Our favourite activities....
The Western Isles are impressive all year round, but the latter months reveal a unique beauty as the landscape transforms into a winter wonderland. So, pack your fluffiest jumpers, comfiest walking boots and arrive equipped with a thirst for adventure during your magical trip to the Isle of Lewis. Here are our top things to do when visiting this winter:
1. Spectate the incredible wildlife displays
Lovers of wildlife know that the winter months are some of the best times to witness some truly majestic wildlife displays. Not only is the Outer Hebrides a world-class oasis for a myriad of wildlife, the winter months tend to be a quieter time to visit the region, making wildlife spotting a more eerie (and likely!) experience.
The landscape is also barren of trees, meaning you can spectate, uninterrupted, for miles. After the magnificent ‘Deer Rutting’ in autumn, the male deer quieten down as a blanket of snow covers the mountains, congregating to graze on lower parts of the land – making it a great time of year to spot them out in the open. You will also be able to see a variety of sea birds swooping through the sky while strolling along the coast, as well as a few rather plump seals sat resting on rocks – get ready to take some great snaps!
2. Experience the Outer Hebridean festivities
The Western Isles community has a charming, bustling atmosphere in the festive months, meaning plenty of party nights, prosecco drinking and twinkling Hebridean decorations. Lews Castle is a truly enchanting place to visit during this period.
Explore the island during the day then retreat to decadent luxury, sampling great food and perhaps a festive Harris G&T from our Whisky Bar in the evening. If you’re looking to pick up a few special gifts for your loved ones in preparation for Christmas, we’d recommend visiting the Harris Tweed Shop or perhaps going to the Harris Gin Distillery for a bottle of the celebrated island gin.
3. Lace up your walking boots
For those who enjoy exploring on foot, you are spoilt for choice with the selection of walks to embark on while staying at Lews Castle. There are 270 hectares of lush castle gardens and grounds to get lost in (any little ones will be delighted to find a fairy tree, decorated with curious trinkets).
On the doorstep of the castle is the picturesque harbour town of Stornoway, which you can reach by following the direction the River Creed. Avid hillwalkers and those who have their sights set on something more strenuous, can choose to roam the flat, peaty terrain of Lewis or embark on some epic-uphill by taking on An Clisham on the neighbouring (more mountainous) Isle of Harris - the highest peak in the Outer Hebrides!
4. Explore the white, powder-soft beaches
As the winter months draw in, the weather drops, however, the beaches still remain absolutely breath taking. The water glistens sapphire-blue, and the mountain landscape looks even more dramatic in the frosty winter air. As the Western Isles is fortunate enough to be blessed with a micro-climate of its own, you are sheltered from some of the colder spells the rest of Scotland faces in the winter months. The iconic Luskentyre Beach (voted one of the best beaches in the world!), on the neighbouring Isle of Harris, is one to add to your travel bucket list.
What is also great about visiting the Isle of Lewis is that you are never more than 20 minutes away from a beach. The Garry Beach in Tolsta is a particularly lovely one (and we feel is also extremely underrated, considering how beautiful it is). Just 10 minutes from the historic Lews Castle, there’s no better place to enjoy the crashing waves and epic views…
5. Visit one of the UK’s most remote distilleries
Although historically renowned for its whisky, Scotland’s rapidly expanding gin scene is giving the tipple a run for its money. The Isle of Harris Distillery is one of the UK’s most remote spirit makers and is definitely worth visiting to embark on the distillery tour.
The enthusiastic guides provide a fascinating insight into the process behind this award-winning spirit. Learn about how the distillery stays true to its Hebridean origins, making the most of the raw materials that the island has to offer and operating by the principles of a social distillery. You can also look forward to enjoying plenty of tastings – experience the distinctive flavours of juniper and gooseberry, which make it a must-purchase souvenir for anyone who likes to keep a well-stocked drinks cabinet!
6. An Lanntair
On colder days when you don’t quite fancy facing the elements, a visit to An Lanntair is a must. Attracting both local islanders and tourists, there’s a great vibe amongst guests. The hub is open till 10pm and hosts a range of events and activities appealing to all age groups, including: film showings, concerts, art exhibitions, literary festivals and craft sessions.
This Christmas there are a host of activities taking place; from a showing of ‘The Nutcracker’ to a festive orb making session where you can make your own souvenir to take home with you. Feeling peckish? Stop by the onsite café which serves a range of mouth-watering specials from Lewis steamed mussels with soda bread to a Hebridean lamb and chilli burger.