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Vacations in the Western Isles

Apr 6, 2008
Now the Western Isles may not be one of the top tourist destinations in the United Kingdom but, over the last decade or so, this unique region of Scotland has seen a marked increase in the number of visitors and a general increase in overall interest in the area and it's history. The article below takes a close look at the Western Isles and questions why there has been an increase in both British and American tourism there.

You will find the Western Isles just out from the western Scottish mainland across an area of sea called the Minch. Consisting of around 100 islands the archipelago is also known as the Outer Hebrides where the main language is Gaelic. The largest and most densely populated island is the Isle of Lewis which is where you will find the main town of the region, Stornoway.

The Hebridean peoples (people of the Western Isles) are amongst the most widely travelled peoples of the world. Hebrideans have settle all across the globe either by choice or, during the clearances, by force. Many families settled in Canada and the United States while others travelled as far away as Australia. Over the last decade there has been a massive increase in the popularity of genealogy and, as many people can trace their roots back to the islands, this can account for some of the increases in visitors to the islands.

Many rich and important people can trace their origins to the Western Isles. Donald Trump famously can trace his roots back to the islands and this has played a role in his choice of Scotland as a venue for the development of a new golf resort. Of course Scotland is the home to golf and nearly everywhere in the country has one or two courses nearby. In the Hebrides there are a number of unique golf courses and along with other sports, such as fly fishing, cycling and surfing, the islands are becoming increasingly popular with folk looking to enjoy their favorite sports in places which offer unique challenges.

Everyone who visits the Western Isles comments on the amazing scenery however those who visit to enjoy their favourite sport often find themselves the closest to nature. It is not uncommon for an angler to witness a family of otters at play not far from where they are standing. Cyclists riding in the early morning or at dusk often see deer and stags at the roadside as they pass and golfers often see Golden Eagles hovering in the sky above. All of which you are unlikely to be able to enjoy in the city.

One place that you really must visit in the Western Isles is Calanais (Callanish) where you will find an amazing stone circle which is only second in important to the famous Stone Henge in England. All around you will see other, smaller, stone circles and numerous monoliths appear all over the islands. Near to Calanais is an excellent example of an iron age broch, a unique building found in the islands which is believed to have served a defensive purpose. Numerous other historic sites such as iron age houses and duns (forts) appear across the islands making it an ideal vacation destination for folk interested in such things.

Many of the place names of the Western Isles are derived from the original name given by the Norse (who once ruled the islands). Originally the Vikings raided the islands just to pillage and on each trip they would visit the islands twice, once on the outward journey and again when they were returning home. Eventually many settled which had a profound effect on the area's culture.

There are many, many more reasons to spend a vacation in the Western Isles of Scotland as we have only scratched the surface of the topic. Most of us like to take a vacation where we can relax on the beach and the Western Isles have some of the most incredible beaches in the United Kingdom. I can not begin to explain how great it is to discover a lovely little bay with soft shell sand where you can spend a whole afternoon enjoying the sounds of the waves while not once seeing another soul. I most enjoy the beaches of South Harris and over on the Uists but there are also astounding beaches to be found along the south west coast of the Isle of Lewis.
About the Author
If you plan to visit the Outer Hebrides you will find accommodation listed at bed and breakfast in the Western Isles and Harris bed and breakfast
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