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Outer Hebrides, inner peace

Posted on August 28, 2010 | Travel Destinations13 Comments

So you like jokes, right? Excellent, I’ve got one for you. So there’s two professors at a conference and one of them is a Spaniard and the other is Gaelic. As icebreakers go, the Spanish professor decided to ask the Irishman if there was a Gaelic word similar in use to mañana. The Hebridian porfessor pondered over this for a minute while scratching his salt and pepper beard and said that the Irish have five words similar to mañana but none of them are quite as urgent as that.

We apologise for not getting things off to the best start possible, but rest assured that this is not an assessment of two languages and their merits. It is instead meant to be indicative of the languid way of life that is to be had in the Outer Hebrides and we hope you appreciate that more than the joke. The morning paper is there only in spirit in these parts, arriving fashionably late by mid afternoon sometimes and Sunday isn’t just a rest day for the gods, it represents a break for the people over here too.

The Outer Hebrides (or Na h-Eileanan an Iar in Gaelic, if you like to learn new languages) are an archipelago of islands spread over 130 miles and 119 islands in all, the main of which are Lewis and Harris (how imaginatively named), North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist and Barra.  And the central three (the Uists) are connected by a causeway. It may be lazing just off the coast of Scotland, but crossing over into these isles means you have just taken a giant leap across a cultural divide as an overwhelming 60% of the population speaks Gaelic as their first language. Life is still tided over by living in the old school black houses that lie low and are made of stone and earth, an ode to an older time.

Outer Hebrides

Hebrides as a name by itself is not Gaelic in origin, it is probably a derivative of Ebudae, the name given to the islands by the Romans or Havbredey, the Norse name alluding to an isle at the edge of the waters. The landscape is not much to witness, but the splash of sky and never ending azure of the seas add beauty and glamour to the vista. Add to this undulating hills and wildflower dunes and lochs and you have an all-star lineup unfrequented by tourists and unsullied by the passage of time, which is all for the better. The island has a mysterious and intriguing history and is littered with prehistoric sites and places still bearing Viking names. The islands are pocked with beauty and a visit here reminds you quickly why traveling broadens the horizons of the mind. That the Hebrides nourishes your soul is an upside that is more than could have been bargained for.


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  • Edward Louis says:

    My wife and I love Scottish culture and were planning a trip to the highlands, but being inexperienced about driving in the Highlands and unaware of the roads we decided to take a tour..

    And the experience was very emotional and personal…

    And once in the islands, the dangers of attempting the region in our own rented car looked even more daunting than I had ever imagined. We realized we would have probably returned the first morning itself..
    The curvy, single-lane roads, and few guardrails, thick fog covering the Highlands most of the time and the meandering livestock,all was literally BREATHTAKING!

    Our guide handled all this as if it were second nature to him, and indeed it was…

    We felt perfectly secure all the time,and what would have been a nerve-wreaking journey turned out to be a very relaxing trip in one of the most beautiful landscapes we’ve ever seen anywhere in the world.!

    The stops were frequent and well-chosen to ruined castles, quiet villages and short scenic hiking trails..!

    The places were we stayed were well-chosen and not terribly expensive as Scotland is in the peak tourist season!

  • Bella AckerMan says:

    I am still raving about my tour to Highlands and Loch Ness and will do so for long!

    I visited the Highlands with my 10 year old daughter and my mother..
    We really enjoyed the trip to the isle of Skye…In all we were really impressed and felt that we got a really good feel of Scotland at a great value..

    I will definitely visit this place again for its novelty and beautiful scenery!

  • Angie Williams says:

    I strongly recommend staying at the Langass Lodge Hotel in the North Uist.
    It is a FANTASTIC hotel in an amazing location..

    The Stone’s circle and the Barpa Langass are at a stone’s throw from the Hotel..You can walk down there before breakfast or after lunch..

    The new rooms have fantastic views and French windows opening to the garden! Creature comforts at their absolute best!

    A fantastic place with a great feel for Scottish history and culture!

  • Bree Maxmueller says:


    We had hired a car from Glasglow airport and then took a ferry to the islands..!
    This gave us better flexibility from car rental perspective…We enjoyed the drive all the way..
    The Barra or South Uist crossing took us some time, over five hours , but the weather was good and was absolutely stunning..

    We started at the bottom on Barra and then headed to North and came back from Stornoway to Uig on Skye..The drive back from Glasglow took us about four hours but again it was lovely scenery and worth doing as a part of your journey!

  • Abigail Austin says:

    Our trip to the islands was a ball of laughs, passionate with tales about Scottish history..I highly recommend anyone going to Edinburgh to take a short trip to the islands…


  • Chris Addison says:

    Our various stops were exciting each with an interesting flavor..

    Especially on the Isle of Lewis I stayed at a B&B called Galson Farm..There is an Iron Age Broch you can walk down from there!

    The art gallery at Morven is well worth the visit…They make EXCELLENT CAKES HERE!!

  • Ekeope Queus says:

    I would not expect to be able to leave the car at Barra…Car hire on the island is via local operators..The bus services throughout the islands are well-recommended!
    We have used them on several visits over the years and they link various ferries and flights!

    I would certainly recommend the Oban to Castle way ferry ONCE IN YOUR LIFETIME!

    So, If you aren’t heading to the islands, Turn yourself round and definitely make this trip which will leaveFABULOUS MEMORIES in your mind and heart!!

  • Andrie Baxter says:

    Nice read! Thanks! :-)

  • Alex Parkes says:

    An awesome post!

    Many roads here are single track so be careful on which side of the road you drive on, when you reach two-way roads..The mid-day meals of oatcakes and cheese or tinned fishes on the islands were AWESOME!

  • Bob Garvey says:

    It’s a great place with MIND-BLOWING SCENERY…It’s fun driving (easy) here on the islands!
    Thanks fro the post! :-)

  • Max Schreiner says:

    The neolithic sites are FANTASTIC and I was really drawn towards and antiquity and finesse!!

    This place, the islands are so BEAUTIFUL..It is important to book well in advance so you get the trip at the best bargains..

    Thanks for sharing the post!

  • Jackie Rutherson says:

    Outer Hebrides the best trip I’ve ever had to Highlands…Misty and secluded, yet warm and poignant, like a literary prose! I will keep returning to this place again and again…

  • Jackie Rutherson says:

    The islands have MAGICAL landscapes..!! I return to them time and again for peace and serenity..

    Thanks for the post!

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