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Friday, 11 April 2008

Best Scottish Western Isles Walks

Best Scottish Western Isles Walks. The Western Isles describes 25 walks in the long chain of islands that form the Outer Hebrides. The scenery is unique with immense seascapes and vistas both to adjacent islands and the mainland. The walks are varied and visit many places of historic interest including ancient standing stones and Iron Age forts. The area is rich in wild flowers and many birds can be seen in a variety of habitats. Like the other books in the 25 Walks series, The Western Isles is both a practical guide and an attractive souvenir. The walks are clearly described and accompanied by easy-to-use maps and colour photographs. The Western Isles (25 Walks).

The Western Isles are renowned for superb scenery which includes beaches of silver or golden shell sand washed by seas bright with jewel colours of amethyst, turquoise and sapphire and a pale luminous green where the sand shows through. There are rugged mountains as wild as any on the mainland with the bare backbone of ancient gneiss outcropping among the heather and peat of the moorland.

On the west coasts there is the unique machair, where blown shell sand produces a lime-rich soil that supports a profusion of wild flowers and is cultivated by the crofter to grow crops for animal food. There are myriads of lochs and lochans and a coastline with rocky cliffs and inlets. The whole area is a paradise for naturalists and birdwatchers. Ecologically, the area is important because of its position at the extreme western edge of Europe, and there are 40 Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Scottish Natural Heritage has identified 40% of the land area as being of outstanding scenic value. In addition there are many archaeological sires throughout the islands including prehistoric forts, chambered cairns and the Stone Circle at Callanish, which is of international importance.

The walks in this book have been chosen to include as many distinctive features of the islands as possible. They vary in length from 4 to 15 km (2k to 9 miles) and none of them is especially arduous. In the case of the longer walks, shorter versions are suggested whenever possible. Equally, possibilities of longer walks are indicated when appropriate. Some of the hill walks are pathless, and because of the nature of the land may involve picking a way through boggy ground. All the walks are within the scope of the average fit person. Times are given for guidance only, and although generous do nor include rest stops.

The sunniest weather is in May and June and the driest months are from May to August, but days without wind are rare. Even when it seems cold because of the wind, the sun is liable to bum and it is wise to use protective creams. Lightweight waterproof and windproof outer clothing should be taken and strong waterproof boots are advised for many walks. Although a map is provided for each walk, the appropriate OS Landranger map is listed as these provide invaluable information and interest. They are also a help in finding the starring point of the walks and in identifying distant landmarks. The Western Isles are covered by six of these maps and they are all available locally. The Western Isles are a unique corner of the British Isles, different in many ways from the Inner Hebrides and even more different from the mainland. They have a different culture, language and scenery and are much more sparsely populated, yet each island has its own individual character. I hope you enjoy these walks and equally enjoy the discovery of the special charms of the individual islands.

Other titles in the 25 Walks series include: The Chilterns, The Cotswolds, Deeside, Dumfries and Galloway, Edinburgh and Lothian, Fife, In and Around Belfast, In and Around Glasgow, In and Around London, Down District, The Scottish Borders, Skye and Kintail, The Trossachs, The Western Isles and The Yorkshire Dales.

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