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The Outer Hebrides – Top 5 Places to Visit

Posted on Jan 10, 2014 by Jonathan Willet

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The Outer Hebrides, every time we visit, hold a real magic for us here at Wilderness Scotland.

The dramatic scenery that changes as you travel the length and breadth of these fascinating islands.

The cultural history of the place is rich with amazing stories of life through thousands of years. Finally, the wildlife there is amazing and abundant throughout the year.  On an adventure holiday in the Outer Hebrides these are our top 5 places to visit in the Outer Hebrides:

More on the Outer Hebrides

  1. Hidden Gems: Mountain Biking in the Outer Hebrides
  2. Video: Rolling Hebrides
  3. Hebridean Wildlife

Callanish Standing Stones – Lewis

The Outer Hebrides - Top 5 Places to Visit
Lewis has become better known through the popular novel, “The Blackhouse”. Much of it is set in Ness at the most northern extremity of Lewis but for something unique in the Western Isles these amazing standing stones are it.

The Callanish Stones, located above the beautiful waters of Loch Roag, are sometimes referred to as the ‘Stonehenge of Scotland.”  It is beyond all doubt that the stone circles of Scotland are a sight to behold with the hills of Great Bernera as a stunning background.

They date back nearly 5,000 years. There is a great deal of debate about use but it is thought that they were part of a celestial observatory that used the whole landscape of the area.

No one really knows why the Callanish Stones were built, but there have been many tales created through local folklore.  One belief is that the stone circles were giants that were petrified because they refused to convert to Christianity.

Another legend is that on a midsummers morning in the early hours a presence, not of this world, walks the grounds of the area whose appearance is foreshadowed by the sound of a Cuckoo.

  • How about visiting the Callanish Standing Stones on a different kind of adventure holiday with a mountain biking journey across The Hebridean Trail?

St Clement’s Church, Rodel – Harris

The Outer Hebrides - Top 5 Places to Visit
This church dates from the 1520’s and is amazingly well preserved, though it has been repaired and restored on at least 4 occasions and a tower and new windows added in the 1780’s.

It was built by the 8th Chief of the Macleods of Harris and Dunvegan, Alastair Crotach (humpbacked). His ornately carved grave is found inside the church.

On the tower look out for a carved Sheila-na-gig, a pagan fertility symbol.

Balranald – North Uist

This RSPB reserve has amazing views over to the Atlantic and St Kilda on a clear day. You can hear Corncrakes rasping from the nettles and also the Corn Buntings singing from the fences (they sound a bit like jangling keys). The birdlife here is amazing in the Springtime, literally a riot of birdsong and activity. There is a one hour circular walk round the reserve plus an amazing beach.

Blackhouses – South Uist

These traditional thick-walled, round gabled and thatched houses of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland can be seen at their best preserved/ least dilapidated state here. In Harris and Lewis the council there gave incentives to build new houses from the 1930’s onwards but Uist didn’t get any of this, so their blackhouses were in use commonly until the 1970’s. They were called blackhouses as they were dark and sooty inside and not whitewashed like the “new” houses built from the 1880’s onwards.

Kisimul Castle – Barra

If you know a Mac/McNeil then their family originally comes from Barra. The stronghold of the Clan is on an island a few hundred meters from the appropriately named Castlebay, the main/only town on Barra. The current castle dates from the 1400’s with a major rebuild in the 1950’s and 60’s.

The preceding places are just some of the amazing landmarks worth visiting in the Outer Hebrides.

Wilderness Scotland have a huge range of different adventure tours around the Outer Hebrides. Walking, Sea Kayaking, Mountain Biking and Road Cycling are all exciting options to choose from. Come and explore the Outer Hebrides with us …

About the author

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Jonathan Willet

Jonathan has a wealth of experience in biodiversity, history and landscape. With degrees in zoology and ecology and 20+ years as a wildlife guide, his regular blogs are always packed full of informational gems.

Read more articles by Jonathan


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