Our magical trip to Scotland – Part 5: Isle of Lewis

Today, dear friends, I’ll show you around the sights of the Isle of Lewis – a real feast for both nature lovers and people interested in history!

As soon as we arrived on the hospitable island, we were given a free brochure on the Outer Hebrides, with a town map of Stornoway and a detailed road map of Lewis, showing all the points of interest, some of which we’d never heard of – it would prove to be an invaluable guide for exploring the island!

So, when we first started out in our hired car, we crossed the island – a lovely, VERY quiet ride through almost completely empty moorlands – to the Western side, where most of the ancient monuments are. The first one we came across was the standing stone of Trushel – a single stone in the middle of a field, which happens to be the biggest monolith in all of Europe! Once part of a stone complex similar to Callanish, this impressive witness from Neolithic times is a real hidden gem, a must for every history fan.

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Then we went further north, right to the northern end of the island called the Butt of Lewis. There’s a lighthouse there that used to be enormously important for the shipping traffic, and is still operating; and you get a magnificent view from the rugged cliffs on the wild and beautiful Atlantic.

 

 

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On our way back south, we stopped at a coffee shop run by a wonderful couple from Sheffield, and then a pub where we met some lovely locals and indulged in a little game of darts – life is just so simple and easy on the Outer Hebrides!

 

 

 

 

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Then we went further down along the west coast, where the really world famous monuments are: Carloway Broch and Callanish. Before that, though, we came across another hidden gem: a Norse mill and kiln, preserved as a little museum from Medieval days! It is a bit of a walk from the car park to the site, but it’s most certainly worth it; you can enter the two little thatched buildings and get a real glimpse into Viking life. And what wonderful peace and quiet surrounding the old place…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then – Dun Carloway! One of the best preserved brochs, almost 2,000 years old and still at some points 9 metres high! Brochs, those massive Celtic structures, are unique to Scotland, and despite having the look of little fortresses, they were probably more of a status symbol for rich Picts, and provided very comfortable living quarters at the time.

Now I’ve got to make a little confession here: the area around the broch was closed when we got there – due to some ‘danger’ to tourists, according to the authorities. Since I’d come from so far, though, to see this unique building, I just climbed over the fence to get a closer look at it… It’s simply stunning – you can still see remains of the staircase in between the two surrounding walls that once led to the upper floor, and you can virtually picture an ancient family sitting around a cosy fire in the big living room!

 

 

 

 

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And then we went even further back in time: to the Standing Stones of Callanish, a Neolithic stone circle almost as famous as Stonehenge! One of the main reasons we’d chosen the Isle of Lewis as our holiday destination…

The first stone circle in Callanish was erected around the same time as Stonehenge down in England, about 3,000 BCE. It was enlarged several times over the millennia, and adapted to different ways of life as new peoples would come to the island, bringing along farming and bronze. It was still in use around 800 BCE! It is believed that Callanish was a meeting place for religious ceremonies and also a burial place for important people; it is fascinating to walk all around the area and discover that the outer rows of stones seem to be leading to the centre like avenues – imagine the processions that were held there thousands of years ago!

 

 

The weather actually was on our side, even though we got soaked – but the heavy rain shower that started just while we were on our way there had cleared the terrain for us, and we had the place almost to ourselves for taking our photos!

 

 

 

 

Callanish has also got a very good visitors centre that’s open all day, with lots of information on the ancient monument, and a great souvenir shop with beautiful jewellery – my darling gentleman bought me a lovely magical Celtic mood ring there!

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After all this exploring, we’d developed an enormous appetite; so, back at the Crown Inn in Stornoway, I had chips loaded with haggis, black pudding and mozzarella for dinner! The Scottish cuisine really is very innovative, and extremely tasty and filling…

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The next day, we went north along the east coast of Lewis; not so many ancient sites there, but something definitely unique: a ‘Bridge to Nowhere’! There had obviously once been plans to unite the two coast roads, and a bridge was built towards the Butt of Lewis – but the last 10 or 15 miles of road were never completed… So, after crossing that bridge, you’re literally going nowhere!

 

 

The east coast of Lewis has also got lots of lovely beaches – if it had been a bit warmer, we’d have been able to go for a swim…

 

 

So this is Lewis, dear friends – one of the most beautiful places I’ve EVER seen in my life. Next time, in the last part of our island adventure, we’ll head south to Harris, where life is still very rural and I saw what I’d hoped to see on the Outer Hebrides if anywhere: sheep on the road…

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