A Virtual Tour of the Outer Hebrides Islands of Scotland, by Victoria Salem

With Silversea’s “Let’s Get Enriched” series, you don’t have to be onboard to feel your mind expanding into fascinating new territories as expedition and enrichment team members offer short takes on their favorite topics. Curious about the enchanting Hebrides Islands of Scotland? British historian Victoria Salem takes us on a virtual tour of the Outer Hebrides, a fairytale-like land off the western coast of Scotland. Click here for Salem’s lecture on the Inner Hebrides Islands.

“The Hebrides Islands just off the coast of Scotland are among my favorite places in the world,” says historian Victorian Salem. “Silversea Expedition ships have taken me to the Outer Hebrides a number of times over the last 10 years and more”. Comprised of more than 100 islands and islets, 15 of which are inhabited, the Outer Hebrides are one of the most fascinating sites in the British Isles and a frequent destination of Silversea’s expedition cruises. Salem focuses on two main areas: the island of Lewis and the archipelago of St. Kilda. The latter is located about 100 miles (160 km) west of mainland Scotland 40 miles (64 km) from the nearest land.

The mystifying Callanish Stones on the isle of Lewis/Bruno Cazarini

What’s so intriguing about the Outer Hebrides Islands of Scotland?

  • With a total area of 2,178.98 square kilometers (841 square miles), Lewis and Harris is not only Scotland’s largest island; it’s the third largest island in the British Isles after Great Britain and Ireland. Although two parts of the same island, there is a natural barrier of high mountains and forbidding moorland between the fertile, lower-lying northern two-thirds (Lewis) and the mountainous southern third (Harris). In the past, the two communities were so isolated from one another that they hardly ever met.
  • Some 19,000 people call Lewis home. With a population of around 8,000 people, the town of Stornoway is the largest settlement on the island and in all of the Outer Hebrides.
  • The Callanish or Calanais Stones, located on the west coast of Lewis, are shrouded in mystery. Initially erected some 5,000 years ago in the late Neolithic era, the 42 remaining standing stones pre-date the more well-known Stonehenge prehistoric monument in England. When seen from above, the Callanish Stones form a rough shape of a Celtic cross.
  • St. Kilda is the only mixed UNESCO World Heritage Site in the British Isles. This designation, shared with only 39 other UNESCO heritage sites in the World, means that it contains elements of both natural and cultural significance.
  • Though now inhabited, the main island of Hirta in St. Kilda was populated up to the year 1930, when the only means of survival for the inhabitants became evacuation to mainland Scotland. Evidence of the human settlement remains on the island’s village of now-dilapidated cottages and grass-covered street.

“It’s difficult to beat the Hebridean Islands for their richness in history, architecture, wildlife and natural beauty – and the weather can be much better than you’d expect, especially in the spring”.

Victoria Salem
Row of stone houses in the island of Hirta, St. Kilda

Meet our expert

Victoria Salem has always been fascinated by the colder places on our planet and has been traveling in Northern Europe, the Arctic and Antarctica regularly for the past 10 years. She has worked in expedition cruising for 15 seasons at both ends of the Earth and some places in between, focusing on history, culture and exploration. She specialized in Old Norse literature and Viking history at undergraduate level and holds a Graduate Certificate in Antarctic studies from the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand. 

Since graduating from Cambridge University with a degree in Anglo-Saxon, Norse & Celtic/English literature, Victoria has lived and worked in seven different countries, though her home is now in London and Hastings, UK; when on shore, she enjoys working as a volunteer guide in art galleries, conservation centers and history museums. Her hobbies include travel (in all continents), choral singing, reading & theatre.