Butt Of Lewis To South Uist By Stornowayand Rodel

Western Edge

ROUTE LENGTH: 164 MILES

By Road

Drive from Butt of Lewis along A857, and follow to Stornoway. Pass through onto A866, to Aignis. Then follow A859 south from Stornoway, passing ultimately Rodel and then meeting Leverburgh.

From Leverburgh take the ferry to Berneray. Follow B893 south, then left onto A865, leading to Lochmaddy. Follow A867 and then A865 south to Carinish and then Benbecula on the left and Balivanich on the right.

By Public Transport

You can take the W10 from Stornoway to Leverburgh, and then the ferry to Berneray. There is no bus there to Balivanich however. Take the W19 from Berneray to Lochmaddy. Alternatively follow the Uist Connections bus, which will take you southbound all the way to Eriskay.

To check times go to Traveline Scotland and click on Plan your Journey on left side of page.

The journey now turns back southwards to traverse the whole length of the Outer Hebrides. For scenery, wildlife and the play of light and sky, this route is unique and to be savoured. Stornoway, which is the capital of Lewis is an untypical urban settlement for this region, with its busy harbour, industries, shops and a cluster of more modern churches. The older church site is the substantial Ui Columba by the sea at Aignish to the east, in the direction of Point, which retains a more traditional island character, albeit nowadays a crofting suburb of the bustling capital.

The road south retraces our route from Harris, but the island is best seen on a circuit, showing how the more fertile west side was given over to larger farms while the people were cleared to the rocky east, where they struggled to make a living from stony soils and the sea. There is an ancient chapel and well in the southeast on the Tore peninsula which was dedicated to St Maelrubha, and was once one of the island’s main parish churches. However the Church of St Clement at Rodel dwarfs anything else in the Hebrides as a major piece of late medieval religious architecture. The church was created as a burial place for the MacLeod chiefs, and the carvings on their tombs vividly convey the worldly and spiritual mentality of the Highland aristocracy at this time.

A ferry from Leverburgh takes us on to Berneray and North Uist, where a cluster of early Christian remains exists at the north end. The Teampull Chaluim Cille is in the old burial ground at Clachan Sannda, with the Priest’s Stone and St Columba’s Well a little further south. This is a very old site. Taigh Chearsabhagh in Lochmaddy is an excellent place to connect with the environment, prehistoric remains and more recent history of the island. Pobull Fhinn stone circle west of Lochmaddy shows how the early religious sites and the landscape are so inextricably linked. The most interesting early Christian site surviving in North Uist is Teampull na Trionaid at Carinish in the southwest, which was rebuilt by Bethag, prioress of the nunnery on Iona, and daughter of Somerled the first Lord of the Isles. Later it was known as a place of learning served by a traditional order of scholarly priests, the McVicars.

The Carinish stone circle is a little to the east on the road to Benbecula. Across the causeway, the main early locations are on the west side beyond the airfield. Teampuill Chaluim Cille is in Balivanich, Monks’ Town, on a rise which was once a small island in a now drained loch. The well is to the southwest, and this supply of fresh water must have been one of the attractions. Carmichael records a tradition that a St Taran came ashore on the sea bay where he wanted to found his Columban settlement, but angels guided him inland to this superior site. Southwest on the coast is Nunton, Baille nan Cailleach, where the ruined chapel of St Mary is a successor to an earlier nunnery. The balance of male and female is interesting in these early Celtic foundations.

Travelling to the edge,
barrier of the western waves
plains of the Atlantic sea,
islands washed by light,
rinsed by sharp salt water,
we find the viewing points
and look out to far horizons,
wide spaces, outside and within.

Pilgrim Journeys

PARTNER FEATURE

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