Far Out: A Photo Essay on Scotland’s Outer Hebrides

The lands stretch without end and the skies rage like some old moody god. Inescapable, all-pervasive–on Scotland’s westernmost islands, the elements are your constant companions. Billion-year-old mountains rise up from the sea, in appearance quite literally like the moon, made up in parts of rocks that formed the lunar highlands. Simple houses stand far apart from one another, miles lie between one village and the next. People are a rare sight, but the age-old ruins are many. Just a few days spent around the Outer Hebrides give you a sense of the immensity of the universe, the island sights sometimes a picture of simplicity and perfection, that quickly get transformed into a dystopian vision as the sky greys, the winds start to howl and you look around and find you are the only person there.

A Hebridean welcome--a tractor and some boats on land, empty roads and turbulent skies, that followed us where we went on these mysterious isles.
A Hebridean welcome–a tractor and some boats on land, empty roads, and turbulent skies that followed us everywhere we went on these mysterious isles.
an old barn at Achmore village on the Isle of Lewis
Scenes by the wayside / Achmore village, Isle of Lewis
a pair of cows and endless pastures at Achmore village
Endless pastures with a view
Dun Carloway is Scotland's best-preserved broch. Built during the Iron Age, possibly in the first century AD, the Carloway broch stands on top of a steep hill overlooking the changing tides of the towns and the sea below.
Dun Carloway is Scotland’s best-preserved broch. Built during the Iron Age, possibly in the first century AD, the Carloway broch stands on top of a steep hill overlooking the changing tides of the towns and the sea below.
The Callanish stone circles from the late Neolithic era continue to puzzle the questioning visitor, but for the island residents, it is now also the starting point of a popular summer marathon.
The Callanish stone circles from the late Neolithic era continue to puzzle the questioning visitor, but for the island residents, it is now also the starting point of a popular summer marathon.
Blackhouses at Gearrannan village. These are centuries-old traditional crofters' houses, used for both livestock and people. Occupied till the 1970s, the blackhouses were given conservation status and preserved after their residents moved to more modern accommodation to avoid the difficult upkeep of drystone and thatchwork.
Blackhouses at Gearrannan village. These are centuries-old traditional crofters’ houses, used for both livestock and people. Occupied till the 1970s, the blackhouses were given conservation status and preserved after their residents moved to more modern accommodation to avoid the difficult upkeep of drystone and thatchwork.
Sheep graze at the Port of Ness, unperturbed by the North Sea gales.
Sheep graze at Port Sto in Ness, unperturbed by the Atlantic gales.
Driving across the Western Isles, you may encounter few cars and perhaps no people, but you will always share the road with sheep.
Driving across the Western Isles, you may encounter few cars and perhaps no people, but you will always share the road with sheep.
Two islanders take a walk on an empty stretch of Luskentyre beach on the Isle of Harris and make a minimalist photographer very happy.
Two islanders take a walk on an empty stretch of Luskentyre beach on the Isle of Harris and make a minimalist photographer very happy.
A couple walk a dog at a near-empty Luskentyre beach, whose beginning and end are nowhere in sight. What does it mean to live in a place so detached and desolate when the rest of the world can't keep pace with itself?
A couple walks a dog at a near-empty Luskentyre beach, whose beginning and end are nowhere in sight. What does it mean to live in a place so detached and desolate when the rest of the world can’t keep pace with itself?
The result is of course a dwindling population, owing to the inevitable migrations of the young to places of business and commerce, diversity and activity, in search of a life of more interesting complexities than the arduous mundaneness of Hebridean living--one of the few lifestyle options available on these faraway islands. In evidence, a lone house in Scarista village, Isle of Harris.
The result is of course a dwindling population, owing to the inevitable migrations of the young to places of business and commerce, diversity and activity, in search of a life of more interesting complexities than the arduous mundaneness of Hebridean living–one of the few lifestyle options available on these faraway islands.
In evidence, a lone house in Scarista village, Isle of Harris.
Another empty road leading away from Scarista beach to the village, picture perfect under a rare golden sun.
Another empty road leading away from Scarista beach to the village, picture perfect under an expressive sky.
Dusk spreads across the sky over the harbour at Tarbert, the main town on the Isle of Harris.
Dusk spreads across the sky over the harbour at Tarbert, the main town on the Isle of Harris.

Back to top

15 Comments

Add yours →

  1. Excellent photos and commentary! How did you manage photos of the Callanish Standing Stones with no persons visible? How did you get about the islands?

    Like

    • Thank you, Paul! Are you from the islands?
      One of the days I visited the Callanish stones, a summer marathon was in session, which made for interesting photos as well. But I went back early evening when there was still good light and things seemed to have wound down, as seems to be the norm in the island villages, and clicked away.
      My partner and I rented a car to go longer distances. When it was possible to walk to places, we did. 🙂

      Like

  2. What a wind-swept, lonely looking place…. I can see why the younger generation would leave to look for more populated areas with more economic opportunities. Still, as a traveler, it must hold a lot of charm..

    Like

  3. Wonderful photos. I’ve wanted to go to the Outer Hebrides for awhile now. For some reason, I’ve always pictured the place in black and white!

    Like

  4. Never seen the magic of black-and-white executed so brilliantly before! Commendable! I think Scotland is so photogenic, so ‘black-and-white’ worthy!

    Like

    • Thanks, Renuka! I’d taken all these photos in colour but something never felt right about them. Then one unusually grey day in the mostly sunny city from where I work, it came to me that only the understated elegance of b/w could bring out the drama of the Hebridean skies.

      Like

  5. Stunning photos. I visited Scotland for the first time this summer and absolutely loved it, the scenery was spectacular and I hope to go back for more next year.

    Like

  6. Wow love these stunning photos, so atmospheric!

    Like

  7. Great photos! Especially like the ones of Dun Carloway and the Callanish stone circles. Very moody with those grey, cloudy skies.

    Like

  8. These photos are so atmospheric. The sheep, especially, are haunting figures. The isolation and bleakness of the landscape are both mesmerizing and intimidating.

    Like

share your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: