Open season in the Outer Hebrides

The second Eilean Dorcha Festival (EDF) will take place in Benbecula on July 28th and 29th.
The second Eilean Dorcha Festival (EDF) will take place in Benbecula on July 28th and 29th.

An exhibition of South Asian Arts and antiquities and the launch of a new walking route are amongst events taking place in the Outer Hebrides this year.

The tourism season will soon be getting underway in the islands once again, with a range of activities, things to see and do, and fresh and tasty locally-sourced food and drink on offer.

Alan MacKenzie, VisitScotland Islands Manager, said he was looking forward to another fantastic year: “As we progress towards the 2017 season, we have much to be excited about.

“The Outer Hebrides have recently been the focus of two superb TV productions which have profiled certain attractions in the islands and have been popular in both Scotland and the US – ‘Alan Cumming’s Edge of Scotland’ and ‘Tales from the Coast’ with Robson Green.

“On top of this, new developments have recently been completed including the Harris Distillery and the Museum nan Eilean at Lews Castle in Stornoway. Following a number of years of bringing the 19th century Lews Castle back to life, the Natural Retreats accommodation provision has just welcomed its first guests.”

2017 sees Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology and there are events taking place in the Outer Hebrides to mark this theme, for which the islands are most well-known.

These include Purvai, marking the diversity and depth of shared history between India and the UK and featuring the extraordinary collection of South Asian Arts and antiquities of Stornoway-born Colin Mackenzie. This takes place in the Lanntair throughout August.

Taking place nationally is Scotland in Six – Dig It! highlighting six iconic world heritage sites across Scotland.

The Outer Hebrides was recently included through a live, archaeological dig of St Kilda via the Minecraft video game, where players built, excavated and explored the archipelago.

Alan said: “The second Eilean Dorcha Festival (EDF) takes place in Benbecula on July 28th and 29th and performing at the event will be Manran, Niteworks, Hunter & The Bear and others. With the ever-popular Hebridean Celtic Festival taking place between 19th and 22nd July and music from The Waterboys, Imelda May, Dougie Maclean, Skerryvore and Peatbog Faeries, the end of July promises to be a great fortnight for festival-goers in the Outer Hebrides.”

The Hebridean Way cycle route was launched last year and the walking route also launches this month (April).

After a number of years of planning and preparation, the route promises to provide a fantastic draw for outdoor enthusiasts as it will provide waymarked walks through scenic areas with long and short distances available.

Alan said: “Water-based activities are very popular in the Outer Hebrides and there are many providers available to take visitors to outlying islands, such as St Kilda, the Shiants and coastal journeys around the Hebrides. Good kayaking is also available in various areas throughout the islands and we are very fortunate to have good surf around the west coast of our islands for those who like to go it alone.”

The tourism horizon in the Outer Hebrides – and indeed Scotland - is constantly changing and VisitScotland has positively responded to the change in the way in which visitors are accessing information and inspiration about their holiday, as well as the welcome they receive when arriving in Scotland.

Alan said: “We have been working with businesses in the tourism industry over the last year or more to take advantage of advances in digital technology and while there is still a lot of work to do, we are pleased with the number of businesses signing up to schemes such as the VisitScotland information Partner Scheme and digital training opportunities.

“The way we market the islands is also changing. With the huge reach potential of digital and social media, we will be focusing on producing digital content for uploading to the major media resources including Facebook, You Tube, Twitter and Instagram.

“This gives us a huge opportunity to build joint resources which can be used by the industry and provides a much greater reach than was ever thought possible by traditional means.

“I am very much looking forward to the coming season and I trust that both industry and visitors be delighted with the opportunities afforded to them throughout the coming year.”