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Outer Hebrides
Outer Hebrides © Alistair McCallum

Outer Hebrides

In the Outer Hebrides, Slí Cholmcille takes you from the wild cliffs of north Lewis to the white shell beaches of the Isle of Barra.

As you travel south, you pass crofting townships, open moorland, huge empty beaches and rugged hills. You cross from island to island by ferry and causeway, tracing ancient ways of life in this wild and beautiful location.

The remains of early Christian worship and belief lie scattered along the coastlines of these islands. They remind us that in this part of the world people have always been connected by sea – despite the high winds and fierce storms that can rage here in winter. On a calm day, there is nowhere more peaceful.

The Gaelic language is part of everyday life on the islands and this language and its music has always travelled between the communities here. For centuries communication between the islands and Ireland was as important as communication with the mainland, as trade, poetry, song, politics and family bound the people of the islands together.

Getting there…

The Slí Cholmcille starts just outside Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis. Regular ferry services (see here) connect Stornoway to Ullapool on the mainland (60 miles/90 minutes drive northwest of Inverness).

If you wish to follow the Slí Cholmcille south to north, take a ferry to Castlebay on the Isle of Barra from Oban or to Lochboisdale on the Isle of South Uist. Ferries also run from Uig in Skye to Lochmaddy in North Uist or Tarbert in Harris.

Alternatively fly into Stornoway, Benbecula or Barra’s famous beach airport and hire a car.

Outer Hebrides

  • 9.1 St Columba’s Church, Isle of Lewis

    This late 14th century church - named after St Columba - was later extended in the 15th and 16th century. St Columba’s was the principal church on Lewis in medieval times. It was built by the MacLeods and dedicated to Colmcille. Its importance may have been connected to its position...

  • 9.2 St Moluag’s Chapel, Eoropie, Isle of Lewis

    Eoropie township is on the northwest tip of the Isle of Lewis. It is the most northerly township in the Outer Hebrides. This restored chapel is dedicated to St Moluag or Moluoc. The building is flanked by two small side chapels to the north and south, creating a T-shaped outline....

  • 9.3 St. John’s Chapel, Bragar, Isle of Lewis

    Head west from the crofting township of Bragar to find the medieval chapel of Teampull Eoin - St John The Baptist - on a small headland next to the beach. The ruins of the chapel lie within a graveyard that is still in use today. The building was in two parts -...

  • 9.4 Uig Peninsula, Isle of Lewis

    Taigh a’Bheannaich, Gallan Head, Aird, Uig The name of this chapel translates as ‘House of the Blessed or the Benediction’. It’s unusual because it is not dedicated to an individual saint. Unlike many of the other locations on this trail, the chapel is high on a cliff rather than being...

  • 9.7 St Clements, Rodel, Isle of Harris

    This is the largest medieval church in the Outer Hebrides. Of all the churches in the islands, only Iona is larger. It was built in the 16th century but there is some suggestion that there may have been an older monastery on the site. The church was restored in 1873...

  • 9.6 Northton Chapel, Toe Peninsula, South Harris

    Northton Chapel faces south across the Sound of Harris looking towards the Uists. It sits on a small headland - Rubh’ an Teampull - at the foot of Ceapabhal hill. The chapel is in a stunning location and is reached by a 2.5km walk across grassland. The chapel is late...

  • 9.5 Teampall Chaluim Chille, Eilean Chaluim Chille, Isle of Lewis

    The small island of Eilean Chaluim Chille has probably been connected with Christianity since the 7th century. It sits on the eastern extremity of Loch Erisort as it leads out to the Minch. The remains of the church on the island probably date from the 12th century. Any earlier church...

  • 9.8 Church of the Holy Trinity, Carnish, North Uist

    Teampull na Trianaid (Church of the Holy Trinity) sits on a mound beside the village of Carinish. There are views west towards the low-lying island of Baleshare The remains of the Teampull na Trianaid dominate the site. There was probably a series of settlements on this site before the chapel...

  • 9.9 Chapel of the Virgin Mary, Nuntown, Benbecula

    The ruined medieval chapel sits in a graveyard which is still in use. The chapel was rectangular and would have had a pitched roof. The walls would have been much higher - you can see the top part of the door in the west wall. According to oral tradition, this...

  • 9.10 Howmore, South Uist

    The township of Tobha Mor - or Howmore - lies between the main North-South road on South Uist and the beach which forms much of the island’s west side. In among the thatched houses of Howmore are the ruins of a church and four chapels. Writing in 1703 in his...

  • 9.11 Kilbar Church, Barra

    Cill Bharra is the remains of a 12th century church dedicated to St Barr. The site is thought to have been used for Christian worship since the 600s when there was a chapel here dedicated to St Barr - probably the same saint as St Finbarr of Cork. Parts of...

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