The Essential Guide to the Hebrides
Collected by Barry Steven Shelby , AFAR Local Expert
Scattered along Scotland’s western shore, the Hebridean islands are full of rugged landscapes, quaint fishing villages, and remote, Gaelic-speaking communities. The Inner Hebrides are generally a short ferry ride from the mainland and include everything from the Isle of Mull, with its ancient castle and charming village of Tobermory, to the craggy Isle of Skye, connected to the mainland by a bridge. More than 25 miles offshore, the wilder Outer Hebrides require a flight or ferry ride across often-choppy seas, but prove a worthy adventure for their untouched coasts, fascinating history, and unique culture.
Callanish, Isle of Lewis HS2 9DY, UK
Jutting up from the crest of a flat-topped hill, the Callanish Standing Stones comprise one of the world’s best-preserved Neolithic monuments. Erected 5,000 years ago, they predate England’s famous Stonehenge and are believed to have...
Lewis and Harris Island, Isle of Lewis HS2 9AZ, UK
Just a few miles from the world-famous Callanish Standing Stones on the Isle of Lewis sits Dun Carloway, also known as the Carloway Broch—an ancient, circular stone tower that was once 30 feet tall. Impressively, it remains almost the same...
Lews Castle Grounds, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis HS2 0XS, UK
This local history museum is particularly impressive for its location—a state-of-the-art, custom-built wing in the 18th-century Lews Castle—but it’s also known for housing six of the famous Lewis Chessmen, carved around 1150 and...
5 Bank Street, Stornoway HS1 2XG, UK
Located in the heart of Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, Digby Chick offers fine dining in a relaxed, family-friendly atmosphere. A local favorite, the restaurant features a seasonally changing menu full of local produce, with fish and shellfish...
40 North Bragar, Isle of Lewis HS2 9DA, UK
The Verandah makes up the restaurant section of 40 North, a small food outlet in the unlikely location of North Bragar, on the west side of the Isle of Lewis. It’s less than 25 minutes from the town of Stornoway but feels much farther when...
Lews Castle Grounds, Stornoway HS2 0XP, UK
If you’ve ever wanted to stay in a castle, this may be the place for you. Perched on a hill overlooking Stornoway’s inner harbor, this Gothic Revival palace is the former home of Sir James Matheson, who owned the entire Isle of Lewis...
Talla na Mara Community Enterprise Centre, Isle of Harris HS3 3AE, UK
Housed in the Talla na Mara Community Enterprise Centre on the Isle of Harris, this picturesque restaurant overlooks the golden sands of Niseaboist Beach and Taransay Sound. Here, in this most-photographed location, chef Sam Barnes serves fresh,...
Isle of Harris HS3 3HX, UK
Housed in a Georgian mansion that once belonged to a local minister, this small but comfortable hotel overlooks heather-covered mountains, the Atlantic Ocean, and a three-mile-long stretch of sandy beach on the southwestern coast of Harris. Guests...
Locheport, Isle of North Uist HS6 5HA, UK
Nestled on the edge of Loch Eport overlooking Ben Eaval, this former shooting lodge is the ideal retreat for anyone traveling in the Uists. Here, guests can choose between five cozy rooms in the original lodge or six hillside suites that highlight...
Castlebay - Kisimul Castle, Isle of Barra HS9 5UZ, UK
Nicknamed the “Castle in the Sea,” this stone tower sits on a rock in the sheltered harbor of Castlebay—the largest town on the Isle of Barra. In fact, you need to take a small boat across the bay to visit Castle Kisimul, which...
MacLeod Estate, Dunvegan House, Dunvegan, Isle of Skye IV55 8WF, UK
The oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland, Dunvegan has served as the ancestral home of Clan MacLeod for more than 800 years. Restored between 1840 and 1850, the castle features a unified exterior complete with defensive battlements...
7 Bosville Terrace, Portree IV51 9DG, UK
Don’t be fooled by the simple-sounding menu at this top-notch Portree restaurant. The dishes here are complex but well balanced, featuring the soils and foams that have come to define haute cuisine. Chef Calum Munro uses local, seasonal...
Colbost, Dunvegan, Isle of Skye IV55 8ZT, UK
This landmark restaurant is one of the most renowned in Scotland, let alone the Hebrides. Located on the shore of Loch Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye, it pairs the very best Scottish food with friendly professionalism and unique surroundings,...
Carters Rest, 8 Upper Milovaig, Glendale, Isle of Skye IV55 8WY, UK
A charming bed-and-breakfast, Carter’s Rest is located on the most westerly coast of the Isle of Skye, with breathtaking views out to sea. From here, it’s possible to see everything from seals basking on rocks in the Little Minch to...
Duart Castle, Lochdon, Isle of Mull PA64 6AP, UK
The ancient home of Clan Maclean, Duart Castle towers over the Sound of Mull, making a statement with its huge curtain walls and solid keep. It spent more than a century in ruins before Sir Fitzroy Maclean had it refurbished in 1911, and now...
23 Main St, Isle of Mull PA75 6NU, UK
Sticking to the motto “the only thing frozen is our fishermen,” this dockside eatery serves some of the freshest seafood on the Island of Mull. In fact, guests can sit on the outdoor terrace overlooking Tobermory Bay and watch the fish...
Isle of Iona PA76 6SQ, UK
After arriving on the tiny island of Iona near Mull in 563, Irish pilgrim Saint Columba proceeded to establish a Christian church and monastery, creating a vibrant religious community that lives on to this day. The monastery survived until the...
Mount Stuart, Isle of Bute PA20 9LP, UK
Located on the Isle of Bute, just a short ferry ride from the mainland port of Wemyss Bay, Mount Stuart is a feat of Victorian engineering. Built in 1880, the neo-Gothic mansion was among the most technologically advanced houses of its time,...
Western Isles St Kilda G76 9ER, UK
Located 41 miles west of Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides, the St Kilda archipelago is considered the remotest part of the British Isles. People lived here on a couple of craggy islands until 1930, when the declining population made life...
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