The Hebrides are scattered chains of islands off the west coast of Scotland forming an archipelago.  The Inner Hebrides are made up of 36 islands separated from mainland Scotland by a series of sea lochs.  The Outer Hebrides consist of over 100 islands and skerries (small uninhabitable rock islands or reefs) and are separated from the Inner Hebrides by a sea called the Minch in the north and the Sea of the Hebrides in the south.  A loose definition might include the isolated coastal communities of the Western Highlands as they are much in the character of the Hebridean Islands.

How to describe the Hebrides?  Remote, atmospheric, romantic, wild, alluring -- they are all of those.  What is it about the Hebrides that reaches out to grab a piece of my heart?  The lure of what came before and still is in the rugged landscapes and in the windy, changeable weather.  The Hebrides are often cloaked in the mysteries of fog and cloud, but when the sun breaks through the views become magical.  Even when lashed by rain, the rapid changeability of the weather wakes up the senses.  As we cruised to Inverie, I was taking photographs from the open upper decks.  On my left, the skies were blue with big white clouds and on my right the were dark rain clouds and misted hillsides, their peaks lost in the grey and white.

Cruising_to_Inverie__Clouds 8.jpg

Although the sea crossing may be less than 50 miles, the Outer Hebrides are quite isolated from the Mainland and reachable only by ferry or airplane.  The total population is just over 26,000, with villages as small as 35 people.  The heritage of the Hebrides comes from the Picts and the early Celts, to the Viking invaders who lived to become part of the local culture, to adventurers from the Scottish mainland to the English.  The culture seems to the visitor to be stoutly Scottish.  Signage is representative of the bilingual society and appears in English and in Gaelic or Gàidhlig as it is locally called.

The Hebrides are a place where a person can explore a range of emotions, deal with dark thoughts and search for meaning or for redemption.  The wild, sometimes gloomy landscapes speak to the soul.  Inhabitants are hearty people who understand the need for space, as well as the desire for some limited amounts of company.  You can feel joy here, but it is the deep joy derived from introspection and inspiration.  While sunny times are stunning when the air becomes clear with all mists and clouds blown away, leaving only nature as it should be.  The air is clean and loaded with oxygen.  The sea and locks are stunning shades of navy, blue and turquoise.  The hills and valleys beguile with their fields, peaks and heather.

This addition to Places that Speak has groups of photographs of the Hebrides.  They include an Overview, which I recommend you look at first and then several sections to explore various aspects of this intriguingly fresh part of the British Isles.  Take them in whatever order you fancy, but they logically flow from left to right and then down to the second row of menu photos. 

As in the last update, the text will appear by hovering the mouse over the photograph and will disappear by moving the pointer off the web page.  I am doing something different this time and have created a place for “Viewer Favorites”.  If you have a photo from this Hebridean collection that you particularly like, let me know in comments or on Facebook and I will place a copy in that place.

Happy Arm Chair Traveling!  Jayne