One of the main attractions on the whole island are the standing stones at Calanais, which lay claim to be the second most important stone circle in the UK after Stonehenge. They are laid out in the shape of a celtic cross, and now come with the inevitable visitor centre. The stones are situated on the west coast of Lewis, and are around an hour’s drive. Not far from the Calanais stones is the Gearranan Blackhouse Village. Blackhouses are the traditional dwellings on the island, and these were inhabited until the 1970s, and have now been restored to show what life was like. It’s very well done with a series of walks along the coast, which really do give you the opportunity to feel what life was like for the villagers both long ago and not so long ago. At Rodel on the south tip of Harris, stands the atmospheric St Clement’s Church. Built in the 16th century, it is the most elaborate surviving medieval church in the Hebrides after the abbey on Iona, and contains a number of interesting tombs. You can park at the church, but there is a pleasant walk along the coast from Leverburgh.
Some of the best beaches in Scotland are right on your doorstep, but if you want to go further afield, continue on to the end of B887 to the beach at Huishinish, which holds its own with some of its more famous cousins further south. From Huishinish, you overlook the island of Scarp, inhabited until 1970, and famous for its role in the Film, The Rocket Post.
Like Harris, most of the best beaches on Lewis are on the West Coast, and one of the best is the beach at Uig, which isn’t far from Calanais (though the road is slow). It is here that the famous Lewis chessmen in the British museum (of Harry Potter fame) were found.
Harris is famous the world over for its Tweed. You can read more about Harris Tweed at www.harristweedhebrides.com . One of the most famous weavers, who produces some of the best cloth, is Donald John MacKay at Luskentyre. If you drive through the village, you’ll see his house on the right. If you are looking to buy tweed, there is a sale of old tweeds in Tarbert – in the cream building as you turn right to enter the village. There is a myriad of designs – just rummage. If you want to have it made into a jacket or other clothing, try Isle of Harris Knitwear (www.isleofharrisknitwear.co.uk) in Grosebay, 01859 511297. The Harris Tweed Shop in Tarbert has a wide range of Harris Tweed Souvenirs.
ART & CRAFTS
There are a number of small art galleries along the winding road of the East Coast. One of our favourites is the Mission House Gallery, which exhibits the pottery and photography of Beka and Nikolai Globe (www.themissionhouse.co.uk). On the way to Huishinish, pop into the Post gift-shop, which was until recently the village post office, just passed the castle, for a range of unique gifts in a unique store. It is currently closed on Saturday (01859 560221). HebridesArts is an arts café run at the other end of the village, just before the causeway. There is some great jewellery made on the Islands by Hebridean Jewellery (www.hebrideanjewellery.co.uk, www.goldnsilverjewellery.co.uk) Equally beautiful is the “fabric art” products of Helen Suzanne Alexander, which she uses in books, bookmarks and a wide range of other products. These brilliantly reflect the landscape of the islands and are available in the Lanntair store. Our favourite of the potteries on the island is Coll Pottery. Again, the product reflects the landscape perfectly. The pottery is in the village of Back on the other side of Stornoway (01851 820219, www.broadbayceramics.co.uk)