Towns and villages
- Balivanich - the biggest village on Benbecula
- Castlebay - the main village on Barra
- Lochmaddy - the main village on North Uist
- Stornoway - the only town, on the Isle of Lewis
- Tarbert - the main village in Harris
The Outer Hebrides are a fascinating destination. The scenery is beautiful. The landscape is rocky and mountainous, but also lush and verdant - due in no small part to the large amounts of rain which tend to fall. It is easy to find a quiet peaceful spot.
The Gaelic language and culture is appealing. At a practical level this means that place names on road signs are in Gaelic, but the bus timetables use the English names!
Religion still plays an important part in many people’s lives. In Lewis and Harris this is often in the form of Protestant Churches. As a result the Sabbath (Sunday) is respected, so you are unlikely to find shops etc. open on a Sunday. Activities happening on a Sunday often are opposed locally. In contrast Barra and South Uist are mainly Catholic, and many businesses typically open after midday on a Sunday. Benbecula is half-Protestant and half-Catholic, and one can still find businesses open on a Sunday there.
The main languages are Gaelic (Gàidhlig) and English, with Gaelic (pronounced in English as 'gallick') being the dominant language in people's homes. However, outside their homes, Gaelic is mainly used as a social and cultural language. Virtually all Gaelic speakers over the age of 5 speak English to a near-native fluency.
Most modern maps and road signs show the local place names in Gaelic with the English name shown below, usually in a smaller and often illegible font. However, bus timetables will exclusively use their English names as will locals when speaking English.
Caledonian MacBrayne is the national ferry service. Citylink coaches generally connect with the ferries on the mainland.
In the Outer Hebrides, there are airports in Stornoway in Lewis, Benbecula and Barra. These airports provide direct flights to Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness. The airport in Barra is one of the most spectacular in the world, with planes landing on a three-mile beach at low tide, but this does mean that the flight times vary with the tide.
- Caledonian MacBrayne. The national ferry service. Details below are for Summer 2006:
There are good bus services during the day Monday 'thru Saturday, but little in the evening and no buses on a Sunday.
Many of the islands are linked by road causeways and bridges, which have progressively been built over the last 50 years or so. Most recently, causeways have been built to Eriskay from South Uist, and to Berneray from North Uist.
The Outer Hebrides are popular for cycle tourists, generally taking around a week to cycle from Barra to Stornoway.
- MacLennan's Garage, Balivanich, Benbecula, tel: +44 1870 602191
- Ask Car Hire, Creagorry, Benbecula, tel: +44 1870 602818.
- Mackinnon Self Drive, 18 Inaclete Road, Stornoway, Lewis, HS1 2RB tel: +44 1851 702984. From £22.50 per day.
- Arnol Motors, Arnol, Lewis HS2 9DB +44 1851 710548. From £23 per day.
- Lewis Car Rentals, 52 Bayhead Street, Stornoway, Lewis, HS1 2TU. From £22 per day.
- Alda Taxis, Lochmaddy, North Uist. tel: +44 1876 500 215.
There are many fine sandy beaches, mainly on the Western shores of the islands.
- Kisimul Castle on Barra.
- Callinish Standing Stones on Lewis.
- Carloway Brooch on Lewis.
- Black House Museum at Arnol on Lewis.
- Play Golf at one of the 5 island golf courses .
There are several other groups of Scottish islands, which have some similarities and some differences from the Outer Hebrides.
- Inner Hebrides, the main islands are: Tiree (which has a weekly ferry from Barra), Mull, Islay.
- Orkney Islands an archipelago of some 70 islands off the North of Scotland.
- Shetland Islands, some 100 islands (15 inhabited) to the north of the Orkney Islands.
- The islands in the Clyde, principally the Isle of Arran and the Isle of Bute.