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Ancient Stones of the Outer Hebrides

From £845.00
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Callanish Standing Stones
Departing by Coach
Duration 5 Days
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In about 1800 BC, at around the time that the Middle Kingdom of Ancient Egypt was flourishing, an equally vigorous civilisation was leaving its mark on the far flung islands of the Outer Hebrides.

The Standing Stones at Callanish, tall and slender slabs of silvery Lewisian gneiss, are the enduring testament to the skill and knowledge of a long-vanished and mysterious community, who laid out these stones according to precise astronomical observations, lining up the main avenue with the point at which the full moon of midsummer sets.

Later settlers have left their mark too, and the tranquil islands of Lewis and Harris are blessed with an abundance of archaeological remains. Neolithic cairns, Bronze Age standing stones, Iron Age houses, Norse mills and Blackhouses from a couple of centuries ago – the islands are a living time-line and a paradise for the amateur archaeologist.

In the company of a local specialist guide we will tour a succession of sites, from the rolling moorlands and sweeping beaches of Lewis in the north to the dramatic mountains of Harris in the south.

Our four nights in Stornoway will also provide an insight to modern island life, where the ancient Gaelic culture is as vibrant as ever and celebrated in music and song.

NC500: Please note that this itinerary features part of the North Coast 500, the highly scenic coastal route which begins and ends in Inverness.

What You’ll Love

  • Bosta Iron Village, the Outer Hebrides’ version of Skara Brae
  • The remarkable and mysterious standing stones of Callanish
  • Glimpses into a not-so-distant past at the Blackhouses of Gearrannan and Arnol
  • Echoes of vanished lives at the Genealogy Centre
  • The incomparable scenery of the Western Isles
  • Accommodation
  • Services of a professional tour manager
  • Comfortable coach travel throughout
  • Meals – as per the itinerary

Single Supplements apply. Subject to availability.


Day 1

We depart from our designated pick-up points and head north, stopping en-route for refreshments.  We will continue to Ullapool in time to catch the early-evening Caledonian MacBrayne ferry to Stornoway, which takes approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes.  On arrival in Lewis we will transfer the short distance to our hotel, the 4-star Cabarfeidh Hotel (the 3-star Caladh Inn, Stornoway in May).

Day 2

This morning after breakfast we skirt round the head of East Loch Roag and cross to the island of Great Bernera, where we visit the Bosta Iron Age Village. These stone structures from the 7th – 8th century were uncovered in Bosta thanks to a period of heavy storms, in much the same way that Skara Brae on Orkney came to light. A replica Iron Age house gives an insight into an ancient way of life here on a particularly beautiful beach. We will also visit the nearby museum where artefacts found at the site are displayed.

From here we will travel to the west coast of Lewis for a visit to the 5,000 year old Standing Stones of Callanish. Undoubtedly the most remarkable antiquity in the Western Isles, this collection of almost 50 stones forms a well-marked megalithic avenue, comprising 19 monoliths, ending in a circle of 13 stones, with a great cairn at the centre and superb views beyond. Entry to the Visitor Centre is included.

This afternoon we will visit St Columba’s Ui Church at Point, just outside Stornoway, one of the most important archaeological sites on the Isle of Lewis. It was the main church during the medieval period and is a burial place for the Macleod chiefs and the Mackenzies who controlled the island in later years.

We then return to Stornoway, where we will visit Lews Castle, where we can meet the famous Lewis Chessmen and view the Outer Hebrides as never before in a wrap-around audio-visual presentation

Day 3

After breakfast this morning we travel south to Harris, which in contrast to the rolling moorland of Lewis is more mountainous and fringed by superb white sandy beaches. Here we visit St Clement’s Church at Rodel, built on top of an earlier structure in the 16th century by Alasdair Crotach, 8th chief of the Macleods of Harris and Dun Bheagan. The church tombs are among the most spectacular in Scotland. We then visit the Genealogy Centre at Northton, a chance to get to know some of the factors which have had an influence on the development of the various Island communities, while for the more serious student there is a vast resource of detailed source information from different parts of the Hebrides. We continue to the ancient standing stone known as Clach Mhic Leoid (MacLeod’s Stone) which enjoys a superb situation overlooking the Isle of Taransay, which was the setting for the BBC TV series ‘Castaway’.

Day 4

Today after enjoying your full Scottish breakfast, we will have a chance to discover the stunning scenery of Lewis as we take a journey through time from the Bronze and Iron Ages to the days of Norse settlement and the more recent past. Our visits include the exceptionally well-preserved and imposing Carloway Broch, a circular, dry-stone fortified tower, dating back some 2,000 years; the Black Houses at Gearannan and Arnol which are typical of the crofting settlements which until relatively recently were found throughout the Western Isles and give a special insight into island life; the Norse Mill at Shawbost, a recreation of the type of building where barley grain was ground into meal by Viking settlers and subsequent generations of crofters; and the standing stone Clach an Trushal, at over 6m one of the tallest in Scotland.

Day 5

This morning we check out of the hotel and take the early morning Caledonian MacBrayne ferry from Stornoway to Ullapool which takes approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes (breakfast will be served on board). We then continue our homeward journey, arriving back at our original pick-up points in the afternoon.

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