Wishing everyone reading this good health. The western Isles are slowly opening up again and some visitors have already ventured over the minch. I have opened up my booking system so if you are interested in a tour you are most welcome. I am offering a reduced service this year as I have had to take on sideline jobs to help me through the virus (grass cutting !). By 2021 everything should hopefully be back to normal and this will all be behind us.
Masks and sanitiser supplied on the minibus and tours restricted to family groups, groups of friends or couples. For your comfort and reassurance I will avoid mixing several people that don't know each other on to the same tour, this will avoid any risk of cross infection.The bus will also be sanitised between tours.
March 21st 2020. Who could have predicted this catastrophy for the tourism industry? All our tours are at a stand still until we know what the future has in store.
Hopefully we will be able to operate in the near future. Stay safe and healthy everyone, all the best from Love Hebrides
February 26th 2020 - Here I am sitting by the fire with my pipe and slippers, trying to keep warm with the remaining slabs of peat from my ever diminishing pile. Snow, sleat, gales, wind, rain, hail these are just a few of the conditions I experienced this morning when I popped my head out the door to fill up my peat bucket!
February is almost over and it won't be long before we see the signs of spring. On Skye there are already some leaf buds on the trees and daffodils starting to form flowers.
Still plenty of time for more winter weather but at least we are moving in the right direction now.
Predictions are that scotland is going to experience warmer summers in the coming decades, with higher temperatures than normal becoming the norm. over the past 49 years I can remember one or two heat waves and several short lived hot spells, and it is those memories that keep you hanging on in the hope that you'll experience it again! When you have scorching hot sun, flat calm crystal clear, mirror like water. The sea birds can spot the fish shoals so much easier and the air is filled with the sound of gulls & terns diving on fish. If you sit on the shore you can hear the exhale, inhale of porpoise as they breifly break the surface,leaving behind ripples as the only evidence of their non stop life. In the scorching sun the midges are often kept at bay but the horse flies aren't! Sometimes occassionally and rarely we get a taste of winter sun in February, so ever optimistic I sit here shorts and T shirt at the ready, waiting and hoping !
By now the festive dust will have settled and time to plan this summers holiday. The slightly harder to reach locations are often the best whichis why you really must come over to the western isles and see for yourself what we enjoy everyday. Beaches, moorland, mountains, fields, glens, valleys and of course the crystal clear sea that surrounds us. Everywhere you turn is a feast for the eyes. Ancient archaeology and present day culture is everywhere you turn with 5,000 year old standing stone circles erected at various locations all over the islands, the biggest and most famous of course being the Callanish site. We hope you will come and join us in 2020, make this the year you discover the Outer Hebrides you'll definately not regret it.
January 1st, 2020 brings in strong winds so it's time to batten down the hatches here in the Western Isles. Living in the Hebrides gradually hardens you to the weather, more layers of clothes go on, more time is spent around the open fire. Extra care is taken when driving in strong winds and loose objects are weighted or tied down. The sheep huddle by banks and bushes, waiting for the gale to pass. When the wind stops and all goes still it's the strangest feeling, as you get used to walking upright, instead of bent against the wind!
January 2020 is almost on us and we are looking forward to the new year and sharing these beautiful Islands with you. Plenty room on most tours if you are considering heading our way on your next Scottish vacation. The Outer Hebrides are a unique part of the Scottish experience and quite different to what you will see around Edinburgh or Glasgow in terms of landscape, culture and even language. But don't worry, although a very high proportion of people have Gaelic as their first language, everybody also speaks English! The picture I have chosen for this blog is a close up of a loom in the process of weaving harris tweed..a facinating process and one which you can witness yourself whilst here on the islands. Hoping that every one has a very happy new year, all the best from Love Hebrides.
December 17th 2019 - Why go abroad for a beach holiday in the winter sun, when you are only a short hop away from world class, deserted beaches in the Western Isles?
Traigh Mor Beach (pictured) is absolutely stunning and ranks amongst some of the very best beaches in the Outer Hebrides. I like to find a peaceful corner in the sand dunes overlooking the beach. From here I can watch the shore birds wading at the waters edge. Out at sea, lines of gannets and gliding fulmars can be seen plying their trade.
You can not beat this beach for a mind and soul re-set.
So the next sunny winters day will find me in among the Dunes, tucked in out of the gentle breeze, looking at the waves breaking along the shore and staring out to the horizon, imagining the sailing boats of the 1800's transporting emmigrants over to Canada (which is just out of sight!).
Come and join me in 2020
7th December 2019 - The Christmas lights in Stornoway are up and switched on by the local music sensation Peat & Diesel giving a lovely atmosphere around the streets at night. The winter weather provides many opportunities for dramatic photographs of waves crashing on the beach and storm clouds looming. The Harris hills quite often experience snow fall and driving can be slippy at times, council gritting lorries are out regularly to keep everyone safe. Still a great time of year to visit the Islands, the main attractions and beaches are generally empty, you can have an entire golden beach to yourself!
December 1st 2019 - The Atlantic coastline of the western isles is subject to the full power of the sea. Winter storms produce massive waves that crash onto the beaches and rocks all along the coast. When conditions are right some brave souls surfboard on the rollers thundering in. Not for the feint hearted as the waters are freezing cold and the conditions extreme. The Atlantic forces shape our coastline, crushing shells and rock to create the beautiful beaches all along the western shore.
30th November, 2019 - Passing Place signs are a common feature on Island roads. Thanks to EU money many of the roads which used to be single track have been made double track, but still many of the small country lanes remain single.. Passing places are strategically placed so that approaching vehicles can see each other in plenty of time for one or the other to pull in and allow cars to pass. A common mistake for those not used to the single track driving is to forget to look in the rear mirror! You might get a shock when you do and see a string of frustrated local drivers behind you!
The thing to remember is that the passing places are for overtaking as much as they are for passing oncoming traffic. One way to avoid all the stress of negotiating the single track roads is to take a fully guided tour with Love Hebrides and your local guide.
November 30th, 2019 - Surrounding the coast of Lewis and Harris are many species of seaweeds growing in the crystal clear waters. Seaweeds do not have roots like a plant on land so are only found attached to solid objects. They glue them selves onto rocks using an adhesive that is one of the strongest glues in nature. The plants extract the minerals they need from the water that supports them and energy is taken by photosynthesis from the sun just like plants on land. as the waters are so clear along the Atlantis coasts of NW Scotland seaweed can be found growing down to 100mtres, the water is so clear in places the sunlight can penetrate that deeep! On Lewis and Harris seaweed has been harvested for many decades and processed to extract various elements, in particular alginate. In the picture you can see harvested bladder wrack waiting for the lorry to take it away, the base of the harvested plant remains attached to the rocks and grows back again over about 18 months.
29th November, 2019 - Winter weather is with us and the Northerly winds are chilling. Here is a picture taken from inside the Bosta Iron Age House on the Island of Bernera showing the peat smoke filled air. Imagine a family group of Iron age people huddled in their underground house, sheltering from the biteing wind, the only heat coming from the flames of a peat fire. For those of you that have never smelt the sweet aroma of peat smoke, a visit to the Isle of lewis will quickly sort that out, as peat is still cut on the Island.
Questions: Do people still cut peat? Answer: Yes, peat is still cut all over the Island. Question: When do people cut peat? Answer: Peat cutting starts usually around the 1st of May. Questions: Where can I see peat cutting? Answer: Most areas of peat land or moorland near the roads will have peat banks where peat is cut. Questions: Where can I see a peat fire? Answer: The Love Hebrides Tour includes a visit to the Arnol Black house where you can sit by a peat fire. Questions: What is peat? Answer: Peat is the decayed and compressed remains of moss, grasses and heather. Questions: Do people still burn peat? Answer: Most people today have modern central heating systems, but there are many people throughout the Island that still burn peat.
November Blog 2019 : Another picture of the Carloway Broch taken in the early part of the summer 2019 on the isle of Lewis. The Broch is more than a 1,000 years old and is constructed of local rock with no cement. The builders skill is there to see as the Broch has survived this long, but in the later part of the summer people were climbing up the Broch and are most likely responsible for the loose rocks that necessitated the Broch being closed off for several weeks due to safety reasons. At present there is scaffolding up while the walls are stabilised again, so that the structure is safe and open for the public in 2020. The Brochs are scattered all over the Northern part of Scotland, there are more than 200 of them in various states of repair, but the biggest concentration is in the North East of Scotland including on the islands of Orkney and Shetland. If you plan your next vacation on the Isle of Lewis then the carloway Broch should be a part of your itinerary. Join Love Hebrides and let us do the driving, you'll be most welcome.
October 2019 -There is loads to see and do out here on the isle of Lewis. Some attractions have changed there opening times, apart from that it's business as usual in the Western isles.
This picture shows the Iron Age Broch at Carloway. An amazing circular structure with a low easily defended door making it difficult to come in on the offensive.
The walls are hollow and joined together by big slabs of rock.
The front section has had the stones removed for building materials, in the vicinity of the Broch you can see walls and blackhouses probably built with stones taken from the structure.
The Broch of course now is fully protected and it would be illegal to remove any of the stone!
Love Hebrides will be open for business all winter.
It's not just the blackhouses of the 1800's that burnt peat fires, peat has been used as a heat source for centuries. The Iron age house at Bosta regularly has a peat fire on, a warm welcome awaits you on a wet and windy day.
Once your eyes adjust to the dark you start to see the inner walls of this subterrainian dwelling. Elizabeth (the Iron age house guide) gives a very thorough talk on life for these iron age hunter gatherers.
The bosta Iron age houses were discovered after a storm, when sands where moved by the wind revealing the top of stone walls buried in the sand. Extensive excervations revealed all the details of the design and building method of these dwellings and uncovered some bone artifacts and tools left by the previous inhabitants.
August 2019 - Beautiful carvings of hunting dogs and galley's decorate the Chief Macleod tomb at St Clements church at Rodel, Harris.
Amazing to see the delicacy of the images portrayed on this stone. Buried here are the remains of the Macleod chief and his son. Fire has damaged the stone carvings on his sons tomb. Precious artifacts have been removed to the vatican for safe keeping from Viking raiders.
St Clement's church has had a couple of restorations over it's life time as a result of the fire and previous neglect. It is possible to go into the church at anytime.
The Iron Age house at Bosta is one of the many historic sites we visit on the love Hebrides Tour of lewis. The visit includes a talk (admission £3) about Iron Age living. The Iron Age house is set in the ground and the roof projects up from the top of the wall, with turf used to keep the weather out. The building blends in with the surroundings and from the sea might be quite hard to see, so there could be some advantage in being camoflaged from would be raiders. Inside the Iron Age house you feel very secure and cacooned from the weather raging all around you. Warm in Winter, cool in Summer.
Question: How do I get to the Iron Age House? Answer: Love Hebrides minibus tours can take you there. Question: When is the Iron Age house open? Answer: The Iron Age house is open from April until October each year. Question: How old is the Iron Age House? Answer: The Iron Age house is an exact replica of actual Iron Age houses situated in close proximity, the original houses are about 1,500 years old. Question: How long do we stop at the Iron Age House? Answer: We stop at the Iron Age house for about 40 minutes. We also visit the golden sands of Bosta beach while we are there.
Summer 2019 - Throughout the Western Isles you will see evidence of abandoned Blackhouses, many were left either due to emmigration or past eviction. Often the stone is re-used in the construction of walls and renovations or the remains turned into a garden shed. it's hard to imagine the ammount of work required to gather together all the stone required to build a house, all I can think is that the people of old were generally very fit and strong. The lack of timber limited the building style,with roofs constructed of timber washed up on the coast, ship wrecks and inherited timbers from other abandoned houses. It is recorded that when peple were evicted from their homes, they took the roof timbers with them in order to build the roof on the next house.
July 2019 - For a few thousand years, the homes of people living in the western Isles and highlands of Scotland were roofed with turf, hay and straw. An effective means of keeping the rain out but does require regular maintenance. Due to the lack of rushes on the island, these thatch roofs are not like those that you associate with English houses of the same period. To construct a roof on a blackhouse the timbers are supported on the top of the wall head and braced together, the timbers being tied rather than nailed.
Turf slabs are lain ontop of the timbers a bit like roofing tiles, then the hay and straw piled on top to a good depth, this is all then tied down using ropes with heavy stones attached to the ends in order to weigh down the thatch. Wind tears at the roof, so regular maintenance is required.
Summer 2019 -Wintery weather can be experienced in the summer too! The notorious climate catches fishermen and farmers off guard so a constant watch on weather forecasts is a necessity here on the islands. Dramatic clouds and storm clouds form out to sea and it is often possible to judge the direction of travel of the storms, sometimes they just miss the islands and continue on North to Iceland, other times you estimate the ammount of time you have before you have to drop tools and run for shelter! The ground quickly becomes sodden, waterfalls form instantly then are gone, rainbows appear and disappear a typical summer storm passing through. Fortunately there are plenty of dry, sunny days too as the summer storms never last too long.
Beaches on Lewis and Harris are amazing and usually empty!!
But when the lovely sun comes out locals and visitors a like can enjoy the beautiful, pristine beaches that are found in coves all along the west coast.
Sit and listen to the seabirds feeding, watch the waders running along the waters edge hunting worms and cockles.
Brave kids run into the crystal clear Atlantic waters.
Memorable days spent on the beach that will remain for many years to come.
January 23rd 2020 (update!) - Still the most amazing place to visit in the Western Isles. The peat fire burns, the smoke rises and the atmosphere builds. Make 2020 the year you experience this incredible preserved way of living that was common throughout the highlands and islands for centuries.
In the Western Isles peat cutting is still taking place. Once the peats are cut, they are dried outside before being gathered up and stacked by the croft house. Cutting starts in may and the peats are generally bought home during August.
See the shopping trips and Eden Court Theatre page for off Island Trips.
Shopping in Inverness and Dingwall (overnight in Dingwall)
Trips to see some select Eden Court Theatre shows
check out the choices.. other shows by request
Having a day off today, so a quick trip down to Rodel to see the knights grave... amazing.
The weather has been so good time to go down the beach...
Bosta in fact on Great Bernera... beautiful
Majestic, magical, mysterious and that's just your driver ! The Stones however, are all of these thing's. The atmosphere as you stand surrounded by this ancient circle is electric.
Household items are on display within the arnol blackhouse and when you pause for a moment, sit by the fire you can imagine the children running around, the hens pecking at the floor, someone putting another peat on the fire and mother preparing dinner. It's amazing..
Sadly, the Carloway Broch has had to be closed off to visitors. This ancient monument is in need of some attention as it looks like rocks might fall.
We don't know how long it will be closed off but look forward to it reopening soon. Many hundreds of visitors climb all over the ancient structure and I guess the possibility of a collapse isn't to far fetched. Good luck with the repairs.
Just outside Stornoway is one of the most important churches on Lewis. St Columbas Ui church is a category A listed building and is the burial ground of the Macleod chiefs. It is one of the most complete churches of the medieval period and on some of our tours we are able to pay a visit.
If you visit the Outer Hebrides, Luskentyre in Harris must surely be on the list as one of the best beaches in the UK..But Lewis has many equally gorgeous lesser known deserted beaches.
Deserted because everyone is down at Luskentyre! On our tours of Lewis we always try to include at least one of these hidden gems.
Crofting Life on the Isle of Lewis.
Everywhere you go you see sheep and cattle and peat stacks outside crofters houses.The small strips of land that make up a croft, are barely sufficient to produce all the feed required for the animals throughout the year. Common grazing land out on the moor makes up for it in some way. Crofting as a way of life is not easy and no fortunes are made, but if it wasn't for crofting the landscape and the birdlife on these islands would just not be the same. The lack of mechanised farming, means that ground nesting birds are able to raise their chicks, without the risk of being 'mown up' by some large agricultural machinery. When on our tour, everywhere you go is accompanied with the sound of Skylarks, constantly singing high above you in the sky..a beautiful sound which is sadly missing now from so many parts of the UK.
Hi folks, come and experience the real macoy - red river whisky. It is distilled in a small, privately owned distillery miles from anywhere. Rough and raw, and that's just the owner!! The whisky is smooth and unique...tours can be arranged, which include a tasting session. Come smell the peat smoke that gives this local brew it's distinctive flavour..
Come and see where the famous lewis Chessmen were found..the exact spot isn't really known, a storm uncovered the chess pieces in 1831...will more appear in 2019 ?
Well actually one did, not on the beach but found in a drawer ! For sale at 1 million pounds...what a lucky find..
Arnol Blackhouse, the most amazing place on the Isle of Lewis. We go here everyday, it's fascinating and I find out something new about life in the 1800's each time I visit. Inside the visitor centre there is a terrific black and white film shot in the 1930's, showing life in and around the village of Arnol and the blackhouses.
The Carloway Broch is probably the best preserved Broch left in Scotland, standing on it's remote hill top location over looking the Atlantic Ocean. Go inside and explore, but mind your head !
Built in the Iron age as a type of fortifide farm house. Incredible stone work, incredible labour, double skinned walls built of bare rock.
No trip to the outer Hebrides or highlands of scotland is complete without visiting the largest standing stone circle in Scotland..amazing, impressive and a total mystery..no one really knows what the purpose of these stone circles were, we can only guess... Touch them, feel them, just sit back and marvel at this ancient structure 5,000 years old...listen to the skylarks singing above you, feel the Hebridean beeze in your hair and enjoy the moment...another amazing experience to be had in the Outer Hebrides..join us on the Love Hebrides day tour to see these incredible relics of the past..
Imagine going back in time, Imagine standing inside a Real Hebridean Blackhouse left exactly as the last inhabitants left it..the Arnol Blackhouse on the Isle of Lewis.
Smell the peat smoke, see where the animals lived alongside the people..We will take you right back to the 1800's, it's not a reproduction, it's not made up, it's a real blackhouse, turf covered, dark and smokey...Join us and we will take you there..unforgettable and yet one of many amazing experiences to be had on the Isle of Lewis.