The Isle of Lewis is not actually an island, rather it is the northern two-thirds of the largest of the Western Isles, sharing a mountainous land border with Harris to its south. The capital of Lewis, and the only town in the Western Isles, is Stornoway. The design of the road network means that you can most easily explore Lewis via a series of out-and-back excursions from Stornoway.
To the east of Stornoway is the Eye Peninsula. accessed via a narrow neck of land just beyond Stornoway Airport. Keep a lookout on your left as the peninsula broadens out for the striking Aiginis Farm Raiders' Monument. At the far end of the peninsula is the attractive pier at Port nan Giuran and the lighthouse at Tiumpan Head, with buildings now used as kennels.
North east from Stornoway is the B895 to Tolsta, taking you past many of Lewis's best beaches. The road peters out at "the bridge to nowhere", intended by Lord Leverhume in 1920 as the start of a route up the east coast of Lewis that never saw fruition.
Following the A857 north west from Stornoway takes you across ten miles of moorland to the coast. Turning right on reaching the coast, you are led through a series of strung-out crofting townships that typically lie a little inland from the line of the coast itself, including Borgh and Cros. At the road's northern end a pleasant surprise awaits in the pretty little village, harbour and beach at Port Nis, or Port of Ness.
In nearby Europie is the beautifully restored St Moluag's Church, the origins of which date back to the arrival here of St Moluag in the 560s. If you've come this far, you should travel the extra couple of miles north to the Butt of Lewis with its oddly incomplete-looking brick-finished lighthouse. This is as far north as you can go in the Western Isles.
After making the run back down the north west coast of Lewis you should stick to the coast rather than heading directly back across the island to Stornoway. This gives access to most of Lewis's best known visitor attractions. At Arnol is the superb Blackhouse Museum, which brings you the sights, sounds and smells of Lewis's traditional way of life. Further on, you pass the Shawbost Norse Mill before reaching the Blackhouse Village at Gearrannan.
Just beyond is Carlabhagh, with the nearby iron age broch of Dun Carloway. Further on, the road brings you to the amazing collection of standing stones at Calanais, complete with two nearby stone circles that anywhere else would be the main attraction.
From Calanais you can return to Stornoway, or take the roads west to the bridged island of Great Bernera, or to the magnificent coastal scenery around Uig and Valtos. From here the mountainous nature of southern Lewis is obvious, something that is confirmed if you take the road south west from Stornoway towards Harris, another expedition well worth making to get to grips with the much more "highland" end of this island.
In South East Lewis you find the areas known as Lochs and South Lochs. The first is a township that feels a little like a dormitory for Stornoway. South Lochs, however, has a remoteness and a geography that adds yet another variation to the already diverse scenery on offer in Lewis.
First time visitors to Lewis often comment on the number of derelict vehicles on view in (and sometimes between) the settlements on the island. These are more obvious in the north and south of Lewis, less so in the east and in Stornoway.
After you've been there a few days you notice them less, and we suspect that residents simply don't see them at all. But on one trip through Balallan, a two mile long linear settlement in southern Lewis, we counted over 30 derelict vehicles on view (counting trailers, tractors and vans). Disposal of old vehicles has traditionally been a problem on Scottish islands, but Lewis does seem to suffer from this blight worse than elsewhere in the Western Isles.
Visitors to Lewis should be aware that Sunday observance is strong here. Most transport links to Lewis and Harris, and within them, do not operate on a Sunday. Most shops, petrol stations, cafes, pubs, and visitor attractions are closed on Sundays. Sunday observance is part of the culture of Lewis and Harris, and part of what makes them unique. However, given the difficulty in accessing services of any kind on a Sunday, our advice would be to ensure you know exactly how your food, drink, transport and accommodation is going to be provided in advance.
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