Given the treacherous waters around Butt of Lewis, it is only natural there is a lighthouse there, but it's less usual for Scotland to put up a red brick lighthouse instead of white as most others are
The Butt of Lewis Lighthouse is 121ft high and was built between 1859 and 1862 by David and Thomas Stevenson, for a price of GBP 4,900 in those years' money.
Although that was rather a lot in those days, it's not surprising given that all the materials had to be brought in by sea to the nearby sandy beach of Port Stoth, which is just south east of the lighthouse and a nice place to be when the wind and waves die down. Overland supplies were not established until as recently as 1960.
The Butt of Lewis is the northernmost point of the Western Isles. Next stop to the West is North America, next stop to the North is the Arctic. The Butt of Lewis itself comprises rocks and cliffs of 60 to 80 feet high - the attached picture is waves crashing upon the cliffs, shot from above.
Aside from the photographers, ornithologists would also find much to do here as the place is home to a colony of sea birds.
Being the windiest place in the UK - in fact, it's got the Guinness Book of Records entry for this. We were there in early May and I think we've felt every single gust!
You'll find Lemreway in Lochs - South West Lewis. Its a tiny crofting village with an ever depleting population - the demographic shift! If you are a tourist or have a family of restless children, don't go there. If you are a traveller who loves to see picturesque hill sides, lochs, sheep(!), and one of the most beautiful bays in the world, this is for you. There is a fish farm there. If you are lucky and know them (like me), you can get a trip out on the bay.
Just south of Port Nis, in the far north of Lewis, the village of Eoropaidh holds a tiny stone church set in the middle of a field. A narrow path between pastures leads up to this 12th-century structure, which is definitely worth a look. It's still in use today for occasional services.
The history of this church is detailed in a pamphlet that's available inside. Apparently, the church was a pilgrimage site for the ill, especially the insane. Those unfortunate souls who arrived for healing had to endure quite a harrowing treatment. This included drinking from the church's well, circumnavigating the church on foot seven times, and then being bound hand and foot and left lying on the floor of the sanctuary all night. Anyone who wasn't sane and rational in the morning was declared incurably insane. Yikes!
The rocky eastern coast of South Harris is the more populated side of the island, although the land here is quite barren and harsh--parts of it resemble the moon! Many rural residents of Harris were forced to move here after being evicted from the more fertile areas to make room for sheep grazing. These days, the impossibly windy road that runs between Tarbert and Roghadal leads past dozens of abandoned stone houses (and plenty of occupied ones). It's interesting to wander around the ruins and imagine what life must have been like here in the last few centuries.
The southern part of Harris includes some really stunning coastline on the western side of the island. This photo shows the beaches near Losgaintir--it may look like someplace in the Caribbean, but this is in fact Scotland!
It's not easy to reach the Uig Sands--you'll have to drive over single-track roads for about 45 minutes to get there from the main part of Lewis--but it's well worth a visit. The landscape is truly amazing, with rocky hills overlooking a massive area of sand flats. The flats are essentially a huge tidal pool, and you can watch the whole area slowly fill with seawater each day. When there's no water, you can walk right across from one side to the other. The fishing in this area is legendary.
Life in rural Scotland, from feudal times all the way through the mid-20th century, often meant residing in "blackhouses." These are long, low structures made of stone, thatch, and sod. Near the town of Carloway, the settlement of Gearrannan has a restored village of nine blackhouses that you can visit to get an idea of what life was like in earlier days. The museum installation is quite informative, and if you want, you can actually stay in a hostel inside one of the blackhouses.
This prehistoric ruin, thought to date to 3000-1500 BC, features a circular pattern of almost 50 upright monoliths. If nobody's around, you can sneak off the marked path and wander among the huge stones.
Just out of view of the stone circle, there's a fairly hideous visitor center and museum about the site. I'd recommend skipping this part--there are plenty of explanatory signs among the stones themselves, and the site is free.
The interior landscape of the northern part of the Isle of Lewis is some of the most desolate I've ever seen outside a desert. This is a very empty island for the most part, and the word that comes to mind is "bleak." Nevertheless, there are still people living in in the most barren and isolated places. This tiny stone house (on the right side of the photo) almost disappears right into the gray sky.
At the northern end of the island, the amusingly named Butt of Lewis holds a lighthouse that pokes up above a lovely cliffside landscape. This is a fantastic place to do some birdwatching--bring the binoculars! The winds and the topography of the high cliffs create a mixture of air currents that act as a huge playground for all kinds of sea birds. Look down, and you can often catch sight of seals in the crashing surf below.
I believe that the sheep population of Lewis and Harris far exceeds the human population. The sheep are everywhere, and you've got to keep a careful eye on where you're driving. Sometimes, they seemed to be floating on a heavenly island landscape...
The grassy fields that line the coast of Lewis and Harris are called machair. In the summer, this land is covered with millions of mutlicolored wildflowers. They're a beautiful place to take a walk.