We’re an ideal base for your island adventures, be that a culture-vulture evening in Stornoway (with its hotels, restaurants and frequent live music) or more determined expeditions to some farflung corners.
The area of Ness, at the very north of Lewis – drive north, and turn left at Barvas – was one of heavy Viking settlement and still very much a place apart, of flat and elemental scenery and where you are keenly conscious of the power of the sea. Port of Ness – with its old stone harbor and pretty beach – is almost Cornish in its prettiness; the great Traigh Shannda beach, on the west side of the district, is particularly popular with surfers, and at the Butt of Lewis proper you can stand by the great lighthouse – it was built in 1862, by Robert Louis Stevenson’s uncle; and was manned till 1998 – and watch Minch and Atlantic meet in angry boil – this wild spot, statistically, is the windiest in Britain.
Ness has a number of cafes – check out the Eoropie Tea-Room, nearby – and the local history society, or ‘Comman Eachdraidh,’ now based at the former Cross School, serves light refreshments during summer and always has an interesting exhibition on.
The parish of Uig – drive south by Carloway and turn right by Garynahine – has the most conventionally lovely scenery on Lewis, with great golden beaches (that at Valtos is especially popular) and mountainous landscape. The Auberge, at Carinish, is generally adjudged the island’s very best restaurant; and in the Uig Sands nearby were discovered, near two centuries ago, the celebrated Lewis chessmen – exquisite and engaging pieces, carved by Norwegian tradesmen in Trondheim from walrus-ivory, and most of which are now in the British Museum. Several are to be permanently housed on Lewis, once restoration of Lews Castle is complete and a new museum opened.
The island of Bernera has been joined to mainland Lewis by an elegant road-bridge since 1953 and is worth dipping into on your way home; it affords spectacular views over Loch Roag and, at Bosta, one of our nicest sandy beaches – now adorned with a bell that clangs at high tide.
For scenery of different, east-coast character the remote Park (or Pairc) district – drive south by Carloway and Garynahine, turn right at Leurbost and left at Balallan – is a pleasant drive, though the area in recent decades has become woefully depopulated. Cromore, Marevig and Lemreway are particularly scenic, characterful villages and the Ravenspoint Centre at Kershader includes a café, a shop, a museum, important local archives and charming exhibitions.
Harris makes a splendid day-trip from Shawbost, with the capital of Tarbert only an hour away – boasting shops, two hotels, a tea-room and a distinctive charm. The island is best explored by its circular road, down the fantastic lunar landscape of the Bays by the east coast – miles of rounded, bare, glaciated rock – to the famous St Clement’s at Rodel (with adjacent hotel), and back by Leverburgh (with its Anchorage restaurant and the Clachan tea-room), the west coast and a succession of magnificent Atlantic beaches – that at Luskentyre being thought perhaps the loveliest in Britain.
North Harris besides affords serious hillwalking; it’s dominated by the Clisham, the highest mountain in the Outer Hebrides – all 2,621 feet, or- in European – 799 metres; and Sron Ulladal, a vast and faintly chilling cliff, is the biggest ‘overhang’ in Britain and a challenging rock-climb.
Though the Broad Bay district is sadly lacking in tea-rooms or public facilities, the sands of Gress and Tolsta are very popular with day-trippers and North Tolsta, at the end of the road, is one of the highest villages in Lewis and boasts – in the Traigh Mhor and Garry – two of its best beaches. (Keep an eye out for a rock-stack at Garry with an uncanny resemblance to Queen Victoria.) Gordon’s Filling Station at Back should be noted as it sells the cheapest fuel on Lewis.
Stornoway boasts a number of pleasant eating-places and some very interesting shops, as well as big Tesco and Co-op supermarkets (the first being in the main cheaper, but with very cramped aisles and parking.) The new An Lanntair Art Centre, on the sea-front and opened in 2005, always has a summer exhibition, as well as a bar and restaurant, a shop and regular cinema performances. Live music can be heard in Stornoway most weekends – in fact, for its size the town has a surprisingly lively local rock-scene, with many talented young bands – and the Hebridean Celtic Music Festival, first held in 1996 , is now a huge July attraction on the lawns of Lews Castle.