A Journey Around the Isles of Lewis and Harris
with Alastair McIntosh, Ph.D.
August 21, 2017
The Outer Hebrides sit on the very edge of Europe, at the meeting point of Celtic cultures from Ireland and the south, and Norse cultures from Scandinavia. A traditional way of life with the land and sea has continued into the present, with a deep Celtic spirituality of Catholic expression in the southern isles, and of the Protestant faith in the north. The Carmina Gadelica, in which the old spirituality of the isles was collected by the folklorist Alexander Carmichael, is recognized by UNESCO as comprising Memory of the World heritage status. The renowned Rough Guides place Scotland among the top world destinations to visit in 2017, and nowhere is this more justified than in these isles, with misty Lewis in the north, rocky Harris in the south, and a mountain range between.
Guided by writer and activist, Alastair McIntosh, we begin on the 21st with a visit to the western coast of Lewis, where the ocean and distant mountains spread out before us. From there we journey to a bothan, or beehive dwelling, that had the reputation of being a “druid’s house”. It sits alongside a small prehistoric stone circle overlooking the dramatic Callanish Standing Stones that we will experience later in the week. We then head down to Harris by the spectacular Atlantic route. At St. Clement’s Church in Rodel, we will learn about the islands’ spiritual history and hear stories from a local seafarer, from the time of the faeries and the Celtic Church up to the present. No visit to these islands would, of course, be complete without a stop at the “social distillery” for a taste of the ‘water of life’, otherwise known as whisky and a stop at the center for the renowned Harris Tweed.
Pilgrimage of Life: A Day of Spiritual Reflection
with Alastair McIntosh, Ph.D.
August 22, 2017
Most visitors to the Western Isles see only the outer surface of what is offered – the beaches, the unpredictable weather, and the archaeology. However, that can miss the greater depth of the place. To visit an island can also be a spiritual homecoming to who we are. It can open windows upon life itself. How so? We are all on a journey, a pilgrimage of life, a quest: one that has its departure; one that might be in the midst of initiations, or trials and tribulations; or one that moves us ever onwards to eternal return. This calling takes us to the edge of normal understandings of space and time.
When you are in the Hebrides, you walk a land that has known human habitation almost since the ending of the last ice age. Menhirs such as the Callanish Stones date back some 5,000 years. Some of the “temple” religious sites are said to go back to druid times. When standing in such places, you get a feel for deep time, and this opens doorways to the spiritual world.
During this contemplative half day we will consider these matters: where is your life at present, where are you on your journey of departure, initiation and return? After a morning spent indoors, and an afternoon at a sacred natural site at the ruins of Saint John’s Temple on the west of Lewis, we’ll just be still, listen inwardly, and experience.
Note: The 21st and 22nd of August programs must be taken together.
Includes one-way coach and ferry travel from Inverness to Stornoway, hotel transport from the ferry, fully-guided two-day tour, all entrance fees, ground transport and all meals from dinner on the 19th through lunch on the 22nd
One night’s hotel in Inverness and two nights’ hotel in Stornoway are priced separately. For accommodation options and costs press HERE