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Western Isles Vacations
Now the Western Isles may not be one of the top tourist destinations in the United Kingdom but, over the last decade or so, this unique region of Scotland has seen a marked increase in the number of visitors and a general increase in overall interest in the area and it's history. The article below takes a close look at the Western Isles and questions why there has been an increase in both British and American tourism there.
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Over the centuries the Western Isles have been known under various names and the name Outer Hebrides has stood the test of time and the name most people associate with these islands found off the west coast of Scotland. There are over 200 islands in the archipelago with only a very small percentage being populated. The Isle of Lewis is the largest of the islands and the island with the largest population. Across the islands the native language is Gaelic but most have English as their second language.
The people of the Western Isles/Outer Hebrides are known as Hebrideans and they are some of the most widely travelled people in earth with many families from the islands settling in far off places such as America and Canada. With most emigration being during the eighteenth, nineteenth and very early twentieth centuries there are now vast numbers of people who can trace their roots back to the region. More and more folk are developing an interest in genealogy and therefore this can account for some of the increased number of visitors to the islands.
One famous person who can trace his roots to the Western Isles is Donald Trump who is currently in the headlines for his interest in creating a Scottish golf resort. Golf is played all over Scotland and is considered the home of the sport and golf tourism is an important part of the Scottish economy. Another important sport to Scotland is fishing, especially fly fishing and some of the finest fishing is in the islands of the Hebrides. The golf courses in are also something special and other sports such as surfing and cycling attract more and more visitors each year.
Of course all sports enjoyed in the Western Isles have one distinct advantage to other areas of Great Britain in that the scenery is absolutely spectacular. You can find yourself fly fishing alone on a flat calm loch with open moorland in one direction and a mountain range in the other. All around you will notice the incredibly diverse flora and fauna and, if you are very lucky you may witness otters at play, Golden Eagles hovering above their prey or deer gently roaming nearby.
Many people visit the Western Isles to visit the famous stone circle at Calanais (Callanish). So spectacular are the stones that they are considered only second to England's Stone Henge. There are a great many historical sites across the islands but it is around the area of Calanais that you will see most of the stone circles and monoliths. Also nearby is an iron age broch that is well worth a visit as it is a splendid example of this unique style of building. There are many other historical sites to be found making it a perfect vacation destination for those who are fascinated by such things.
Another period of history which played an important role in the development of the Hebridean culture was the period during which the Vikings troubled the coastal settlement of the U.K. At first they just pillaged, often they would do so on their outward journey and again on their return. Eventually some settled in the Western Isles and, at one time, they were ruled by the Norse. Today the vast majority of the place names if the islands have Norse origins.
And now we arrive at one of my most favourite things about the Western Isles that, for me, is one of the most important reasons for visiting the islands as often as I can. The Western Isles have the best beaches in the United Kingdom, not only are they spotlessly clean, they are void of the crowds of folk that you are forced to endure elsewhere. Often you will find that you are the only people enjoying the sun on a long stretch of soft silvery to golden shell sand being gently washed by the waves of the Atlantic ocean. Words can not describe such a blissful place.
If you plan to visit the Outer Hebrides you will find accommodation listed at Western Isles bed and breakfast and Harris bed and breakfast