For me, the Outer Hebrides, like the Burren in County Clare, Ireland, is one of those thin places. It is a place where it is more possible to break through the walls of common place reality that surround us, that confine us to the here and now, and to bring us to a place of infinite possibility and spiritual calm. In these thin places, the landscape speaks more clearly and we can feel the primordial pull of Nature more strongly. Perhaps it is because these places are less developed that one can feel a more intimate relationship with the land. I also believe it is because there is an ancient history rich with myth and legend imbedded in these places; the echos of a past that has much to say to those wish to listen. The stone circle at Calanish is just the sort of place to visit and listen to those echos from the past. On the isle of Lewis, it is every bit as impressive as Stonehenge and, unlike Stonehenge, totally accessible. The ancient church of St. Clement on South Harris gives the visitor a sense of the importance of Christianity on these remote islands. While embracing their new faith, the island folk never completely let go of their pre-Christian traditions of seeing the divine presence in Nature. In that respect, they are very much like the Irish - Celtic spirituality is an unique blend of the two. For a person of Taoist leanings, it is a perfect fit.
As a contemplative photographer, I am very attracted to these kinds of landscapes because they make me slow down and think deeply. It wasn't always so.
I've been to the Outer Hebrides twice. The first time I virtually ran through the landscape from end to end of the archipelago. I had so many other islands to visit I feared I might miss something. The second time I traveled to the Outer Hebrides I stayed on South Uist for a month and that made all the difference. I stayed for part of the time in this wonderful cottage. I had visited it in 2005 while the young man was restoring it. I made this photograph in an attempt to capture the feeling of the amazing landscape I was staying in. You can just make out the cottage at the end of the road. I recommend you seek out these kinds of places to stay in when you travel to the Outer Hebrides. It will certainly add to your "Sense of Place". Shieling by the Bay - South Uist
Staying put also lets you form relationships with the people who live there that merely passing through never does. Not everyone can spend a month but my rule of thumb is, the less time you have, the smaller the area you can explore. Better to know intimately a tiny village than to barely remember a whole country!
For a brief visit to these charmed islands and a wee sense of the haunting quality of the place, visit the links below. Enjoy!