Isle of Lewis
Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)

Dalmore beach, Isle of Lewis, Scotland
Dalmore beach, Lewis © David Woods |

Lewis is a fairly flat island with many spectacular sandy beaches, a rugged coastline and a landscape that is worth investigating by detouring down all the little roads you find. Most visitors come to see the Calanais (Callanish) standing stones, but it is also a good area for fishing, cycling, walking and bird watching. There are many other standing stones and archaeological monuments to visit too.

The Gaelic name for Lewis is Leodhas which means marshy. Most of the island is indeed covered by a blanket of peat. Deposits of this started some 5000 years ago and today you can see it being cut and dried for later use as fuel. The underlying rock, Lewisian gneiss, is thought to be 2900 million years old - half as old as the Earth itself.

Here in the Western Isles (formerly known as the Outer Hebrides) the landscape and history of Lewis, together with the hospitality of its people provide a wonderful escape from the pressures of modern life. With luck you may even see otters, seals, eagles or dolphins. Deer tend to keep to the high ground during the summer, but sometimes you can see them on the Harris Estate near Ardhasaig and Ardvoulie along the main road from Tarbert to Stornoway. In the summer months there are many colourful wild flowers to be seen on the machair. The heather is a picture of purple in late summer when in full bloom.

Western Isles map

Thanks to the scorched earth policy of Magnus III, known as Magnus Barelegs because he adopted the Scottish kilt rather than wear Viking trousers, many of the original trees on Lewis were destroyed. In more recent times, trees have been replanted in various parts of the island and it is always a lovely surprise to come across them.

To enjoy Lewis and neighbouring Harris at the nice slow pace they deserve, you really need at least 4 days. After that you will have fallen in love with the islands and will probably want to return for a week or more on your next visit! Combined with the islands of the Uists and Barra to the south, you could easily spend 2 weeks here and still not want to go home. Today some 21,000 people live on Harris and Lewis and it is the most populated of the Western Isles group (although you might not notice it that much when you are there!).

The Isles of Lewis and Harris featured in the BBC Call the Midwife Christmas special (December 2019). Filming took place at the Callanish / Calanais standing stones (Lewis), Gearrannan black house village (Lewis), Luskentyre beach (Harris), Rodel church (Isle of Harris) and Eilean Glas Lighthouse (Scalpay). The cast stayed at Amhuinnsuidhe Castle (Harris).

Travel / Transport / Tours

By air to Stornoway Airport:
Flights are with Loganair from Inverness, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Facilities at the airport include car hire, taxis, refreshments and wireless Internet access.

Vehicle ferry:
The CalMac ferry sails from Ullapool on the mainland to Stornoway several times a day. The service is slightly reduced during the winter. Journey time: 2 hours 40 minutes. Vehicle reservation required.
The official Caledonian Macbrayne website lists the current timetables in detail.

Although treated as two separate islands with distinct characteristics, Harris and Lewis form a single landmass. This means you can drive from one to the other. The main road between Stornoway (Lewis) and Tarbert (Harris) is 37 miles which takes about an hour by car or bus. How to get to Harris by ferry

Callanish © The Internet Guide to Scotland

Tours and excursions:
Coach trips of Lewis are possible on the West Side Circular bus route from Stornoway Bus Station - consult the tourist information centre for details. Buy an all day ticket and jump on / jump off at the stops you want. Cheaper tickets (with limited number of stops are also available). Tel: 01851 702 114.

Rabbie's offer award-winning 5 Star tours in a 16 seat Mercedes minicoach. TripAdvisor Travellers' Choice 2018, British Travel Awards 2017 and 2018. Options include:

Tour Guides:

  • Hebridean Adventures can offer a 3-4 hour guided wildlife tour of the Isle of Lewis in a 4x4 minibus starting from Stornoway. Mobile: 07871 463755.
  • Love Hebrides offers day tours (5-6 hours) to Harris and/or Lewis by 8-seater minibus from Stornoway. The Isle of Harris Day Tour departs from Stornoway at 10.30am and includes Tarbert, Luskentyre beach, Leverburgh, Rodel Church, plus a visit to a Harris Tweed weaver (admission fee not included in tour price). The Isle of Lewis day tour starts at 10.30am from Stornoway and includes visits to the Arnol Black house, Dalbeg and Bosta beach, Callanish Stones, Carloway Broch. There's also a combined Harris and Lewis tour so you can see both islands on the same day. Contact 07803808229.
  • Based on Lewis, Albannach Guided Tours can offer private tours and tour planning (including accommodation) throughout the Hebrides, Scotland and other Celtic countries. Les McInulty is a 'Blue Badge' Gaelic-speaking driver-guide available for hire from 1 hour to 2 weeks. Either for private car, minibus, coach or for guided walks. Lewis & Harris taxi service available. Specialises in day trips to places on the islands which are not accessible by public transport. Tel: 01851 830433. Mobile: 0774 711 7870.
  • Based on Lewis, Hebridean Excursions provide unique guided tours with accommodation if required. Tel: 01851 870882. Mobile: 07909 112152.
  • Hidden Hebrides (based on Lewis) specialises in island walking holidays and tours of Lewis, Harris, the Uists and Barra, as well as guided walking day tours on Lewis and Harris. Contact Mick Blunt on 07724 150015.
  • Lewis Off Road Discovery can arrange tours with a local Gaelic-speaking guide. Web site also includes info about sea angling and fresh water angling.
  • Out And About Tours can offer personal guided tours of Harris & Lewis (half day, full day or longer), as well as 4-night walking and sightseeing packages with hotel accommodation for individuals and/or small groups. Contact Chris Ryan. Tel: 01851 612288

Harris and Lewis Map

Travel Tips

Car hire is available from the following places on Lewis:
Arnol Motors, Arnol, Tel: 01851 710548 / 0800 328 5087 / Fax: 01851 710248.
Lewis Car Rentals, 52 Bayhead Street, Stornoway, Tel: 01851 703760 / Fax: 01851 705860
Mackinnon Self Drive, 18 Inaclete Road, Stornoway. Also has office at Stornoway Airport. Tel: 01851 702984 / Fax: 01851 705596
Stornoway Car Hire, Stornoway Airport, Tel: 01851 702658

Bikes can be hired from Alex Dan's Cycle Centre in Kenneth Street, Stornoway (Tel: 01851 704025) and from Bike Hebrides in Stornoway (Tel: 07775943355).

There are several taxi services in Stornoway, some of which can offer private tours of the island, including:

  • Quick Cabs - tel: 01851 701 234
  • Stornoway Cabs - tel: 01851 702092
  • Stornoway Taxis - tel: 01851 704444
  • A2B - tel: 01851 703415
  • Heb Taxis - tel: 01851 702708

There are lots of different bus routes on Lewis and Harris. Visit the local council web site for the bus timetables.
You can generally pick up free sheets with timetables for each local route from tourist offices in the Western Isles and at Stornoway bus station. Buses generally run in time with the ferries and there are less in winter than in summer.

The people of the Western Isles are well known for the warm welcome they give visitors. They will often go out of their way to help visitors. Many of the locals will pick up hitch-hikers.

Please note that the people of Lewis and Harris have strong religious beliefs and visitors should respect this during their stay. This means that Sunday is a day of rest for them and shops are usually closed. There is almost no public transport on Sundays (with the exception of the Leverburgh ferry and some Stornoway flights). The road signs are in Gaelic here and the language is still spoken by the islanders.

Outdoor Activities:

You can walk or cycle across the Outer Hebrides from Vatersay/Barra to Harris/Lewis on the Hebridean Way. Read more about the route for Cycling (180 miles) or Walking (156 miles). Dowload PDF leaflets from VisitOuterHebrides.

The Hebridean Whale Trail website shows you maps of the best places to spot whales including Butt of Lewis, Tiumpan Head and Gallan Head.

  • Stornoway Seafari offer wildlife watching boat trips by RIB from Stornoway harbour. Tel: 0800 246 5609.
  • Hebridean Adventures offer half day and full day boat trips from Stornoway The MV Monadhliath can take up to 12 passengers to look for whales, dolphins, sea birds, etc. On a day trip you can go out to the Shiants. Also available are cruises (2 - 6 nights) around the Hebrides including St Kilda. Mobile: 07871 463755.
  • Boat trips by RIB or Interceptor 42 are available from Sea Trek at Uig, Lewis (tel/fax: 01851 672 464). During the summer, there are regular morning and afternoon boat trips (2 hours each) to explore the local coastline and spot wildlife. Expeditions to offshore islands such as the Flannan Isles and St Kilda also available.
  • Island Cruising visits St Kilda and other offshore islands onboard the MV Cuma. Most cruises last 4 or 6 days.
  • Northern Light offers private charter, wildlife cruises, bird-watching and whale-watching cruises, dive charter and island cruising with 2 boats from Oban. Trips to St Kilda and Outer Hebrides.
  • Sea kayak trips with Adventure Hebrides operate from Lewis. They visit St Kilda and many other remote islands. Mobile: 07920427194.
  • Stornoway Canoe Club
  • Stornoway Sea Angling Club
  • Kayak hire is available from Bike Hebrides in Stornoway (Tel: 07775943355).
  • Surf Lewis is based in Stornoway and provides surf lessons and equipment hire. Contact 07920 427 194.
  • North-West Frontiers offer walking holidays in the Highlands and Hebrides.
  • C-N-Do Scotland organises guided walking holidays in the Hebrides, covering Harris, Lewis and the Uists.
  • Wilderness Scotland offer a wide range of guided walking holidays, wilderness expeditions and historical journeys in Skye and the Western Isles, plus other areas of the Scottish Highlands.

The Karting Centre at the Creed Enterprise Park (4 miles south of Stornoway) is open on Saturdays from 12 noon to 7pm and on Friday evenings during school holidays. Tel: 01851 700 222 or 07766 093970 to check (weather dependent).

Viking Paintball on the southern outskirts of Stornoway on Macaulay Farm - tel: 01851 702110 / 01851 704521 / mobile: 07900 605405.

Events in 2024:

Visit Outer Hebrides offers a regular weekly update with local events listings in the islands.

For more local events listings on Lewis, visit
Also see the calendar of events taking place at An Lanntair and talks by The Islands Book Trust.
Farmers markets take place in Stornoway on Saturdays (tel: 01851 810 395).

What to see and do on Lewis

With a population of 8000, Stornoway is the capital of the Western Isles. The airport and ferry terminal provide links to the mainland. Sports facilities include golf course, tennis courts, sports centre with pool, gym and climbing wall. The town has hotels, a youth hostel, museum, restaurants, shops, supermarkets, Woolworths, hair dressing salons, banks, pharmacy, butchers, fish market and a castle (see below). In fact, everything you would expect of a good town. (See shop photos)
The Stornoway Port Authority web site provides information for cruise liners, yachts, etc.

Stornoway harbour, Isle of Lewis, Scotland
Stornoway harbour © William McKelvie -

In the pedestrianised part of the town centre, look out for the new library with its nice cafe and toilets. A health food shop is open opposite the Town Hall in Cromwell Street. Next door is the Stag Bakery (and tearoom). The town centre is now equipped with a Closed-Circuit TV system. Drinking alcohol in the streets is now illegal.
You can also get a free downloadable guide and map from 'Explore the Outer Hebrides'.

The new arts centre on Kenneth Street is An Lanntair which features a theatre and cinema, restaurant, bar and art gallery. Internet access is available in the library.

The Baltic Bookshop at 8-10 Cromwell Street is an excellent place to visit if you want to buy local books, calendars and postcards. Also pop in to the Hebridean Jewellery shop on the main street (opposite the tourist office).

If you are interested in buying some tweed, look for the Lewis Loom Centre at 3 Bayhead in The Old Grainstore (overlooking the inner harbour). Tel: 01851 704500.
By Rosie Shop and Workroom at 89-93 Cromwell Street showcases designer clothes and accessories handmade by Rosie in Harris Tweed. Open Monday - Saturday. Tel: 01851 701622.
Harris Tweed Hebrides has a shop at 25 North Beach Street, Stornoway. Tel: 01851 700046.

The Stornoway Historical Society web site includes old photos of the town, features on the herring industry, churches and much more.

Stornoway harbour
© Fionaleask |

LEWS CASTLE (Stornoway)
This light brown, mock-Tudor folly was built in the 19th century by Sir James Matheson who purchased the island in 1844 with part of the fortune he accumulated from the opium trade in the Far East. The surrounding trees and greenery were planted in thousands of tons of soil that he had shipped over from the mainland. In 1924, only a few years after buying Lewis, Lord Leverhulme gifted the building back to the people of Stornoway.
During the Second World War, the castle was used as a naval hospital. Later it housed a technical college, but it was left empty in 1987.
The castle has been renovated to add luxury accommodation, a cafe and gift shop.
In the grounds, the new museum and archive centre (Museum nan Eilean) is opened in 2016. It displays 6 of the famous Lewis Chessmen on loan from the British Museum. Free entry. Open all year (afternoons only from October to end March) but closed on Thursdays and Sundays. Museum: 01851 822746 / Archives: 01851 822750.

Visitors are free to walk around the extensive grounds which feature over 100 species of tree. The Woodlands Centre houses exhibitions, a cafe, gift shop and toilets. Open Monday - Saturday 10am - 5pm. Tel: 01851 706916.
Segway Hebrides offer tours in the Castle grounds starting near the Boatman's House at the front of the Woodlands Centre. Booking essential. Tel: 01851 702575.
Experience Hebrides is offering Stornoway Walking Tours, Forest Archery and Geocaching trails, along with mountain bike and other equipment hire
From the grounds, the view stretches across the harbour to the main part of town and the start of the Eye Peninsula. On top of Gallows Hill in the castle grounds, there's a chambered cairn which has been partly obscured by a modern cairn (map reference NB417323).

The tragic history of Lewis is commemorated near Sandwick by the war memorial for the sinking of HMY Iolaire (Gaelic for eagle.). On 31 December 1918, this naval yacht set sail from Kyle of Lochalsh to bring soldiers and sailors back to Lewis from the ending of World War One. Early in the morning of 1st January 1919, only a short distance from Stornoway harbour, the Iolaire hit rocks on the reef known as the Beasts of Holm. Tragically over 200 men drowned within yards of the shore and only 79 of those onboard survived. A new commemorative space was unveiled here for the centenary of the sinking in January 2019.
The island of Lewis had already lost over 1000 men between 1914 and 1918. The main war memorial built in 1924 overlooks Stornoway and can be seen for miles.

Take the A866 east of Stornoway and explore this spur of land which juts out into the Minch. Six miles from Stornoway is Saint Columba's Church (also known as Ui Church) near Aignish. It is said that 19 chiefs of the Macleods of Lewis are buried here and one of them is commemorated on a carved gravestone now propped against the wall. Another carved slab which has Celtic designs is thought to be for his daughter. The church is believed to have been built on the site of a cell occupied by Saint Cartan in the 7th century.

There is a touching story here surrounding the grave of Mary Mackenzie (Mairi Nighean Alisdair). When she passed away her husband William went to join his only remaining family who had all left for Canada but he died broken-hearted (actually of typhoid) within a year of landing in the New World and was buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Thunder Bay. Before leaving Lewis he pulled out one of his teeth and buried it with his wife so at least part of him remained there. William MacKenzie (1856 - 1908) became known as the Bard of Shader for his songs and poetry. A headstone here in the church cemetery at Aignish was dedicated in September 1998 in the presence of his grandson to mark the 90th anniversary of his death.

750 metres south of Garrabost is a chambered cairn (map reference NB 534330). South of there can be found a standing stone and yet further south Dun Bayble.

Driving towards Tiumpan Head you will pass Loch an Duin which has a causeway over to an island dun (map reference NB 516304).
The lighthouse at Tiumpan Head is now a cattery and dog kennels. H.M. the Queen and Prince Charles visited in the 1950s and the young prince got to sound the foghorn.

Point has its own web site
The annual Point agricultural show takes place in July.

Driving north from Stornoway up the coast to Tolsta is well worth the trip. After passing the Griais Mill (18th century), continue up the B895 past various beaches until you reach the end of the road where there is a car parking area. Here you will find a couple of great beaches and beautiful cliff scenery.

There is a waymarked walk from Tolsta all the way across the moorland to Ness (10 miles / 16 km). You may not wish to walk all the way there and back (if you can't arrange transport at the other end), but it is worth walking a little way to see the 'Bridge to Nowhere'. This was Lord Leverhulme's idea for a road to connect Tolsa with Ness. The road was never built, but maybe one day the idea will be resurrected.
Visit the North Tolsta Historical Society web site for more details and local information.

Tolsta beach, Isle of Lewis, Scotland
Tolsta beach © David Woods -

Further along the clifftop, there is a late prehistoric/medieval dun (Caisteal a' Mhorair) on a rock stack (map reference NB 537496). Take the track leading north to the waterfall. Walk another kilometre north and you will see a fort (Dun Othail) and possible chapel on another rock stack (map reference NB 542514).

6 miles north of Stornoway on the B895 road, Coll Pottery Craft Centre showcases working craft studios with viewing area, retail galleries with ceramics, glass, jewellery and many other local Hebridean arts and crafts. The tea room serves light lunches and snacks. Open during the summer Monday - Saturday 10am - 5pm and Sundays 12pm - 4pm. Tel: 01851 820475 / 07787030504. Parking, toilets, WiFi. For special events, craft workshops and demonstrations - check the Facebook page for announcements.


For an excursion from Stornoway, you can explore the west coast of Lewis by heading across the moorland on the A857 to Barvas. From there you can either head north to Ness or south for Callanish, etc.

Heading north from Barvas to Ness

The Morvern Gallery features a variety of local crafts plus a cafe. Further along, Borgh Pottery at Borve is open Monday to Saturday from 9.30am to 6pm.

Located to the west of the A857 near the village of Baile an Truseil is Clach an Truseil (map reference NB 375538) which is the tallest standing stone in Scotland ( at 5.7 metres high). Check out Robert Pollock's guide. Near here is the site of the last battle between the Macaulays and the Morrisons.

Just up the road, 850 metres along a track south-east of Siadar at map reference NB 396541 is what is thought to be a chambered cairn overlain by the foundations of a hall (3000 - 1500 BC). The site overlooks an island dun in Loch an Duin.

Heading up towards Ness, Dun Mara is an Iron Age fort on a promontory 1.5 miles north-west of Cros (map reference NB 495631).

The Ness Heritage Centre is in the village of Habost, after which you reach the Port of Ness with its attractive harbour and sandy beach.
Also visit the Harbour View Gallery (tel: 01851 810735) which features paintings by Anthony J Barber, and the Taigh Dhonnchaidh arts and music centre.
Also at Port of Ness: Callicvol Quilts (closed Sundays & Mondays) and The Islands Book Trust which organises an interesting programme of local talks throughout the Hebrides.
Breanish Tweed (5 Adabrock, Port of Ness) is a family business with fourth generation weavers of lightweight tweed. Contact 01851 810 022.
SpÚrsnis (Lionel, Port of Ness) is end of Hebridean Way. This local community centre offers tourist information, a soft-play area, 10-pin bowling alley and has a large multi-purpose hall, fitness suite and sauna. Closed on Sundays. Tel: 01851 810039.

Take the road to the Butt of Lewis (the northernmost tip of the island) and you will pass St. Moluag's Church (which may date from early 16th century and was restored in 1912). It is 100 metres along a footpath north of the B8014 road (map reference NB 519652). At the end of the road you will reach the lighthouse - do be careful near the cliff edges!

Butt of Lewis lighthouse, Isle of Lewis
Butt of Lewis lighthouse © Joe Gough -

Dýn »istean is an archaeological site on a sea stack located between the Butt of Lewis and the Port of Ness. Traditionally known as the stronghold of the Clan Morrison.

Heading south from Barvas towards Callanish

Make a stop at the Oiseval Gallery which features stunning photographs by James Smith. It is open Monday to Saturday from 10.30am to 5.30pm. Tel: 01851 840240. It is located at Brue (just south of Barvas).

Just south of Barvas, at Brue, Brue House has a small shop with handcrafted items made from world renowned Harris Tweed including home accessories, jewellery, scarves, notebook covers, etc. Open Monday to Saturday 10am - 5pm. Contact Lyndsey Stansfield on 01851 840 706 / 07947 608 806.

ARNOL BLACK HOUSE (15 miles from Stornoway)
Driving southwards from Barvas you will see the signs to this black house. This is one of the old croft dwellings which were built without so much as a window or even a chimney: the smoke from the open peat fire went directly through the thatched roof. Inside its double stone walls, filled with earth for insulation, lived both the family and their animals. Admission charge. Open Monday - Saturday. Closed on Sundays. In the care of Historic Environment Scotland - click for opening times and charges.

Arnol black house, Isle of Lewis
Arnol black house © The Internet Guide to Scotland

Formed by the jawbone of an 85-foot long blue whale that came ashore in 1920 with the harpoon still attached. Visible from the road.

After you have passed the whalebone arch in Bragar, continue south along the road. Shortly you will see the dun in a loch 80 metres east of the road. It can be accessed on foot by a causeway.

SHAWBOST FOLK MUSEUM (19 miles from Stornoway)
Situated in an old church, it began as a school project in the 1970s and was never dismantled. It houses various artefacts from days gone by including farming tools, kitchen implements, irons, a loom, even a crofter's bedroom and photos of a Norse watermill which was restored. The door is sometimes closed - give it a good push and you will probably find that it's unlocked. If not, find the school caretaker to give you the key. No admission charge, but donations welcomed.
Also see the web site by The West Side Historical Society.

These two small thatched buildings have been rebuilt to illustrate the process by which barley grain was processed into meal. After being dried in the kiln, the grain was put through the water-driven mill. This type of work went on in Lewis up until the 1940s. Open all year. Nearby Dalbeg beach is very picturesque.
Overlooking Loch Dalbeg, Aultbeithe is a 5 star luxury self catering cottage (sleeping 4).

Take a right turn at either Upper Carloway or Carloway. Drive to the very end of the road, park your car and you will see the village. Well worth a visit. In 1974 the last occupants of the black houses were moved to new accommodation nearby and the village was declared an Outstanding Conservation Area. Later the Gearrannan Trust was established to bring life back into the black houses. Today, the first house is the visitor centre with exhibition, shop and cafe. Tel: 01851 643416 Toilets available.

Gearrannan black houses, Isle of Lewis
Gearrannan black houses © The Internet Guide to Scotland

One of the other houses has been restored so that visitors can experience how it would have been to live there in 1955. Several of the other black houses are available to rent as self-catering holiday accommodation and one is a youth hostel operated by the Gatliffe Trust. If you walk down towards the bay, you will see a waymarked walk heading up the hillside to the right. This takes you over to the lovely beach of Dalmore and then on to Dalbeg. The very start of the walk passes by 2 of the old blackhouses which have been left as ruins. More info is available on the Gearrannan web site.

Inside the Gearrannan black houses, Isle of Lewis
Black house interior and loom demonstration
Photos © The Internet Guide to Scotland
Inside the Gearrannan black houses, Isle of Lewis

The Blue Pig Studio run by Jane Harlington can be found at 11 Upper Carloway. In addition to her paintings, there are also jewellery, textiles and ceramics on sale. Open Monday - Saturday. Tel: 01851 643225. Her artwork on St Kilda is currently featured in an exhibition at Seallam! (Northton, Isle of Harris).

Part of Scotland's Gardens Scheme, Leathad Ard ('steep hill' in Gaelic) in Upper Carloway is a 1-acre sloping garden with stunning views over East Loch Roag. Open Monday - Saturday 10am - 6pm from April - September with the £4 admission charge raising money for the Red Cross. Children free. Visit the Leathad Ard for map, photos, ticket info. Contact Stuart Oakley. Tel: 01851 643204.

CARLOWAY BROCH (15 miles from Stornoway)
An Iron Age round fortification some nine metres high in places. It's a short climb up the craggy hillside to the remains of the dry stone tower with its double walls and tiny entrance. As you enter the broch, look for the cavity on the right. It is thought that this was a guard cell where someone would have sat ready to pounce on any unwanted visitors. Once inside the broch itself, you can investigate some of the other cavities and see the staircase and ledge. You get a good view of the surrounding hills and the of the sea.

Carloway broch, Isle of Lewis
Carloway broch © Joe Gough -

The small visitor centre (open April to September, 10am to 5pm) includes a cleverly constructed exhibition recreating life in the interior of the broch - pass behind the curtain on the left when you enter the centre and be transported back in time. There is also a small shop featuring a new guide book, souvenirs and locally produced crafts. Admission is free, but donations for its maintenance are welcome. If you happen to visit during a busy time - there are toilets to the rear of the building as well as at the front to cut down on queues. Tel: 01851 643338.

The Hebridean Soap Company is run by Linda Sutherland and can be visited at 25 Breasclete (between Callanish and Carloway). Tel: 01851 621306.

Dating back over 4000 years, Callanish ranks second in terms of importance only to Stonehenge and is older. On a headland overlooking part of a huge sea loch, 53 pale grey stones of Lewisian gneiss stand in a curious cruciform. The heart is a central circle of 13 tall stones where excavations in the mid-19th century uncovered a chambered tomb reported to have contained human remains. From there four limbs run out in line with the cardinal points of the compass. Pointing northwards lie two parallel rows of stones which form an avenue of unknown significance. They stand on a small hill called 'Cnoc an Tursa' - 'Hill of Sorrow'. Callanish is now often referred to by its Gaelic name - Calanais.

© The Internet Guide to Scotland

© The Internet Guide to Scotland

Together with eleven smaller sites scattered over the surrounding moorland, the main circle (My photos) seems to have been an ancient astronomical observatory. Detailed calculations have shown alignments with the sun and moon at various times of the year which could have been used to predict eclipses and the coming of the seasons. Curiously, it appears to be situated just south of a sort of lunar "arctic circle" inside which the moon fails to rise above the horizon when it reaches its 19-yearly southern maximum. Robert Pollock has a very detailed guide concerning many of these sites.

There are two other stone circles which you can access near the main site. They are quite easily seen from the main road (A858) just south of the turn to the visitor centre. Cnoc Ceann (Callanish II) is 400 metres from the road (map reference NB 222326). Cnoc Fhillibhir Bheag (Callanish III) is 200 metres from Callanish II along a footpath. My photos. From here you can look up to the small hill on the skyline and see the silhouettes of the stones of the main Callanish site.

Also visit the Callanish photos on the Stones of Scotland site by Paola Arosio and Diego Meozzi.

Opened in 1995, the excellent Calanais visitor centre includes an exhibition, a gift shop, toilets and a tearoom. The centre is open from 10am - 6pm Monday to Saturday in summer (April to September) and from 10am to 4pm Wednesday to Saturday in winter (October to March). Entry to the centre is free, but there is a small charge for admission to the exhibition. Tel: 01851 621422.
The standing stones themselves are always open (no entrance fee).

With several published books between them, Gerald Ponting and Margaret Curtis are both well known experts on Callanish.

Callanish Alpacas has a craft shop (open daily) from where you can watch the Alpacas and Silky chickens. Feeding the alpacas is by appointment only (booking essential).

A scenic detour from the Callanish area

A bridge was built from Lewis to the small island of Great Bernera (Bearnaraigh or Bernera) after the locals threatened to detonate the hillside and make their own causeway. As you arrive on the island - look upwards to see a group of 4 standing stones on the cliff, known as Callanish VIII or Cleitir.

The island's main township, Breacleit is home to a community centre which operates a cafe and museum (tel: 01851 612331), and provides sporting facilities for the school and local people. Toilet facilities available. Post office, mini market shop and fuel station.
Bernera-based Chris Ryan operates guided tours.

Bosta beach
Bosta © Mobil61 |
Iron Age Bosta village replica
Inside the replica hut © Graham Taylor |
Located at Bosta on the northern end of Great Bernera is a network of 9 stone buildings all connected by tunnels. It is the most completely preserved late-Iron Age village ever found in this country. A replica has been made of one of the houses so you can see how it would have been (open to visitors with a guide from 12 noon - 4pm, Monday - Friday). The importance of the site was only discovered in 1996. As you approach the beach from the road, you will see the local cemetery on your left - the site is to the left of the cemetery I believe. Information is available at the community centre in Breacleit. Toilets are available at Bosta beach. Photos.

After visiting the island of Bernera, continue along the B8011 road heading further south and west. Here you will reach some spectacular beaches - Uig sands are well known, but don't forget to explore the others too, especially Traigh na Berie.

Uig beach, Isle of Lewis
Uig sands © Joe Gough -

Uig Sands Restaurant overlooks the Uig Bay (near Timsgarry). Closed Mondays. Tel: 01851 672 334. Uig Lodge offers B&B and you can buy smoked salmon from its smokehouse.

Look out for the Uig Community & Heritage Centre at Crowlista (tel: 01851 672456). The museum includes many interesting local archaeological finds and geneaological information, and there is also a community-run cafe.
Lochcroistean Guest Centre is a coffee shop in the old school (tel: 01851 672 772).

The remains of this Viking fort were discovered in 1996 by archaeologists from Edinburgh University on the headland at Crowlista near Uig Sands. Newspaper reports speak of paths, floors, rectangular walls and pottery being found. Later, a Viking cemetery was uncovered six miles away at Valtos.

In 1831 a crofter found these chess pieces at Ardroil near Uig Sands (a beautiful beach west of Callanish). Experts determined that they were made of walrus ivory and date from the Viking occupation of the island. Reproductions are available in several local craft shops. The chessmen are held on display by the British Museum in London but 6 pieces will be available to see when the new museum opens in 2016 in Lews Castle, Stornoway.

A CD-ROM can be purchased from the National Museums of Scotland. Produced in both Gaelic and English, this CD-ROM includes a complete catalogue of all 90+ pieces (each photographed in b/w from 4 sides), plus sound files of local stories relating to their discovery, information on Chess and other board games of the time, as well as details of the use of walrus ivory and decorative patterns found on other objects.

Photo copyright The Internet Guide to Scotland

Abhainn Dearg (Red River Distillery) at Carnish launched in 2011 the first legally produced whisky in Lewis since 1840. Open Monday to Friday from 10.30am - 1pm and from 2pm - 3.30pm. Tel: 01851 672429.

Drive alongside Loch Scaslabhat and turn right when you see the Mangurstadh Studio Gallery sign. The gallery is at the first road junction in the village. It houses paintings and drawings by Derek Scanlan. Tel: 01851 672 384.

Mangurstadh beach, Isle of Lewis
Mangurstadh beach & cliffs © Joe Gough -

The road south from Uig sands ends at Mealasta where there are the remains of a medieval settlement, thought to have been a Benedictine nunnery (Tigh nan Cailleachan Dubha or House of the Black Women). Map reference NA 991241.


Some 16 miles south of Stornoway on the road to Tarbert (Harris) is the Land Raiders Monument - a cairn erected to commemorate the Pairc deer raid in 1887 when local crofters tried to kill some of the laird's deer and occupy part of his land in order to draw attention to the injustices and hardships they faced.

Near here is a road leading eastwards into the Lochs / Pairc area. The first settlement is Kershader where you will see the Ravenspoint Visitor's Centre (cafe with free WiFi, shop with crafts and groceries, petrol). Not open on Sundays. The centre also houses a museum with exhibits including the Angus Macleod Archive, Derek Cooper Collection and Calum Kennedy Exhibition. The museum is open all year Monday - Saturday 11am - 5pm.
Toilets (open all the time) are available to the rear of the main building.
The building also contains a hostel which is open from March - October (telephone: 01851 880236). If you are camping, you can pay to use the hostel showers and washing machine.

Also in the Lochs area, you will find The Weaving Shed at Crossbost. This is an independent studio shop which also offers Harris Tweed demonstrations. Miriam makes Harris Tweed clothing, bags, accessories and homewear, as well as jewellery and watercolour sketches under the Western Isles Designs label. Open Monday - Saturday 10am - 5pm. Contact 07833 335186.

The landscape of this area inspired Arthur Ransome for the setting of his book 'Great Northern' (the story of children protecting eggs of the great northern diver). There are several roads to explore and the one to Lemreway has great views of the Shiant islands on a clear day.

There are 2 sites of archaeological interest in the Lochs area. The ruins of Dun Cromor can be seen in a small loch at Cromor. The narrow causeway is still visible under the water. It is thought that it had an access stairway of 17 steps and an upper gallery.

Nearby a track to the west leads to a causeway from Crobeg to the island where you can visit the ruins of Saint Columba's Church (depending on the tides). Map reference NB 385210. It was mentioned in 1549 as the main place of worship for the Lochs area and there may have been a monastery here. Burials only ceased here in 1878. On the same island are the ruins of a house thought to have belonged to a Mr. Mackenzie who was the first factor employed by the Earl of Seaforth (who acquired Lewis in 1610).

Back on the main A859 road between Tarbert and Stornoway, by the Land Raiders monument is another road heading eastwards. This smaller road leads to the remains of a stone circle which has been partly incorporated into a dwelling of the Laird of Seaforth. This site is located on the shore of Loch Seaforth 500 metres along a track from the road (map reference NB 278166).

The Island Arts Gallery and coffee shop can be found at 8 Balallan in the Lochs area (14 miles south of Stornoway on the main A859). With artwork by Debbie Cullis and Paul Smith, it sells a range of paintings and prints as well as some handmade crafts. Light meals available. Open Wednesday - Saturday 10am-5pm in winter, and Monday - Saturday 10am-6pm in summer. Tel: 01851 830742.

Featured Accommodation

Self Catering on Lewis

Sealoch cottage, Isle of Lewis

Contact David Goldberg
Telephone: 07956 260301


Traditional croft cottage converted to a luxury holiday home.
Situated in the fishing community of Gravir on the east coast of Lewis.
Conservatory and terrace overlooking Loch Odhairn.
Magnificent sea and loch views, and great sunsets.
Porpoise, otters, eagles are often seen.
Stornoway 30 miles / Tarbert 30 miles.

Sleeps 2 people in 1 double bedroom.
Sauna plus shower and toilet.
1 bathroom with bath and toilet.
Lounge with satellite flat-screen TV, kitchen
Free WiFi.

Rental prices from £595 per week
or from £295 for 3 days.
includes electricity, heating, bed linen and towels.
No smoking.
One small well-behaved pet accepted.

Click here to visit web site

There is a wide range of hotels, B&B and self-catering accommodation available on Harris and Lewis. The ones listed in the tourist brochure are given on the official Western Isles Tourist Board web site.

B&B accommodation:

  • Braighe House is a 5 star guest house with 3 bedrooms (single, double, twin). Situated 4 miles out of Stornoway, with sea views. Tel: 01851 705287.
  • Broad Bay House is a newly built luxury 5 Star Guest House overlooking the beach at Back (Isle of Lewis). 15 minutes drive north of Stornoway. 4 ensuite bedrooms (including 1 disabled access). VisitScotland 5 Stars. Evening meals available. Alcohol licence. No children under 12. Tel: 01851 820990.
  • Eshcol Guest House offers 4 star B&B accommodation in the crofting village of Breasclete on the west coast. Just 3 miles from Callanish. 3 bedrooms (twin & double). Evening meals available. Contact Neil & Isobel MacArthur. Tel: 01851 621771.
  • Galson Farm Guest House at South Galson (Tel/fax: 01851 850492) is well recommended for B&B and food. Non-residents can have a 4 or 5 course dinner here if you book in advance.
  • Jannel is a 4 star B&B in Stornoway with 4 ensuite bedrooms. FairTrade, organic or local produce is used wherever possible. Situated only 5 minutesí drive from Stornoway Airport. Tel: 0800 634 3270.
  • Rockvilla B&B in the village of Barvas (west side of Lewis) has 3 bedrooms. 3 Stars. Contact Kirsteen Macdonald. Tel: 01851 840286 / Mob: 07900 322197.

Self catering:

  • 3A Reef is a modern cottage near Reef Sands and the Uig beaches in west Lewis. Kitchen, lounge, 2 bedrooms, bathroom. Broadband access.
  • 6 Cromore is in the Pairc / South Lochs district of Lewis, 28 miles from Stornoway. Cottage with 3 bedrooms (2 double, 1 twin), shower room, lounge, kitchen, garden. Free WiFi. Contact Stewart Davidson. Tel: 01851 880225 / 0755 4811 694.
  • 6 Upper Garrabost offers 4 star self catering. Refurbished croft house with 2 bedrooms (1 double, 1 twin), bathroom, kitchen/dining room and lounge. 6 miles from Stornoway.
  • 16 Doune is a well equipped self catering house situated directly below the famous Doune Carloway Broch. Sleeps 7 in 4 bedrooms, 2 living rooms, porch, kitchen and bathroom. Facilities include TV, DVD, CD player, washing machine, tumble dryer, fridge freezer and microwave. Contact Nan Mackay. Tel: 0141 560 4534.
  • 27 Garenin is a bungalow located on the west coast in the village of Garenin (near the restored Gearrannan Blackhouse Village). Recently refurbished and renovated with 3 bedrooms (1 double & 2 twin). Dun Carloway broch 3 miles. Callanish 10 miles.
  • Aultbeithe is a luxury 5 star cottage on the west coast of Lewis overlooking Loch Dalbeg, 100 metres from a sandy beach. 2 bedrooms (1 king-size double & 1 twin) and all facilities. 10 miles from Callanish.
  • Beach Bay Cottage is an eco-friendly, natural stone and turf roofed single-storey detached cottage built into the hillside reflecting an ancient Neolithic design. Built to 5 star specifications. 2 bedrooms and sauna. Overlooking the beach at Uig Sands on the west coast of Lewis.
  • Borishader Cottage overlooking Loch Erisort is in the Lochs area of east Lewis. Kitchen, lounge, 2 bedrooms & sofa bed. 3 stars.
  • Caiseal Cottages offer a choice of 2 self catering cottages each with 3 bedrooms located in the village of North Shawbost.
  • Gearrannan offers a choice of self-catering accommodation in 4 renovated black houses at near Carloway on the west coast of Lewis. One property is ideal for groups (sleeps 16). The other 3 properties sleep 2 - 5.
  • Harris Hill Lodge at Achmore is a 2-bedroom cottage renovated in 2014 (sleeps 4). Approximately 10 minutes drive from Stornoway and the Callanish Stones.
  • Hebridean Cottages offer a choice of 4 star chalets near Loch Branahuie, 4 miles from Stornoway.
  • Hebrides Self Catering offers a choice of 3 and 4 star properties with 2, 3 and 4 bedrooms near Stornoway.
  • Harsgeir View Cottage is a 4-star renovated crofter's cottage with 2 bedrooms. Set on a 10 acre croft in the village of Hacklete on the island of Great Bernera (connected by bridge to the west coast of Lewis).
  • Lag na Mara is a 4-star cottage by the sea near Uig on the scenic west coast. Direct beach access. Sleeps 4. 1 double bedroom and 1 twin bedroom.
  • Loch Roag Cottages - choice of three 4-star quality cottages each with 2 bedrooms. Accessed by a private road in a beautiful glen at the mouth of Kinlochroag on the west coast of Lewis.
  • Riof Ocean Cottage - luxurious 4 star self catering on the shore of Loch Roag in the Uig district of scenic west Lewis. Sleeps 4 in 2 bedrooms.
  • Shiant View offers 4 star accommodation in a renovated crofters cottage on the south east coast of Lewis overlooking Loch Shell, the Shiant Isles and across the Minch. 3 bedrooms (2 double, 1 twin), kitchen/dining area, lounge, utility room, bathroom and separate WC. Children welcome.
  • Sundown Cottage is a 4 star log cabin in the crofting community of Achmore. 3 ensuite bedrooms (2 double, 1 twin), open-plan dining room/living area, kitchen. Decking, barbecue, picnic area, mountain bikes, dog kennel & 15ft fibreglass fishing boat. 10 minutes drive from Stornoway and the Callanish standing stones.
  • Surf View Cottage is a new, purpose built, luxury self catering property with 3 bedrooms. Located in the crofting village of Tong, 4 miles from Stornoway.
  • Taigh nan Eilean is on a small headland at the mouth of Loch Roag, in the Uig area of west Lewis, famous for its beaches. 2 bedrooms (1 double & 1 twin). Scottish Tourist Board 4 Stars. Suitable for disabled visitors.
  • Valasay is a croft house on the island of Great Bernera (off the west coast of Lewis). Scottish Tourist Board 4 Stars. 2 bedrooms (1 double & 1 twin bedroom), bathroom, lounge, kitchen.


  • Heb Hostel at 25 Kenneth Street, Stornoway has 4 dormitory style rooms sleeping 4-8 persons. Fully equipped self-catering kitchen, laundry facilities, lounge with peat fire, Internet access and TV, garden, secure cycle shed. Cost: 15 pounds includes bed linen and self-service continental breakfast. Tel: 01851 709889.
  • The Kershader Hostel is located in a modernised former school on the south side of Loch Erisort, 6 miles from the main Tarbert to Stornoway road. Turn off just south of Ballalan. Operated by the local community co-operative, the building also contains a cafe and knitwear shop. 14 beds, open all year. Telephone: 01851 880236. Map Ref: O.S.13 (GR 340203).
  • The Galson Farm Bunkhouse at South Galson (Ness) is on a coastal road 10 miles from the Butt of Lewis. Open all day, all year. Sleeps 6-8. Advanced booking essential. Tel: 01851 850 492.
  • Gatliffe Trust hostel at Garenin near Carloway. National Grid Ref: NB193442 (OS Sheet No. 8). Open all year. 14 beds.


  • Eilean Fraoich Camp Site at North Shawbost is an acre of ground near the local museum. Cooking facilities, laundry, showers, electric hook-up points, etc. Tents, caravans and motorhomes welcome. Tel: 01851 710504.
  • Laxdale Holiday Park is 2.5 acres of ground with space for 43 pitches. Located 1.5 miles from Stornoway. Tents, caravans and motorhomes welcome. Also bunkhouse with 4 rooms each with 4 bunks. Tel: 01851 706 966 or 01851 703 234.

Where to eat

VisitOuterHebrides Food & Drink leaflet - PDF.

There are lots of places to eat in Stornoway including chip shops, a pizza place, a tapas bar, plus various cafes and restaurants.
For nice snacks, try the cafe at the library, the Woodlands Centre in the castle grounds, and the restaurant / cafe bar in the arts centre (An Lanntair).
There's a Chinese takeaway in Cromwell Street, Peking Cuisine in Church Street, an Indian Balti House in Beach Street and the Thai Cafe in Church Street.
The Digby Chick Restaurant on Bank Street is popular.
The Park Guest House at 30 James Street has a well recommended restaurant (tel: 01851 702485)
The hotels serve meals too, but please remember that not everywhere is open on Sundays. Hotel restaurants which are open on Sundays include the HS-1 Cafe Bar in the Royal Hotel, the Eleven Restaurant in the Caladh Inn, and the Manor Restaurant at the Cabarfeidh Hotel.
If you're on the west coast of Lewis, also try the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village which has a cafe and restaurant (closed Sundays).
Uig Sands Restaurant overlooks the the sandy bay near Timsgarry on the west coast of the Isle of Lewis. Tel: 01851 672 334. The smokehouse at Uig Lodge sells its own smoked salmon.
Borve Country House Hotel (4 stars) on the north-west coast of Lewis has a bar and restaurant open to non-residents. Tel. 01851 850223.

The Island Arts Gallery and coffee shop can be found at 8 Balallan in the Lochs area (14 miles south of Stornoway on the main A859). With artwork by Debbie Cullis and Paul Smith, it sells a range of paintings and prints as well as some handmade crafts. Light meals available. Open Wednesday - Saturday 10am-5pm in winter, and Monday - Saturday 10am-6pm in summer. Tel: 01851 830742.

Tourist Information Centres

26 Cromwell Street - Stornoway - Isle of Lewis HS1 2DD
Telephone: 01851 703088
Open all year.

Click here to request the Western Isles official tourist brochure
Dowload PDFs from VisitOuterHebrides (walking/cycling trails, nature, food & drink)

Books & Maps

(As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases)

The Outer Hebrides Leisure and Tourist Map is ideal for most holidays.
If you intend to go hiking, particularly in the hills, you will need the scale of maps provided by the Landranger series. Harris and Lewis are covered by several slightly overlapping maps in this series, all produced by the Ordnance Survey which is the official map agency of the UK: Tarbert & Loch Seaforth - West Lewis & North Harris - Stornoway & North Lewis.

If you are looking for Hebridean genealogy research material or historical books, visit the web site for Bill Lawson Publications (specialist in Hebridean family tree research).

The Islands Book Trust has numerous publications about the Hebridean islands.

Lewis and Harris
Lovely colour guide book (second edition published in 2007) with over 100 pages of photos. Written by Francis Thompson, covering the local heritage and culture of the islands, nature, the landscape, place names, history, crofting, Gaelic, places to visit, etc. Even if you don't get chance to buy it before you go, you will certainly want a copy for a souvenir when you have visited!
Available from (commission link)
Riddoch on the Outer Hebrides
BBC radio presenter Lesley Riddoch cycled from Barra to the Butt of Lewis talking to local people along the way. The result is a unique insight into 21st century life in these islands faced with cultural and economic change. 'Provocative and inspired' (Stornoway Gazette review).
Paperback with colour photos. 182 pages. Published July 2007.
Available from (commission link)
Tales and Traditions of the Lews
Much in demand for many years, this is the first new edition of Tales and Traditions of the Lews since 1967. A marvellous pot pourri of local history, myth and legend, it brings alive the island of Lewis in a way few other histories can.
With over 60 short essays on people, places and tradition, it reveals the full range of the author's erudition from prehistoric times to the present day, and is informed by his love and deep knowledge of the island from which he came.
Paperback. 292 pages. Published May 2000.
Available from (commission link)
Lewis: A History of the Island
The island's history stretches back to the time of the Norse invaders and before. Over the centuries, Lewis has seen a succession of powerful landlords come and go, and this ground-breaking book recounts the long-fought struggle over the land. It also describes many aspects of the islanders' way of life over the years - agriculture and fishing, education in Gaelic and English, the Church and the people, law and order and smuggling, emigration and the armed services are just some of the topics included in this wide-ranging survey.
Available from (commission link)
Metagama: a Journey from Lewis to the New World
In 1923 the first of 3 Canadian liners arrived in Stornoway. Their mission, with the connivance of government officials, was to remove landless islanders, many of which were war veterans, rather than give them a plot of land. On an island still reeling from the Iolaire disaster, the removal of so many young families was to be yet another blow.
Even at the time the importance of the occasion was realised. A huge crowd had gathered on the quayside to say farewell amidst Gaelic psalm singing and the strains of a pipe band. Many of those who went were never to see their families again.
For the island of Lewis the departure of the Metagama was hugely symbolic. As author Jim Wilkie shows it was also the continuation of clearance by another means and a method of diverting attention from government failure and neglect.
206 pages. Published in June 2001.
Available from (commission link) or (commission link)

Monica Weller sells high quality postcards & posters
of her photos of St Kilda plus other Hebridean snapshots.
She also sells a photo book of St Kilda.

Pages on the islands:
Isle of Harris - St Kilda - Isle of Skye
Uist Introduction - Uist Travel Tips
South Uist - Benbecula - Isle of Barra

External Links:

Explore the Outer Hebrides - downloadable guide and map (official tourist board web site)

Made in the Outer Hebrides: Visual Arts and Crafts Guide (PDF)

Eat Drink Hebrides Trail

The Virtual Hebrides

Access Lewis - guide to disabled friendly facilities and access for prams, etc.

Western Isles Wildlife (sightings, photos and guided tours)
Outer Hebrides Biological Recording Project
Curracag: Outer Hebrides Natural History Society

Bill Lawson: Genealogy & Books
plus online archive at
for family tree research in the Western Isles
Hebridean Connections - Isle of Lewis historic records and genealogy
The Islands Book Trust (local books, archives, lectures, conferences)

Stornoway Gazette (local newspaper)
Heb Magazine
Hebrides News

An archived copy of the former Virtual Hebrides site
Smoked Salmon - mail order suppliers of Atlantic smoked salmon products from the Isle of Lewis

Photos: including panoramic photos
James Smith - gallery and photos
Virtual Hebrides - photos of Harris & Lewis
Islands of Inspiration - photos by Iain Mackenzie
John MacLean Photography
Charles Tait - photos/postcards/calendars
Photos of the Hebrides by Colin Palmer - includes Harris, Lewis, Berneray, Scarp, St Kilda

Artwork / Paintings:
Ivor MacKay
Hebrides Art - Alisdair and Lesley Wiseman

Gifts & Crafts:
Gisla Woodcraft
Western Isles Designs at Crossbost