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Outer Hebrides

Travel Guide Europe United Kingdom Scotland Scottish Islands Outer Hebrides

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Introduction

island of Lewis, Hebrides

island of Lewis, Hebrides

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The Outer Hebrides (or Western Isles) are a chain of islands off the west coast of Scotland. The chain is part of the Hebrides and is separated from the mainland and the Inner Hebrides by the stormy waters of the Minch, the Little Minch and the Sea of the Hebrides. You should definitely visit the Outer Hebrides if you enjoy good scenery and the outdoors.

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Islands

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Geography

Geologically, the islands are almost entirely composed of ancient Pre Cambrian Lewisian Gneiss, representing some of the oldest rocks in Britain. The islands were scoured by glaciers and, away from the great expanses of heather moorland, which covers much of the centre of Lewis, the soils are often thin. Once heavily forested, the effect of human settlement has removed all of the natural woodland. In general the west coast is fertile and there is a strip of land called the machair just in from the coast that is rich in wild flowers. There are many sand dunes. The east of the islands is far less fertile. When the highland clearances took place to make way for sheep, many west coast settlements were destroyed and many of those who did not emigrate moved to a hard life on the eastern side.

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Towns

The main towns, if you can call them all that are:

Lewis

  • Stornoway - This is certainly a real town on the east coast with a ferry link to Ullapool.
  • Breasclete
  • Carloway
  • Coll
  • Laxdale
  • Leurbost
  • Sandwick
  • Shawbost
  • Tolsta
  • Uig - Some ancient chessmen were found in a dune here after a storm. They are now in a museum in Edinburgh.
  • Valtos

Harris

  • Tarbert
  • Leverburgh
  • Rodel

North Uist

  • Lochmaddy

South Uist

  • Lochboisdale - Calmac ferry links to Castlebay (Barra) and Oban on the mainland.

Barra

  • Castlebay

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Sights and Activities

  • On Lewis, the west coast is extremely beautiful - particularly south of the island of Great Bernera around Uig (not to be confused with the port of the same name on Skye) and Valtos.
  • Callanish is reckoned to be second only to Stonehenge in England among the UK's henge monuments. Carloway is the site of one of the best broch ruins in Scotland.
  • At the Butt of Lewis, the far northern tip, the lighthouse was one of the last in the United Kingdom to be permanently staffed.
  • At the south end of Harris Lord Leverhulme was attempting to create a major port at Leverburgh but this did not survive him and there is little left to see. Rodel, however has a church of unusual quality for the Hebrides.

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Getting There

By Plane

Loganair is the airline for the Outer Hebrides. It has flights from Glasgow to Barra, Benbecula and Stornoway. Stornoway is also reached from Edinburgh and Inverness.
Barra has the only beach landing in the United Kingdom.

By Train

Scotrail has very scenic lines from Glasgow or Edinburgh to Oban and to Inverness From Inverness there is a line to Kyle of Lochalsh, from where a bus runs to Uig on Skye - see By Boat below.

By Car

Car ferries are listed below. There are no bridges from the mainland but it is possible to drive up many of the islands using bridges or causeways between them. It is well worth while for drivers who want to go to more than one island to look at Calmac's islandhopping

By Boat

Caledonian Macbrayne run car ferries from Oban to Castlebay on Barra and Lochboisdale on South Uist, from Ullapool to
Stornoway on Lewis and from Locbmaddy on North Uist or Uig on Skye to Tarbert on Harris.

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Sleep

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This is version 20. Last edited at 18:58 on May 6, 10 by Utrecht. 7 articles link to this page.

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