Outer Hebrides - Giving something back

Giving something back

Food Outer Hebrides Scotland by Mark Rowe www.markrowe.eu
Investing in local produce is a great way to give back to the local community © Mark Rowe, www.markrowe.eu

It takes a certain kind of person to live on the Outer Hebrides; the corollary is that it also takes a certain kind of person to visit. The islands’ popularity is only going to increase in years to come, and their future to a great extent depends on visitors, not just in the form of the tourist shilling but in the attitudes those tourists bring.

You can make a difference – give something back – by how you choose to shop. Online supermarket shopping has made it here, with delivery vans making the journey from Inverness. Visitors have a great deal of influence on whether or not local community-run stores stay open.

If you are in search only of a holiday comprising day after day of sunshine, where everything works like clockwork, your crisp bed linen is replaced daily, just so, then the Outer Hebrides are not for you. If you want to stay permanently connected to the rest of the world, to make video calls to friends on demand, download films to watch of an evening, be prepared for disappointment. Some visitors are also really challenged by this landscape of bare moorland and sometimes extreme weather; they have never seen anything like it.

The islands are not perfect, but if you come expecting them not to be perfect, then you will avoid disappointment. Places can have a bad day. If a restaurant has a limited menu, it may be because the ingredients are on a ferry cancelled on account of bad weather; a guesthouse may have to explain away a leaky roof because there is a shortage of builders. This is, remember, the northwestern extremity of the UK.

But if you fall in tune with the Outer Hebrides, the world has few places more enchanting to offer you. Chris Ryan, who runs Out and About Tours, argues that ‘there is nowhere else in the British Isles that matches this place. If you are interested in unspoilt places, this is truly wonderful. The culture sets it apart; it is so important here. There is an unhurried place of life. There is no better place for wonderful scenery and to escape the rat race.’

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