Five Places to Visit on Lewis & Harris
No matter how many years we spend here, it's never lost on us that the Isles of Lewis and Harris are remarkable, surprising, historic and ever-evolving. From sites of natural beauty, to superb Scottish food and drink, to ancient places of mysterious origin, this part of the Outer Hebrides always rewards the often long journeys taken by tourists to get here.
Many of our guests are visiting this region of Scotland for the first time, on holiday. To aid inspiration, we've compiled a short 'hit list' of places to consider when you stay at Brighid — but bear in mind, this is only scratching the surface of what's on offer.
30 minutes approx. by car from Brighid
With a population of around 6000 people, Stornoway is the largest town in the Outer Hebrides and is something of an administrative hub for this stunning region of Scotland. With a beautiful and historic harbour area and flights coming into the nearby airport, it's often one of the first places visitors to Lewis and Harris arrive when they come to stay here.
A walk along the quay at Stornoway Harbour is recommended — particularly for fans of fresh fish and seafood — as you'll often see the fishing boats coming in with the 'catch of the day'. An afternoon of shopping and great food & drink is a great way to unwind on a Hebridean holiday, and if picking up some Harris Tweed garments and souvenirs is on your to-do list, there's no better place to browse than Stornoway's various clothing and gift shops.
While certainly popular with visitors, it's never succumbed to a 'touristy' feel, and as you roam the streets and waterfront areas, you'll likely feel a sense of authenticity and 'real Scotland' — particularly as Scottish Gaelic is still featured on signage and widely spoken.
02. Lews Castle
30 minutes approx. by car from Brighid
One of the stand-out visitor attractions in Stornoway is Lews Castle — a Victorian era castle overlooking Stornoway harbour. The site had been home to Seaforth Lodge — a summer residence of Lord Seaforth, that was originally built in the late 17th century and extended in the 1750s.
Built in the mid 19th century as a country house for Sir James Matheson (who had bought the entire Lewis and Harris Island some years prior), Lews Castle was designed by Glaswegian architect Charles Wilson, and later underwent various upgrades following Lord Leverhulme's 1918 purchase of the Isle of Lewis — including the installation of electric lighting, heating and telephones.
Throughout the 20th century and into the 21st, this prominent Stornoway landmark underwent various changes of use and ownership — from its facility as a naval hospital during World War II, to its sale to Ross and Cromarty Council in the 1950s, to years of disuse leading to regeneration works that were completed in 2016.
03. Calanais Standing Stones
25 minutes approx. by car from Brighid
The word 'iconic' can be overused at times, but the Calanais Standing Stones more than justify it. Located 13 miles west of Stornoway, this cross-shaped arrangement of large stones was created 5000+ years ago and actually pre-dates England's famous Stonehenge monument.
Their origin is shrouded in mystery and likely lost to time — but some experts have suggested that their height and position is related to the changing night sky and its importance in ritual activity during this Neolithic period.
Overlooking Loch Roag, on the western edge of Lewis, it's a popular visiting spot for tourists in the region, and the site is protected by The Standing Stones Trust ('Urras nan Tursachan' in Scottish Gaelic), which was formed in 1994 and has operated the visitor centre and café here since then — working in partnership with Historic Environment Scotland.
04. St Kilda
120 minutes approx by car from Brighid (to Leverburgh, Harris - where tours commence by boat)
Boat trips/tours dependent on time of year. Typical season is April to September.
St Kilda is one of the most interesting places in Scotland, and arguably the world. An isolated archipelago west of Lewis & Harris, it's one of Scotland's six UNESCO World Heritage Sites and one of the few in the world to hold dual status for both natural and cultural significance. These islands' rich and storied history has inspired writers, filmmakers, historians and visitors for generations, and at certain times of year (typically April to September) St Kilda can be visited by boat from the Isle of Harris. The Kilda Cruises website will provide more details and availability information.
Day trippers to St Kilda will have the opportunity to see a wide variety of sea life, coastal birds and native land animals — including dolphins, minke whales, guillemots, gannets and, of course, puffins. Owned and preserved by the National Trust for Scotland, there's 4000+ years of history and wild Scottish beauty to discover on St Kilda.
05. Isle of Harris Distillery
80 minutes approx by car from Brighid
The Isle of Harris Distillery has built a worldwide reputation for excellence in spirits. This is exemplified by their distinctive and beautiful gin bottles, recently joined by the equally beautiful Hearach whisky bottle — the first Scotch whisky from the Distillery and (incredibly) the first whisky to be legally produced on the island. An historic first, indeed.
Located at Tarbert, 'The Social Distillery' earns its name from the warmth of the peat fire burning on a daily basis and the warm welcome visitors receive from the team of friendly locals who work there.