Your best guide to the wonders of the Outer Hebrides

Calanais Standing Stones, photo by Travels with a dog and a Camera :)/flickr

I am absolutely sure that everyone heard about the Hebrides. But do you know which are the attractions of these islands? The Hebrides are a widespread archipelago off the west coast of Scotland, Great Britain. There are more than 500 islands, of which about 100 are inhabited. The total land area is 7,283 km². The islands are divided into two main groups of islands: the Outer Hebrides, to the west, and the Inner Hebrides, closer to the mainland. The Hebrides were originally inhabited by Celts which explains the strange names given to the islands. Most of the islanders speak Gaelic. Fishing is a major occupation on the islands. Industries include fish processing, the distilling of whisky and the manufacture of optical frames and woolen goods (especially Harris tweed). If you are about to visit the Hebrides, this article may help you. There will be presented in the following some of the best attractions of the Outer Hebrides.

 

Calanais Standing Stones

 

There are numerous historical sites on the Outer Hebrides which reveal the islands’ intriguing past. One of the islands of the Outer Hebrides, Lewis is renowned and very popular for its amazing monuments. The best-known historical site among these is the Calanais Standing Stones. It is believed that the stones have been erected around 2900 BC.  As rival of Stonehenge, the impressive stones gave birth to numerous theories to the meaning and purpose of them. There are dozens of sites of interest around Calanais. The main stone complex contains around 50 stones in a cross-shaped setting. The impressive inner circle contains 13 stones, the tallest of which is 4 m high. There is also a fantastic visitor centre here which is open between April and September from Monday to Saturday from 10:00 to 21:00. Between October and March it is open from Wednesday to Saturday from 10:00 to 16:00. (June 2012)

 

Calanais Standing Stones, photo by Travels with a dog and a Camera :)/flickr

 

Remarkable Wildlife

 

The islands of the Outer Hebrides host more than a thousand species of bird. There are three National Nature Reserves in the Outer Hebrides. St. Kilda is one of them. It is Europe’s most important seabird breeding station and has the world’s largest gannet colony as well as the UK’s biggest puffin colony. The Monach Isles serve as refuge for the second largest grey seal colony of the world. A major part of the United Kingdom’s remaining population of the rare little bird, the corncrake live on the Outer Hebrides. The cliffs at the Butt of Lewis are home to fulmars and kittiwakes. As well, the South Lochs of Lewis are home to oystercatchers. As for the marine life, the waters around the islands are rich in underwater life. There are sharks, whales, dolphins and seals here.

 

Spectacular beaches

 

Spending a day on a Hebridean beach is an awesome experience. There are several fine beaches on the island of Lewis, such as Traigh Gheiraha (Garry Beach) which highlights giant rock stacks and sea caves. Europie, near the top of the island, is one of the best beaches in the Hebrides for surfing. It can be the perfect choice for the lovers of watersports. Other fantastic beaches are on Luskentyre and Scarista. Choosing any of these, you will have part of a great, relaxing day with the whole family.

 

Traigh Gheiraha, photo by Sarah and Iain/flickr

 

Watersports paradise

 

Practicing watersports is very popular in the Outer Hebrides. One of the most important surfing sites is Lewis. With ideal conditions, the Outer Hebrides is also a perfect area for windsurfing and kite surfing. Another popular water-based activity is sea kayaking. Clearwater Paddling offers a good choice of guided sea kayaking tours. The Uist Outdoor Centre also provides opportunities for sea kayaking and scuba diving. Divers will have the occasion to admire the underwater paradise in the clear waters around the islands. St. Kilda is one of the top diving locations in the world with impressive wrecks, caves and tunnels and a wonderful marine life. It is surely worth visiting it!

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