Lewis and Harris: A guide to the best events and places to visit
Sponsored feature: With a wealth of stunning scenery, pristine beaches, delicious food and drink and world-famous hospitality, Lewis and Harris hardly need to be recommended.
But once you’ve made the decision to visit the two connected Hebridean islands, there are a surprising range of places to visit and events to try.
Hebridean Celtic Festival
The multi-award winning HebCelt returns for its 19th annual festival from July 16-19 this year. The unique event is set against the atmospheric backdrop of Stornoway’s Lews Castle, and the music encompasses Celtic cultures tinged with contemporary traditional, rock, indie-folk and world influences. The setting offers access to the wider natural beauty of the area, and the island community offer a welcoming hand to all to make this one of the most special experiences of the year. Artists confirmed for 2014 include Big Country, Donnie Munro and Cara Dillon.
Stornoway, 16-19 Jul; www.hebceltfest.com
Harris Tweed Hebrides Tattoo 2014 (Tatu Innse Gall)
This Hebridean Homecoming event takes place over two days, August 8-9. The first event on the Friday is a Tattoo to be held on the picturesque Lews Castle Green involving ten pipebands, including the six-time world champions from Vancouver, the Simon Fraser University Pipeband. The event will also feature dancers, gymnasts, horses and Sambayabamba band from Glasgow, and finish with a spectacular firework display. Saturday will be Carnival day in Stornoway with all pipebands and floats parading through the town. On Saturday evening a Grand Concert will be held in the Stornoway Sports Centre featuring the Sambayabamba band, Gaelic Choir, the Lochies, Julie Fowlis and the Simon Fraser University Pipeband.
Stornoway, 8-9 Aug; www.stornowayamenitytrust.co.uk
Harbour View Gallery
Anthony J Barber was born in Staffordshire in 1962. He studied Architecture and Design to Post Graduate level in West Yorkshire. During this time he sketched and painted both in Yorkshire and on Scotland’s West Coast and Islands. In 1994 he moved to the Isle of Lewis, and he now paints full time, working in his studio gallery just above the harbour and beach in the village of Port of Ness.
Anthony’s work is based primarily on the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, particularly the West coast and the Hebrides. His original works can be seen at the studio gallery as well as a number of UK galleries, including the RSW exhibition at the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh. He also supplies prints and greeting cards to shops and galleries throughout the UK and his original paintings are held in private collections in the UK, Europe, USA, and Australia.
Port of Ness; www.abarber.co.uk
Callanish Visitor Centre
The west coast of Lewis, the most northerly of the Western Isles, is rich in prehistoric remains. The magnificent Standing Stones of Callanish (or Calanais, which is the Gaelic version) are famous worldwide. No matter what the weather is like and however many visitors are present, these ancient stones have an enigmatic, magical quality that never fails to move. Whatever inspired their construction, all agree that the experience of visiting the Standing Stones of Calanais is one not to be missed.
The White House
A treasure trove of beautiful gifts is to be found in the village of Back, just six miles from Stornoway. The White House Gift Shop was opened in 2010 and is now firmly established as a must stop shop to pick up that perfect present. Owner Catherine MacDonald not only has a wide range of different products in store but she also sells stunning handmade Harris Tweed gifts, made in the shop.
These include colourful cushions, eye-catching notebooks and pretty purses for every occasion. The shop also stocks many other local products including John Maclean photographs, Hebridean Soap and a whole host of other delights.
Old School Road, Back, Facebook page
Harris Tweed Hebrides
Harris Tweed Hebrides, the award-winning company based at Shawbost on the west coast of the Isle of Lewis, now accounts for around 90 per cent of Harris Tweed production. They export to more than 60 countries and customers include Chanel, YSL, Paul Smith, Margaret Howell, J Crew, Rag&Bone, and Vivienne Westwood.
Harris Tweed Hebrides, founded in 2007 when Harris Tweed was at a low ebb, is generally credited with having revitalised the industry and taken the famous fabric into the front-line of 21st century fashion and design.
The company was named Textile Brand of the Year 2009 at the Scottish Fashion Awards and again in 2011. They pride themselves in having skilled artisans throughout the company, representing generations of experience in this craft industry. And they work closely with more than 130 self-employed home weavers whose skills are fundamental to the process.
Murdo Maclean & Sons
An ideal memento for any island visitor is a sample of Harris Tweed – and long established Stornoway business Murdo Maclean & Sons offers a superb range of gentleman’s Harris Tweed jackets. Only tweeds woven by the islanders of Lewis, Harris, Uist and Barra can boast the prestigious ORB trademark, and at Murdo Maclean & Sons there is always something for every man with the four Harris Tweed Classic Men’s jackets range, Dalmore, Barvas, Laxdale and Taransay – as well as the lightweight Hamish Harris Tweed jacket, perfectly suited to the younger gentleman.
25-27 Cromwell St, Stornoway, Facebook page
Co-Chomunn na Hearadh (Harris Community Co-operative)
The village of Leverburgh lies at the south end of the Isle of Harris and has a population of just 200. In 1979, Leverburgh’s main shop was threatened with closure. Rather than lose the shop the community decided to run it themselves. A community co-operative was set up with a voluntary committee and raised enough money through selling local shares (£25 each) to open the shop in a local craft centre. In addition to catering for local shopping needs, the co-op also provides a tearoom, craft shop and tourist information point for the many visitors who travel through the Western Isles each year.
The Clachan Bldg, Leverburgh, Harris, www.communityshops.coop/co-chomunn-na-hearadh-harris-community-co-operative
The following local businesses and organisations helped to support this guide:
BASF Pharma (Callanish) Limited
BASF Pharma (Callanish) Limited, formerly Equateq Ltd, is a global leader in manufacturing highly-concentrated omega-3 fatty acids. The site, which employs around 50 people, is located in Callanish in the Isle of Lewis in Scotland. Website.
Business Gateway Western Isles
The Business Gateway provides access to a range of business support services. By assisting new and developing businesses, they contribute to the Outer Hebrides economy by offering free seminars, a network of advisers, and business support. To access any of their services or to find out more call 01851 808 129or email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website.
Day One / Lord’s Day Observance Society
The local branch of Day One / Lord’s Day Observance Society is made up of a group of local Christians from various churches in Lewis and Harris, who are passionate for the restoration of the fourth commandment to social life. Further information is available from email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Angus Macneil SNP
SNP MP Angus Macneil is a native Gaelic speaker from Barra. In 2004 Angus returned to Barra to teach and until his election worked in Eoligarry School at the north end of the island. He was elected as MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Western Isles) in May, 2005. Website.
Established in 1981, transport and haulage firm D.R. Macleod Ltd provides a service which spans the UK, operating out of three purpose-built distribution centres in Stornoway, Inverness, Lochmady (Noth Uist), as well as from satellite locations in Glasgow and Perth. Website.