I cycled the length of the Scottish Outer Hebridean chain over four days with the small-group tour operator Wilderness Scotland.
Only a ferry ride away from the mainland, this archipelago feels far removed in time and temperament, with few tourists to mar one’s Outlander fantasies. The Western Isles, as they’re called, lie on Europe’s edge, linked to North America geologically and to the Irish Gaels culturally. Dotting the coast are glistening beaches, imposing headlands, and Neolithic sites that include the Calanais standing stones, older than Stonehenge. I slept in quirky inns such as the Isle of Barra Beach Hotel, the supposed first refuge of the deposed shah of Iran in 1979, and visited shops where designers put mod spins on Harris tweed.
Aye, and I found enough clan castles, Iron Age brooch ruins, peat moors, and machair grasslands to fill a romance novel.
This post first appeared in the Intelligent Travel blog on October 6, 2014. Photos © Norie Quintos