The Western Isles of Scotland are home to some of the country’s most dramatic landscapes and seascapes, and the many quaint hotels and B&Bs make for the perfect holiday destination for anyone looking for thrilling outdoor activities or a little time to relax in seclusion along some of the country’s most outstanding beaches.
A culturally and geographically unique area of Scotland, each of the isles of the Outer Hebrides has its own individual features and beauty to offer visitors, from the eerie lunar terrain and white sand beaches of Harris, to the enchanting Lews Castle in Stornoway and the many lochs of Uist.
The Isles of Harris and Lewis
In the northern region of the Outer Hebrides lie the Isle of Harris and Lewis, home to Stornoway, the largest town in the region with a population of just over 8,000. The town was founded in the early 8th Century by Vikings, and today the harbour that originally attracted those earlier settlers still plays a major roll in the region’s commerce and transportation. The crowning piece of this quaint and colourful coastal town is Lew Castle, a stately neo-gothic estate built in the mid 19th century. Culture vultures looking for a trip further back in history, can visit the fascinating Callanish Standing Stones on the Isle’s western coast, a group of ancient monoliths erected some 5,000 years ago.
Heading south from Stornoway and the Isle of Lewis, you’ll arrive on the Isle of Harris, perhaps the region's most scenic and naturally stunning area, made-up from an eclectic mix of rocky moonscape (featured as Jupiter in 2001: A Space Odyssey), green meadows, rolling hills, and pristine beaches. Visitors will want to visit the white sands and azure waters of Luskentyre Beach, and perhaps play a few holes at the nearby local links; the Isle of Harris Golf Club.
The Isle of North Uist, South Uist, and Barra
North Uist might be the ultimate Scottish destination for lovers of wildlife, as its famed “drowned landscape”, which features peat bogs, lochans and verdant machair are home to a mix of rare seabirds, such as the corncrake, as well as the largest colony of grey seals in Europe.
The Isle of South Uist is the largest of the Outer Hebrides, and features a mixed topography, from the 2034ft peak of Beinn Mhor, to the sandy dunes that are home to the region's oldest and most prestigious golf course, Askernish Golf Club. This gem is a must-visit for golf fans, as it was recently discovered to have been an Old Tom Morris design, and has undergone massive refurbishment to make it one of the country’s great links.
The Isle of Barra is most well known for its breathtaking “castle in the sea”, the Kisimul Castle. And whether you’re out on the water exploring the local marine life and beaches in a kayak or are staring out from the shore, this one-of-a-kind medieval castle will give you a mythical feeling found nowhere else in the world.
So whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast or a student of history, begin planning your stay in the Outer Hebrides today using Expedia’s search tool, it’s bound to be a holiday you’ll never forget.