Graham McTavish: Outlander Star on his road to Lewis from Barra


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That’s where it is.

In the Hebrides of the Outer. From Barra through to Lewis.

Why are you going?

It’s like a different Scotland for me, sitting on the edge of the roaring North Atlantic. Next stop: America’s east coast. Its isolation implies adventure. You need a different character to live there. In the blink of an eye, the long, cold winters and weather can change.

How frequently do you go?

I don’t go enough often. I was fortunate enough to go with Sam Heughan to Lewis this year, of all people, for surfing – my first time. Exciting, but there’s no danger that I’ll soon be presenting a threat to Laird Hamilton.

Before that, because I cycled around the entire archipelago more than 20 years ago, I hadn’t been there. Back then, after a long ferry ride from Oban, I began at Barra, as dolphins jumped over the ship’s bow.

What have you enjoyed most of all?

I recall the golden sands of the beach where a plane from Glasgow was able to land. The hills were scary. Hopping over the chain of islands, then. I love the names: Benbecula, Uist, Barra. They sound like you’ve given yourself a series of challenges.

Flat and dotted with lochs, rivers and a single lane, North Uist and South Uist. With its white sandy beaches, Harris. On a cloudless, windless day, I was fortunate enough to be there. An exceptional memory. Then to Lewis, then on to (on a Sunday – not recommended). That day, I didn’t see a soul.

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But it was more than worth it for the side trip to the Callanish Stones. I visited long before Outlander. It’s humbling to visit a man-made structure that has survived the fall of the Roman Empire, the Pharaohs, Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great. Frankly, it’s worth visiting Lewis just to see these stones.

I was lucky enough to visit them with Sam on a beautiful day in August, but unfortunately our attempts to travel in time were unsuccessful.

How did you discover them?

Through the wonders of Ordnance Survey maps and the fulfillment of a long-held desire to visit this remote outpost of the Gaels.

What is your fondest memory of this place?

The beach at Harris, the castle [Kisimul] at Barra where every morning a servant called out from the battlements “The Macneil has risen,” the Callanish Stones at Lewis, and the waters of Uist.

Sum it up in five words.

Remote. Mysterious. Contrasting. Surprising. Epic.

Andrew Cotter on climbing Scottish mountains with his famous dogs Olive and Mabel.

What travel destination is on your post-release wish list?

I’d love to go back to Japan and India, two places I’ve been to that are the closest I’ve come to traveling to another planet. Also, Patagonia. I love being on the edge of things and looking out at Antarctica.

Clanlands: whisky, warfare and a Scottish adventure like no other by Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish (Hodder & Stoughton, £20) is out now


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