Aug 142013

The last leg of our self-drive holiday was based in Stornoway, the capital of the Outer Hebrides, where we spent three nights in the Royal Hotel. Before reaching our destination, we had to take another car ferry journey from North Uist to Leverburgh in the south of the Isle of Harris.

Harris campsite

Harris campsite (Photo credit: Alan Rowley Photos)

As we crossed over to Harris, on waters that were so shallow that we could see the bottom on many occasions, we could see the landscape ahead of us was more mountainous than on the other islands. We were yet to find out just how desolate and wild the Isle of Harris was.

After disembarking the ferry, we started our journey through Harris, the road hugging the western side of the island, before cutting across to the eastern side, and the small town of Tarbert. After leaving Tarbert, the road climbed over the mountainous interior of Harris before entering the Isle of Lewis and crossing an area of peat bogs and lochs before arriving in Stornoway.

Stornoway harbour and town

Stornoway harbour and town (Photo credit: Alan Rowley Photos)

After settling into our room in the Royal Hotel, overlooking the picturesque Lews Castle and the harbour, we dined in the restaurant before taking a short stroll around the town.  I was able to video and photograph a group of seals basking in the harbour, looking for scraps discarded by the fish market.

After a good night’s sleep, and a hearty Scottish breakfast, we toured the northerly part of Lewis and visited the Bridge to Nowhere. This strange bridge was to be part of a road running along the eastern coast of Lewis, but money ran out and the project stalled almost immediately after the bridge was built, hence the name.

The Bridge to Nowhere

The Bridge to Nowhere (Photo credit: Alan Rowley Photos)

Retracing our tracks, we headed back inland before turning north to Port of Ness. The tiny village and harbour is the most northerly settlement in the Outer Hebrides and after visiting the cafe, we headed to the Butt of Lewis, the most northerly point of the islands. This wild place is said to be the windiest spot in Europe, although it was calm and sunny for our visit.

Top of the Hebrides

Top of the Hebrides (Photo credit: Alan Rowley Photos)

Returning to Stornoway down the western part of the island, we visited the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village, a restored crofting settlement on the shores of the Atlantic. The village housed a museum, gift shop, cafe and some unique self catering crofts, equipment with all mod-cons. What a great place to spend a holiday.

Callanish Standing Stones 1

Callanish Standing Stones 1 (Photo credit: Alan Rowley Photos)

Our next port of call was the Callanish Standing Stones, a bizarre group of stones dating back to 3000 BC. Although the visitor centre was closed, we were still able to walk around the stones, and take photographs.

Gearrannan Blackhouse Village 2

Gearrannan Blackhouse Village (Photo credit: Alan Rowley Photos)

Our journey finally took us back to Stornoway, where we dined in the HS1 restaurant before returning to our room where we watched the sun setting over the castle, and seals being hand fed in the harbour.

Lunar landscape

Lunar landscape (Photo credit: Alan Rowley Photos)

On our final full day in the Hebrides, we took a tour of the island of Harris, visiting Tarbert, before travelling along the Golden Road, a torturous drive on little more than a track, with sharp bends and steep inclines. This has to be one of the best coastal drives you could imagine.

Golden Road on Harris

Golden Road on Harris (Photo credit: Alan Rowley Photos)

With the sea on one side, and a Lunar landscape on the other, the road wound its way along the eastern coast of Harris, a coast of rocks and inlets. In this barren landscape, there were only occasional dwellings along the road, with simply breathtaking scenery around every turn.

Uig Chess Man

Uig Chess Man (Photo credit: Alan Rowley Photos)

Our last stop was at the small museum in the west coast village of Uig. This village is well-known for the Lewis Chessmen, which were unearthed from a stone chamber beneath the dunes behind the beach, some time around 1830. Viking in origin, there were 93 pieces, which are now in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, while most reside in the British Museum. There are replicas to be purchased in the gift shop at the museum, and a large-scale replica outside the museum.

Our last night in the Hebrides was spent strolling around Stornoway’s busy harbour, eating the largest ‘fish supper’ I have ever seen. Presented in a box resembling a pizza carton, there was far too much for us, but the herring gulls were happy to eat our leftovers.

Lews Castle and grounds

Lews Castle and grounds (Photo credit: Alan Rowley Photos)

The last day of our holiday dawned bright and sunny yet again as we packed our bags and dropped off our hire car before being taken to the airport for our flights back home. The return flights were uneventful, and it wasn’t long before we were back in Selston with a head full of memories that will last a lifetime.

The Outer Hebrides is a place to which I will certainly return to experience more of ‘Life on the Edge’.

Outer Hebrides: An introduction | Barra and Vatersay | Eriskay to North Uist

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