Literature in the Outer Hebrides

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  • Looking over to the CalMac ferry at Tarbert pier, South Harris
    Tarbert pier, South Harris
  • Kisimul Castle, Castlebay, Isle of Barra
    Kisimul Castle, Castlebay, Isle of Barra
  • The Isle of Scalpay, joined by a bridge from the Isle of Harris
    The Isle of Scalpay, joined by a bridge from the Isle of Harris
  • The Golden Road on the Isle of Harris, Western Isles
    The Golden Road on the Isle of Harris, Western Isles

Several poets and writers have literary connections to the Outer Hebrides. Visit the towns and islands where these writers used to live and see the scenery that inspired them.

On the Isle of Barra, you can see the grave of Compton Mackenzie in Cille Bharra Cemetery. Mackenzie was the author of the famous Whisky Galore! and Thin Ice. He lived near the famed airport, the runway of which is on the sands of Tráigh Mhór.

Harris has connections to several writers. The grave of Mary Macleod, a poet, composer and singer during the 16th and 17th centuries, is in the south transept of St Clement’s Church in Rodel.

Fans of Glasgow-born author Peter May can follow the Lewis Trilogy Trail around the Outer Hebrides and explore the region that inspired his award-winning thrillers. Discover sites featured in The Blackhouse, The Lewis Man and The Chessmen, from Scarista graveyard to Lochboisdale pier, or pay a trip to the Blackhouse Museum on Lewis.

You can also see locations mentioned by writers in their works. Norman MacCaig featured Luskentyre cemetery in his poem, Aunt Julia, and Scalpay was the island of his mother and her people in the poem, Return to Scalpay.

Read a lovely account of childhood in Harris in the 1930s in three collections of poems by Finlay J MacDonald: Crowdie and Cream, Crotal and White, The Corncrake and the Lysander.

Poet Derick Thomson was born on the Isle of Lewis. He attended the Nicholson Institute, a famous Stornoway school, as did poet and novelist Iain Crichton Smith, whose childhood home is just outside of Stornoway, in the village of Bayble. Both writers have created several poems about Lewis and the people who live there.

Book lovers shouldn't miss the annual Hebridean Book Festival, the Faclan. Organised by An Lanntair, the festival brings together readers and the world-class authors in an inspiring Hebridean setting to celebrate and debate at the many readings and screenings, performances and discussions.