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Hebrides

Isle Lewis courtesy Robert Bone Geograph Britain and Ireland The Outer Hebrides, governed by the Western Isles council, are windswept, isolated, and treeless. Moors, beaches, mountains and lochs make up much of the landscape. The main islands are Lewis and Harris, Barra, North and South Uist. Berneray, Benbecula, Eriskay, St Kilda, and Mingulay are smaller islands.

The Inner Hebrides islands, governed by the Highland council are Rum, Eigg, Muck, Canna, and Raasay. Skye is in this group but has an identity of its own. Please refer to our Skye tour for information on this island.

Tiree west coast courtesy Ben Hogh Geograph Britain and Ireland Other islands in the Inner HebridesóIslay, Colonsay, Seil, Luing, Lismore, Oronsay, Mull, Iona, Staffa, Coll, Tiree, and Juraóare governed by the Argyll and Bute council.

The people of the Hebrides honour their Gaelic heritage. The observance of the Sabbath is strong, especially in the Western Isles.

Argyll and Bute Islands

Coll Island north coast by Bob Jones Geograph Britain and Ireland Coll lies low in the ocean and is speckled with peat bogs. High sand dunes and beaches lend eye appeal for visitors. Prehistoric sites include standing stones at Totronald, Arinagourís cairn, and the Iron Age forts at Dun an Achaidh and Feall Bay. A small castle, Breacacha, built around 1450, survives. Also on the island is Totronald RSPB reserve.

Broch dun Mor Vaul by Sue Jackson Geograph Britain and Ireland Tiree is known for its surfing, sand, and sunshine. Prehistoric remains include the broch of Dun Mor Vaul and the Ringing Stone. Both Coll and Tiree are accessible by ferry. Colonsay and Oronsay also have sandy beaches. Colonsay is home to 150 species of birds. At Colonsay House are subtropical gardens.

Ardberg Distillery courtesy Mary and Angus Hogg Geograph Britain and Ireland Islay is known for its six distilleries which produce single malt whisky--Laphroaig and Ardbeg are two. Itís also a bird watchersí paradise with 250 different species vying for attention. Sandy beaches stretch for miles, and hills tempt the walker. Port Charlotte, Portnahaven, and Bowmore are the villages to visit.

Islay Museum of Island Life courtesy Lambert Geograph Britain and Ireland The Museum of Islay Life at Port Charlotte details the history of the island using a collection of thousands of items. The ruined Dunivaig Castle was the home of the Lords of the Isles, 14th and 15th century rulers of the Western Isles. An RSPB nature reserve at Gruinart, the 8th century Kildalton cross, and the Round church at Bowmore complete the list of attractions.

The island of Gigha is home to a number of standing stones, one of which is the Ogham stone, of Irish pre-Christian origin. The National Trust for Scotland runs a garden at Achamore House where rhododendrons and azaleas delight the eye.

Seil Island Bridge courtesy Tom Pennington Geograph Britain and Ireland Paps of Jura courtesy Steve Partridge Geograph Britain and Ireland On the island of Seil is a conservation village, Ellanbeich. A number of artists call it home. On Luing are an Iron age fort, Dun Leccamore, and the ruins of a medieval church, Kilchatton. At Achnacroish on the Isle of Lismore is the Historical Society museum. A ruined castle and prehistoric remains complete the picture. The island of Jura is defined by its three peaks named the Paps of Jura. The island is also home to a number of Neolithic cairns and standing stones.

Isle of Mull by Barbara Ballard Mull is a mix of uninhabited moorland, sheep pasture, mountains (Ben More at 3169 feet is the highest), and beaches (the one at Calgary bay is the best). The island capital, Tobermory, sits around a bay. A small museum and distillery are tourist attractions. Highland games are held each year.

Torosay Castle courtesy Sarah Charlesworth Geograph Britain and Ireland Duart Castle courtesy Robert Guthrie Geograph Britain and Ireland Mullís Torosay Castle on Duart Bay was built in the mid 1800s in the Scottish baronial style. It is accessible by several means: a two-mile footpath from Duart Castle, a narrow gauge railway trip of one mile from Craignure or a launch service from Oban. There are formal terraces and gardens, among which are a collection of rhododendrons, a walled garden and an oriental garden. The Statue Walk has life size limestone figures. Duart Castle is perched on remote Black Point and provides spectacular sea views. This MacLean stronghold dates from the 13th century. It was razed in 1756 by the English and rebuilt as a home in 1911.

Iona view by Barbara Ballard The isle of Iona is synonymous with its abbey. On the island of Mull, Craignure serves as the ferry port, and bus trips leave from here for Fionnphort, where a 10 minute passenger-only ferry ride goes to Iona; itís more than worth the trip. At Fionnphort is the St Columba Exhibition and Welcome Centre. Itís a good introduction to St Columba, the Celts, and Ionaís history.

Iona abbey by Barbara Ballard Iona abbey cross by Barbara Ballard Broken up during the reformation, Iona abbey has been reconstructed using traditional materials. In AD 563 St Columba, an Irish missionary, established a monastery on the island which became a center of Celtic Christianity. St. Aidan set out from here in AD 636 to establish Christianity in Northumbria, and the islandís religious significance spread throughout Scotland. After 200 years of tranquility, Norse raids put an end to the settlement and destroyed many of the buildings. A Benedictine abbey was founded in the 13th century and was made a cathedral in 1500. A few massive crosses showcase the carving skills of early craftsman.

Iona nunnery ruins by Barbara Ballard Also on the island are the ruins of an Augustinian nunnery founded in the 13th century and St. Oranís Chapel (oldest building on the island). A story associated with the Chapel is that the walls kept collapsing when being built, and the builders, deciding that a human sacrifice was needed to quiet evil spirits, buried a volunteer (Oran) in the walls. Many of Scotlandís early kings and queens, as well as Norse and Irish kings, are buried on the island.

Staffa courtesy National Trust for Scotland Staffa is an uninhabited island west of Mull in charge of the National Trust for Scotland. Itís famous for its basaltic formations, stepped columns, and Fingalís Cave. The cave was the inspiration for Mendelssohnís ĎFingalís Caveí overture.

Highland Islands

Eigg courtesy Scottish Wildlife Trust A National Scenic Area, the island of Eigg combines scenery with a variety of wildlife. Eiggís notable landscape is Sgurr, a ridge of basalt cliffs in the south. This island has an interesting microclimate allowing sub-tropical plants such as Arctic-alpine flowers, orchids and palm trees to grow. Another unusual feature of the island is its Ďsinging sandsí in the bay of Laig. Wildlife includes black guillemots and whales. Walter Scott wrote a poem about the people of the island who were massacred by the MacDonalds in 1577.

Muck is a tiny two-mile by one-mile island. Agriculture is the mainstay of the small community. On offer are beaches, bays, and a puffin colony. Rum is defined by its mountain pinnacles. The island is a national nature reserve and has only one habitation, a hotel. Permission is required to visit the island.

Canna courtesy National Trust for Scotland Canna, owned by the National Trust for Scotland, attracts seabirds to its cliffs. The remains of 7th century St Columbaís chapel are on the island. Raasay is long and narrow. On the island are the ruins of Brochel Castle.

Western Islands

Croft and weaving hut courtesy Duncan Grey Geograph Britain and Ireland Lewis and Harris is one island with the two named parts. North and South Harris are joined by a narrow neck of land. Mostly treeless and windswept, their Gaelic and Christian heritage holds strong. The weavers of Lewis and Harris are famous for their tweed, and there are numerous cottage workshops to visit. Harris is also famous for its beautiful sandy beaches, especially in the southern area. Its scenery of mountains, hills and coast outshines Lewisís. Tarbert, the ferry terminal from Skye, is the main village on Harris. St Clementís church at Rodel contains an outstanding group of late medieval sculptures.

Dun Carloway on Lewis courtesy Steve's Ancient Sites Lewis is moorland (the Black moor), loch and mountain. The main town of Stornoway, on the Eye peninsula, has demonstrations of weaving at the Lewis Loom Centre. The northern end of the island is attractive with a lighthouse and a sand beach at Port of Ness. The Arnol Black House is a traditional Lewis thatched house with byre and barn complete and furnished. Thereís a Visitor Centre.

Callanish Standing Stones courtesy David Purchase Geograph Britain and Ireland The 4000 year old Callanish Standing Stones is a group of stones forming a circleóone of several in the area that date from the late Stone Age and early Bronze Age. The Iron age Carloway Brochís dry stone walls form a defensive tower.

Barra, 5 by 8 miles in size, is known for its beaches and prehistoric remains. Kisimul Castle, dating from the 12th century sits on an islet and is open for visitors. The island has a Gaelic heritage centre and celebrates its ancestry with a summer festival.

North Uist courtesy Stuart Wilding Geograph Britain and Ireland Lochmaddy North Uist courtesy Anne Burgess Geograph Britain and Ireland Sitting between North and South Uist is Benbecula. It joins the two islands with a causeway over large expanses of sand and lochs. North Uist is lost in a mass of tiny islands and lakes. Sandy beaches decorate the northern shore. Lochmaddy is the main village. It has a museum. On the island is the RSPB Balranald Nature Reserve. Birdwatchers enjoy oystercatchers, lapwings, redshanks and curlews. There are a number of prehistoric remains on the island, including a 5000-year-old tomb, Bharpa Langas. A medieval monastery ruin sits near Carinish.

South Uist sand dunes courtesy Peter Wyatt Geograph Britain and Ireland South Uist is mountainous on the eastern side and has a long sandy beach on its western shore. Medieval church ruins dot the landscape. Flora Macdonald was born on the island at Milton. South Uist also has a nature reserve, Druidibeg.

St Kilda courtesy National Trust for Scotland St Kilda, a collection of small islands, is a World Heritage Site owned by the National Trust for Scotland. Only the army resides on the island after an evacuation of all the inhabitants in 1930.

Hebrides Visitor Information Centres

Castlebay VIC
Pier Rd, Castlebay
Isle of Barra, HS9 5XD
Tel. 0 1871 810 336
Open: Easter-mid Oct, Mon-Sat 9am-5pm, Sun 1-4pm, also 1 hour when evening ferry arrives

Lochboisdale VIC
Pier Rd, Lochboisdale
Isle of South Uist, HS8 5TH
Tel. 0 1878 700 286
Open: Easter-mid Oct, Mon-Sat 9am-5pm, Sun 1-4pm, also 1 hour when evening ferry arrives except in winter

Lochmaddy VIC
Pier Rd, Lochmaddy
Isle of North Uist, HS6 5AA
Tel. 0 1876 500 321
Open: April-mid Oct, Mon-Sat 9am-5pm, Sun 1-4pm, also 1 hour when evening ferry arrives

Stornoway VIC
26 Cormwell St, Stornoway
Isle of Lewis, HS1 2DD
Tel. 0 1851 703 088
Open: Easter-mid Oct, Mon-Sat 9am-6pm; mid Oct-Easter: Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, also 1 hour when evening ferry arrives

Tarbet VIC
Pier Rd
Tarbet, Isle of Harris, HS3 3DG
Tel. 0 8452 255 121
Open: April-mid Oct: Mon-Sat 9am-5pm; also meets late ferry

Hebrides Attractions

For full details of attractions see the Attractions section of our website.

Arinagourís Cairn
Island of Coll, Inner Hebrides

Arnol Black House
Off the A858, west of the village of Barvas, on the island of Lewis, Outer Hebrides
Tel. 0 1851 710395

Balranald Nature Reserve
Eighteen miles west of Lochmaddy, off the A865, on island of North Uist, Outer Hebrides

Barra Heritage Centre
Island of Barra, Outer Hebrides
Tel. 0 1871 810413

Bharpa Langas
Island of North Uist, Outer Hebrides

Breacacha Castle
On the island of Coll, Inner Hebrides
Governed by Argyll

Callanish Standing Stones
12 miles west of Stornoway, off A859
Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides
Tel. 0 1851 621 422

Carinish Stone Circle
Runs through middle of main road, Isle of North Uist

Colonsay House
On the island of Colonsay, Inner Hebrides

Duart Castle
Two miles (3km) southeast of Craignure, off the A849
On Isle of Mull, Inner Hebrides, governed by Argyll
Tel. 0 1680 812 309
Web: Duart Castle

Dun an Achaidh Iron Age fort
Island of Coll, Inner Hebrides

Dun Carloway Broch
1.5 miles south of Carloway, Lewis on the A858
Tel. 0 1851 710 395 (The Blackhouse, Arnol)

Dun Leccamore Iron Age fort
Island of Luing, one mile north of Toberonochy

Dun Mor Vaul Broch
Hebrides
Island of Tiree, Inner Hebrides

Dunivaig Castle
Islay island

Feall Bay Iron Age fort
Island of Coll, Inner Hebrides

Historical Society Museum
Isle of Lismore, Inner Hebrides

Iona Abbey, Nunnery, and Cross
Island of Iona, Inner Hebrides

Kilchatton Church
Toberonochy, on island of Luing, Inner Hebrides

Kildonan Museum
South Uist
On main South Uist road, 15 miles after Benbeculla causeway
Tel. 0 1878 710 343
Web: Kildonan Museum

Kinloch Castle
Rum island, Inner Hebrides
Tel. 0 1687 462037

Kisimul Castle
Barra island, Outer Hebrides
Tel. 0 1871 810 336

Lewis Loom Center
The Old Grainstore, 3 Bayhead, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis
Tel. 0 1851 704 500

Loch Druidibeg Nature Reserve
Two miles north of the village of Howmore on the island of South Uist, Outer Hebrides
Tel. 0 1870 620 238

Museum of Islay Life
Port Charlotte, Isle of Islay, Inner Hebrides, on A847
Tel. 0 1496 850 358

St Columba Exhibition and Welcome Centre
Fionnphort village, on the island of Mull, Inner Hebrides
Tel. 0 1681 700660

St Clementís Church
Rodel, on the A859
Island of Harris, Outer Hebrides

St Columbaís Chapel
On the island of Canna, Inner Hebrides

Staffa Natural Nature Reserve
Uninhabited island 7 miles (11.3km) west of Mull, Inner Hebrides
Can be viewed from Iona
Tel. 0 1631 564710 for area National Trust for Scotland manager
Tel. 0 1475 650 100 for day tours from Oban; Tel. 0 1681 700 338 for day tours from Iona and Fionnphort; Tel. 01688 400 242 for day tours from Mull

Steinacleit Cairn and Stone Circle
On the south end of Loch an Duin, Shader, Isle of Lewis
North-west of Stornoway on the A857 to Ness
Tel. 0 1851 710 395 (The Blackhouse, Arnol)

Tirefour Broch
Isle of Lismore, Inner Hebrides

Torosay Castle
1.5 miles (2.4km) southeast of Craignure, Isle of Mull, Inner Hebrides
On Duart Bay, reached from the ferry dock by narrow gauge railway or special launch service from Oban
Tel. 0 1680 812 421

Totronald RSPB Nature Reserve
Located in the far south-west of the island of Coll, Inner Hebrides
Tel. 0 1879 230 301

Totronald Standing Stones
Island of Coll, Inner Hebrides

Photos by Barbara Ballard and courtesy of:
Staffa island, St Kilda, Canna: National Trust for Scotland
Eigg: Scottish Wildlife Trust
and the following courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland:
Isle Lewis by Robert Bone
Tiree Island by Ben Hogh
Coll Island by Bob Jones
Broch dun Mor Vaul on Tiree by Sue Jackson
Ardbeg distillery by Mary and Angus Hogg
Museum of Islay Life by Lambert
Seil Island bridge by Tom Pennington
Paps of Jura by Steve Partridge
Torosay castle by Sarah Charlesworth
Duart castle by Robert Guthrie
Weaverís cottage by Duncan Grey
Callanish Standing Stones on Isle of Lewis by David Purchase
North Uist by Stuart Wilding
Lochmaddy by Anne Burgess
South Uist sand dunes by Peter Wyatt

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