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Scotland's Remote Western Isles

Mar 18, 2008
Just off the west coast of Scotland you will find a unique group of islands known as the Western Isles. Known in native Gaelic as 'na h-Eileanan Siar' this group of islands includes the inhabited islands of Lewis, Harris, Barra and the Uists (plus several other smaller inhabited islands) and a great many uninhabited islands (to make a total of 200). The number of tourists visiting the Western Isles has increased steadily over the last few decades with growing numbers showing an interest in taking a vacation to the area.

A treacherous stretch of water, which is known as the Minch, lies between the Scottish mainland and the Western Isles. The North Atlantic Ocean can be found to the west of the islands which regularly pounds the coast to create dramatic scenes. Many geologists visit the islands to study the rocks (which are some of the oldest on the planet) and, the fact that the Western Isles were one of the first places in the U.K. to become inhabited after the last ice age, makes them an ecellent source of historic sites interesting to archaeologists and visitors alike.

Naturalists find themselves in a wildlife paradise where they find much flora and fauna that is unique to the islands. The Western Isles are also known for their fertile grasslands, found just inland from the beaches, known as machair. Because the machair receives a regular dressing of calcium rich shell sand the ground is the perfect medium for the great many species of wildflower that grow there.

Archaeological delights are to be found in increasing numbers. Each year new important sites of interest are discovered in the Western Isles. One of the most spectacular, and most widely known, are the Calanais Standing Stones found on the west side of the Isle of Lewis. Formerly known as the Callanish Standing Stones the stone circle is now called by it's Gaelic name in line with the local council policy to use the Gaelic place names rather than the English. Happily, in most cases the Western Isles Council also include the English names on signposts.

The Western Isles are rightfully known for having some of the finest countryside in the United Kingdom. While the middle of the Isle of Lewis consists mainly of barren moors they are, in fact, very important environments that are perfect places for some of the rarest creatures including many different types of birds. However the coast of the Isle of Lewis provides the most breathtaking scenery with lovely little coves and incredibly clean, and often deserted, sandy beaches.

While the Isle of Lewis is rather flat as soon as we reach the Isle of Harris we begin to see the rich diversity of scenery for which the Western Isles are known for. The North Harris hills are really mountains and driving through the area you will soon discover how dramatic they really are. North Harris is divided into South Harris at a narrow point, where you will find the main town of Tarbert, and from then on South Harris is a much softer and greener environment with, what is claimed, the finest beaches in Europe. Further south again and North Uist is rather like a cross between North and South Harris but North Uist is considerably different with soft sandy beaches and the finest machair in the Western Isles.

One thing you will immediately notice when staying in Western Isles accommodation is the cleanliness and incredible comfort of all the rooms. The Western Isles are widely known for their friendly folk and incredible hospitality and this is especially apparent if you stay in a local guest house.
About the Author
If you are planning a vacation to the Western Isles you will need to find suitable accommodation in the Western Isles For listings of the finest accommodation in the area visit http://www.westernisles-accommodation.co.uk
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