded

Harris, on the other hand, is mountainous, with the highest point at An Clisham reaching 799 metres. These hills offer excellent challenges for climbers and hill walkers. The rocky east coast contrasts sharply with the more fertile western shores which have, for thousands of years, met the demands of the Atlantic waters by the forming of many superb beaches, some of which literally stretch for miles

The 5,000 year old Standing Stones of Calanais (Callanish), second only to Stonehenge in the UK for their grandeur, are to be found on the west coast of Lewis. Just a few miles away stands the well preserved 2,000 year old Carloway Broch, or dun, a circular, dry-stone built fortified tower.

Later history is represented by the many religious buildings found in the islands, particularly St. Clement’s church at Roghadal (Rodel) in Harris. This church is one of the finest in the west of Scotland, and contains the magnificent sculptured tomb of Alasdair Crotach Macleod, prepared for himself nineteen years before his death in 1547. In Lewis, the ruined church of St. Columba at Ui, Point, and the still used St.Moluag’s church at Europie, Ness are well worth visiting

Yet more recent history comes alive in the Blackhouse Museum in Arnol, the Shawbost Folk Museum, and in many smaller local village museums throughout the islands in the summer. The Calanais Visitor Centre and the restored ‘black house’ village at Gearrannan must also be seen

A visit to Lewis and Harris is not complete without seeing the famous Harris Tweed cloth being woven. Have a tour round a Harris Tweed mill to see the wool being spun and the tweed being finished, then go to the weaver’s home to see the hand weaver at work. Under the Harris Tweed Act the cloth is only “Harris Tweed” if it has been handwoven by the islanders at their homes in the islands, finished in the islands, and if it also complies with the quality requirements in the Regulations which apply to the famous Orb trade mark

Stornoway is the only town in the Western Isles, and is located on the east coast of Lewis. About 8,000 people live in this bustling town, crowned by Lews Castle and the lovely wooded Castle grounds. The Western Isles Museum and the An Lanntair Art Gallery are both located in Stornoway and should be visited

In complete contrast you can escape to the peace and tranquillity of the rural areas such as the islands of Bearnaraigh (Great Bernera, Lewis) accessed by a road bridge, and Scalpaigh (Scalpay, Harris) which is also reached in a few minutes by a road bridge from the east coast of Harris