Guide to Lewis

CALLANISH STONES

The Callanish Stones are an impressive series of ancient stones – one of the most significant and important megalithic complexes in Europe. The main circle of stones can easily be seen from the main road and is made up of rows of large pieces of gneiss in a cross shape. At its centre are a monolith and small, chambered cairn. Don’t miss this truly fascinating insight into ancient history that dates from 2500-3000BC.

CLACH AN TRUISEIL

Another historically important stone, ClachanTruiseil or the ‘Standing Stone’, stands six metres high and is located around 20km north of Stornoway on the A857. This is the largest single standing stone in Scotland (no entry charge to area).

CARLOWAY BROCH

Located above Loch anDuin, on a rocky knoll 1.5 miles south of Carloway is the Iron Age concentric stone structure, CarlowayBroch. Intended to impress and deter enemies, it is likely to have housed tribal leaders. It dates back 2,000 years and stands at approximately nine metres high. A visitor centre opens during the summer.

LEWS CASTLE

Lews Castle (NB not ‘Lewis’) has overlooked Stornoway Harbour since being built in the mid 1800s in a mock Tudor style by rich merchant, Sir James Matheson. The castle is set in delightful woodlands and has been used as a school and a college - as well as a hospital during the Second World War. Now deemed unsafe, public entry is no longer permitted.

STORNOWAY

Stornoway harbour is delightful and there is a museum on Francis Street which contains objects, photographs and paintings that depict and describe the island’s social and economic history, along with its archaeology and natural history. The museum also holds regular events and exhibitions.

BLACKHOUSES

Named not for their smoky interiors, but to distinguish them from the newer ‘white’ houses built in the 1800s, the design of a blackhouse goes back thousands of years, as does its construction method. Two concentric stone walls were filled with peat and the House finished with a thatched roof, often secured against inclement weather by netting and large stones. Good examples of Lewis blackhouses can be found at Gearrannan, near Carloway, where there is also a small museum and café.

THE BUTT OF LEWIS

The Butt of Lewis is the most northerly point of the Isle of Lewis. A lighthouse was built in the 1860s and is worth a visit. Following the coast southwest from the lighthouse there is a natural arch called the Eye of the Butt.

AN LANNTAIR

Lewis has a rich and long cultural history, rooted deeply in the Celtic traditions. AnLanntair, or ‘The Lantern’ is the island’s arts centre, found adjacent to Stornoway Harbour. It offers live music, refreshments, exhibitions and events, shopping and creative workshops.

BOAT TRIPS TO: ST KILDA

The four islands of St Kilda - Hirta, Dun, Soay and Boreray – form the most remote islands group in the British Isles and are one of only a few places in the world with Dual World Heritage Status. As such, its wildlife, heritage and landscapes are truly captivating. The cliffs and sea stacs form an important seabird breeding station and St Kilda is home to several very rare species, including two early breeds of sheep, the Soay and the Boreray. Getting to St Kilda is challenging and requires a calm sea-state and a degree of patience; however it is certainly worth the wait.

PABBAY, LITTLE BERNERA, MEALASTA, SCARP AND TARANSAY

These islands can be reached by boat trip with Sea Trek. Each island boasts expanses of beguiling white sandy beaches, which are the perfect location for a spot of sunbathing, should the weather prove warm enough.

GREAT BERNERA

This small but delightful island can be reached from Lewis via a bridge spanning the B8059. Here, visitors will find an ‘Iron-Age’ village at Bosta Beach, plus a museum and café, not to mention a restored Norse Mill and several ancient standing stones. Natural features include a wonderful sandy beach. Well worth a visit.

LANDSCAPE

Lewis is the most northerly of the Western Isles, resulting in its charming air of remoteness. Its south-west coast offers dramatic hill and seascape views, with sharp granite hills rising directly from the sea. Parts of the ground are flecked with exposed granite and pockets of water, while the coastline is marked out by white sandy beaches, crannogs (artificial islands) and sand dunes.

FLORA

Lewis is covered in wildflowers, found especially in the protected Machair areas: wild-flower carpets occurring naturally where shell sand is blown over peat layers, forming a rare, naturally fertile alkaline habitat. Flora common to the island include Lady’s bedstraw, plantain, clover, harebell, silverweed, thyme, meadowsweet and a wide variety of orchids.

FAUNA

Fauna is rich on the island too, with a number of migrating birds in residence for at least part of the year, such as the corn crake and ringed plover. Other birds and animals spotted include puffins, sea eagles, seals, minke whales, dolphins and porpoises, plus red deer are often seen grazing further inland.

FISHING

There are numerous brown trout lochs on the estate and at least five within walking distance from the House. A number of lochs have boats on to aid fishing. All brown trout lochs can be fished free of charge and Simon Hunt is happy to provide advice, guidance and help. The trout tend to be small but beautiful and fishing for them can captivate children. An amazing harvest is available from the sea and the House comes equipped with eight lobster pots (although pulling them is not for the faint hearted). Mackerel and other seafish can be caught in Hamanavay sea-loch.

HORSE RIDING

What better way is there to explore the glorious countryside of Lewis than on horseback? The Hebridean Equestrian Centre is a ten-minute drive from Stornoway. It caters for adults and children from the age of four upwards. Novice riders can book lessons at the centre, or more experienced visitors can enjoy a relaxing trek across the heather moorland or an invigorating canter along the beach at Coll.

HILL WALKING

There are some of the most dramatic hill and seascape views in the Hebrides. While not high by mainland standards the hills rise sharply and directly from the sea. The ground is unyielding and flecked with exposed granite and interlinking pockets of water. The hill changes colour from vivid lush green in May to purple in August and to oranges and browns by late September.

Walking on the hill is the best way to experience the views and take in the wildlife. Simon Hunt is on hand to accompany you and provide insight and help as required.

GOLF

Stornoway boasts a beautiful 18-hole golf course at Lady Lever Park, which has been well designed to offer a challenging round of golf in truly picturesque surroundings. Golfers walking between holes will particularly appreciate the panoramic views of the harbour and The Minch. Although the course is short by modern standards, coming in at just over 5,000 yards, it includes plenty of hazards for wayward shots, including heather and gorse.

SHOPPING

Craft enthusiasts will be in seventh heaven on Lewis and its wide range of arts and crafts shops. Souvenir hunters can purchase exquisite examples of locally produced handmade soap, candles and wooden toys, as well as Lewis and Harris tweed products, jewellery, ceramics and original works of art.

PEOPLE AND CULTURE

Inhabitants of Lewis are warm and friendly, keenly welcoming visitors to their little piece of Scottish paradise. Many traditional crafts are still maintained on the islands, such as weaving tweed and wood carving and a gentle pace of life is maintained as much as possible – a welcome relief from a more hectic lifestyle.

Sunday remains very much a special day of the week, when many commercial concerns, such as museums, sports centres and some restaurants and cafes close in favour of attending religious services. Non-churchgoers can still enjoy the island on a Sunday with a little prior planning to take the commercial restrictions into account.

CHILDREN’S LEWIS

Children will love Lewis’ vast space to run about in and parents will relish the safety, abundant beauty and fresh air. When the children want to try something new, take them to the Paint a Pot studio in Coll to create a ceramic masterpiece. Then head northwards to the Eorpie Play Park near Ness. Children of all ages will love crawling, climbing and swinging amongst the sand dunes before looking round the nearby Butt of Lewis lighthouse.

GO CARTING

The Lewis Karting Centre outside Stornoway has a 560m long track. The track has many changes in gradient blind turns an over taking opportunities abound. The fleet of karts comprises 200cc Honda Prokarts and 160cc Honda karts for the 8-12s. There is a 390cc raced tuned 2 seater 'Thunderkart' to enable less able motorsport enthusiasts to be driven round by one of the Centres experts. For more information call 01851 700 222.

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